You tell me.
Oh, wow. Is this bad …
It’s sad, really … especially when you learn it’s not from a junior high school student.
On April 18, the Charlottesville City council heard from people interested in the current debate over what to do about statutes honoring Confederate leaders in downtown Charlottesville (the equestrian statue of Robert E. Lee seems to be getting the most attention). Susan Hathaway of the Virginia Flaggers addressed the city council as follows (my emphasis added):
Good evening Mayor Signer, Councilmen. My name is Susan Hathaway and I live in Sandston.
I could easily stand before you tonight and spend my three minutes talking about the honor of Robert E. Lee, or the valor and sacrifice of the Confederate soldiers who served under him, or the fact that the War Between the States was NOT fought to keep anyone enslaved, or the fact that this onslaught of PC revisionism has absolutely nothing to do with perceived “racism” or “white supremacy”…but you all know this and choose to ignore facts in favor of hysteria.
What I hope does get your attention is money…and the fact that you and the citizens of Charlottesville will need to be prepared to spend a lot of it to defend the lawsuits that will be filed if you insist on continuing with your plans to tear down or alter any Confederate memorial. Thankfully, the removal of war monuments and memorials STILL violates Virginia law, even with the Governor’s veto of a bill that would have provided clarification. There is little doubt that the Va Supreme Court will affirm this in a pending lawsuit. It is good to know that our legislators have put such measures in place so that our Vietnam Veterans, several of whom are with us tonight, will not have to face having their memorials removed if/when the winds of political correctness shift against them in a town such as this one and the elected officials decide THEY are no longer worthy of respect.
I noted with great interest the comments of one of your councilmen, as reported in the local press. No doubt, in response to the overwhelming pushback against the call to dear down the memorial, it appears she is grasping for straws in attempts to rationalize your attempts to cleanse all things Confederate from the city. It is reported that this councilmen stated that Lee and Jackson were not FROM Charlottesville, suggesting that the statues are not relevant to the community. Now this is true…R.E. Lee was not FROM Charlottesville but neither are most of you who sit on city council and claim to speak for her citizens!
To claim that a community should only honor those who are “from there” is ludicrous. Certainly, Washington, Jefferson, Roosevelt, and Lincoln were not “from” South Dakota, either. Are you suggesting that Mt. Rushmore needs to be sandblasted since it has no “relevance” to that community? Charlottesville sent her sons, brothers, and fathers off to defend the Commonwealth, and those boys and men served and died under the leadership of Robert E. Lee. If you even needed “local relevance” it is there, in abundance.
It is comical, at best, when our opposition, finding no other argument with our facts or reasoning, resorts to saying we are “outsiders” and therefore we should have no say in what is happening in any other locality other than the one in which we reside. Some of you are quick to use it to dismiss us, and sadly, even some who should be standing with us have taken the bait.
The fact is that I am a 9th generation Virginian and FOUR of my Great-Great Grandfathers fought under General Robert E. Lee in the Army of Northern Virginia. My ancestors earned, and the constitution guarantees me the right to speak up and speak out against the tyrannical and illegal attempt to remove ANY Confederate memorial, and I certainly will do so when one dedicated to the memory of Robert E. Lee less than an hour from my home is under attack. The majority of the members of City Council are not even from Virginia. YOU are the “outsiders”, not us.
I will close with one last suggestion. If you are determined, as it appears by the paper released regarding the creation of this commission, to remove any and all things deemed “offensive”, you had best begin plans to rename this city, and secede from the Commonwealth, as “Charlottesville” and “Virginia” need to go, as well. Queen Charlotte herself was a white supremacist, owned millions of slaves, was a close friend of Marie Antoinette and clearly, as a Monarach, was an oppressor of mankind. Virginia was named after another Queen, also a slaveholder and oppressor of Irish and African alike. Sound ridiculous? It is…just like what you are trying to do here tonight.
Stop the madness. Honor all veterans. Allow all of your citizens to honor and celebrate their heritage. True diversity and inclusiveness is not achieved by destroying the history and heritage of one group of people in order to pacify another.
It’s important to note the highlighted comments.
the fact that the War Between the States was NOT fought to keep anyone enslaved, or the fact that this onslaught of PC revisionism has absolutely nothing to do with perceived “racism” or “white supremacy”
Clearly denial is not just a river in Egypt. What we see here can be called “heritage revisionism.” To uncouple the Confederacy from a defense of slavery or to its desire to preserve white supremacy (which, I think we can agree, is an expression of racism) is to deny that the people Ms. Hathaway and her supporters claim to honor knew what they were talking about when they advocated secession and the formation of the Confederacy.
It is comical, at best, when our opposition, finding no other argument with our facts or reasoning, resorts to saying we are “outsiders” and therefore we should have no say in what is happening in any other locality other than the one in which we reside.
We are glad to see that Ms. Hathaway repudiates any claim that people outside of Virginia who complain about the activities of the Virginia Flaggers should be dismissed or criticized on the grounds that they are outsiders. That this is a claim often made by supporters of the group appears to have escaped Ms. Hathaway’s attention, and suggests that perhaps she believes her followers are hypocrites when they advance the very same argument she criticizes here.
I am a 9th generation Virginian and FOUR of my Great-Great Grandfathers fought under General Robert E. Lee in the Army of Northern Virginia.
Ms. Hathaway thus asserts that family history is an important part of understanding where one comes from and what one believes and honors. Fair enough. But this opens up a new area of inquiry, namely Ms. Hathaway’s family history. Readers of this blog will recall that when someone else began to hold forth on her family history, the results were not very encouraging, although they were amusing. Hmmm.
There are some other aspects of the current Charlottesville controversy that interest me, and I’ll share that soon enough.
As several of my readers have reminded me, Matthew Heimbach, long a favorite of the Virginia Flaggers, has made the big time.
It appears that Mr. Heimbach gained a lot of attention for how he treated an African American woman at a recent rally for Donald Trump.
This act, caught on video, made Heimbach a poster child for intolerance in the eyes of the national media, especially the Washington Post, which printed a piece that has since enjoyed wider circulation.
Thus the nation now knows what readers of this blog have known for a long time.
There’s Heimbach, standing next to his good friend, Virginia Flagger and drone entrepreneur Tripp Lewis, who declared that Heimbach was “a good guy.”
The Flaggers have celebrated Heimbach as one of their own, as we can recall from seeing them march together … with Heimbach alongside Susan Hathaway, founder of the group.
And the Sons of Confederate Veterans are fond of Heimbach as well, having given him an award. Here’s the then-“commander-in-chief” of the SCV, Michael Givens, posing with the man his organization honored.
Here’s another article I wrote on Grant’s role in resolving the disputed presidential election of 1876. Enjoy.
Here’s something I wrote years and years ago about Henry Adams’s political career during Ulysses S. Grant’s administration. Enjoy.
Field of Lost Shoes focuses on the battle of new market in May 1864. Here’s Tom Skerritt playing Grant. Evaluate the portrayal.
Here comes the cavalry.
During my travels through northwest Europe last year I came across some very interesting sites that sparked renewed thinking about how we as Americans have decided to deal with the commemoration and memorialization of the American Civil War. One cause for thought was the presence of German military cemeteries in France and elsewhere — for both world wars. Not far from where George S. Patton, Jr., is buried in Luxembourg, for example, one finds a German military cemetery containing dead from the Ardennes Offensive, while one can view the Aisne-Marne American military cemetery from a small nearby German cemetery when exploring Belleau Wood. At La Cambe Military Cemetery, some seven miles from Omaha Beach, some 21,000 German soldiers are buried.
In short, German dead are buried in enemy territory, and those areas are cause for contemplation and reflection. We talk a great deal about honoring military dead regardless of what they believed (even if we often debate exactly what it was that they believed). After all, they fought for what they believed, and for some people, that’s enough.
Statues, we are told, honor service and sacrifice. They are not political statements about the cause for which these men fought. I might disagree with that argument (most war memorials offer at least implicit explanation and affirmation about the cause of the conflict and related political statements), but let’s set that aside. What, then, should stand in the way of erecting a statue to Erwin Rommel as well as the German fighting man near Normandy? Anything? After all, if certain people are willing to remember the Confederate fighting man, complete with the erection of memorials and the raising of historically appropriate flags as symbols of the military effort of the Confederacy, should not the German fighting man and the generals who commanded them be afforded the same courtesy? If so, why? If not, why not, and what’s the difference (if any) between a discussion about honoring the service and sacrifice of World War I and II dead with one about Civil War dead?
You tell me.
There’s been some discussion here and elsewhere about Al Arnold’s tale about the tales of his ancestor, Turner Hall, Jr., and what exactly this all means for historians interested in the role played by enslaved blacks in the Confederate war effort. Andy Hall went to the trouble of reading the entire book, and he offered his reactions here. It’s a discerning response that looks carefully at the paucity of actual evidence to support Hall’s stories, which Arnold accepts at face value. Note that Arnold’s interpretation of Turner Hall’s story relies on a tremendous amount of speculation and inference that finds scant support in the historical record. As usual, plaudits to Andy for his usual skillful treatment of matters of evidence.
I also point readers to the very thoughtful post over at Alan Skerrett, Jr.’s Jubilo! The Emancipation Century. It’s a model of discerning reflection that balances respect and skepticism in a careful consideration of the evidence. Alan’s brought his usual high standards to this piece, and it shows.
Stories about African Americans’ willingness to serve the Confederate war effort serve many modern agendas. Arnold’s story, it turns out, is really about how Al Arnold dealt with a family story that he spent very little effort to verify. What we do know is that Turner Hall, Jr., told these stories about his past, and that white southerners embraced him for the telling, much as Confederate heritage advocates have embraced H. K. Edgerton, Karen Cooper, Anthony Hervey, Arlene Barnum, and now, it appears, Al Arnold, who seems more and more interested in telling the story of black support for the Confederacy. It’s interesting (and revealing) to research the life stories of Edgerton, Cooper, Hervey, and Barnum, all of who seems to have grown bitterly dissatisfied by black leaders and organizations such as the NAACP before veering right … and right into the arms of Confederate heritage advocates who welcome the chance to disassociate the Confederate cause slavery, racism, and white supremacy. Arnold’s personal quest seems to be just that: a personal quest. In the process, he’s become quite a popular speaker among certain people, as this list of events on his Facebook page suggests. He’s also become involved in the debate over the current Mississippi state flag, suggesting that this is no longer simply a matter of family history.
Truly, Al Arnold is following in the footsteps of Turner Hall, Jr.
Or course, Arnold’s rendering of Turner Hall’s life will be treated as fact in some reports by the uncritical, the unqualified, the unwary, and others who just like a good story. People who question it will be dismissed as haters. Arnold himself struggles with criticism, as a recent Twitter exchange with Kevin Levin revealed. Kevin, pointing to the story behind the banner that adorns Arnold’s Twitter account, asked him if he knew the truth behind the tampered image:
Simply put, to interpret Union soldiers as servants is a slam against the military service of American soldiers: an unkind critic would say that such a remark shows just how little respect Arnold has for some African Americans. At best, it’s a display of gross ignorance.
The exchange continued:
Somehow I don’t think that citing the Lord in support of my methods is going to satisfy any critics of my work. Indeed, I know some very religious historians who would not dare to make such a claim.
Given the tenor of this exchange, I doubt Mr. Arnold’s willing to engage in the sort of discussions that historians have when discussing evidence. Then again, this was never really about evidence, was it?
For some time the discussion about the service of enslaved and free African Americans in the Confederate armed forces has been one about historical fact and the consequences of those findings for larger interpretations of the war. That tends to be what historians do. However, students of Civil War memory might be better advised to turn to the modern day advocates of a story that places such service at the center of their narratives, and ask why that is. We may better understand Turner Hall, Jr., if we seek to understand Al Arnold.