“By all means let us care for them and keep their memory fresh. The glory won by these men and their leaders on many a hard-fought field belongs to the American nation, and should be perpetuated by monuments of granite and marble on each and all of these fields, but especially should we insist that the deeds of all our soldiers should be carefully and truthfully enshrined in the pages of history, and proudly celebrated by orator and poet.”quote from President McKinley, from God’s War by Wilson Vance
The bronze statue of General Robert E. Lee is now removed from its place. General Lee is now anathema to the barbarians who apparently hold power in this nation once known as America. These events are painful for me to write about. Our heroes are now anathema to those in control, and they want to rub our faces in the defeat this symbolizes.
The reference to President McKinley’s concern for the graves of Confederate soldiers — and remember, this was not that long after the War Between the States; many of the combatants were still alive — shows that people then had more understanding of the situation, and the Northern side, at least in part, accepted that the Confederates were doing what was right for their homeland, by their lights.
Now, in their deep ignorance, those who hate the South and the Confederacy are emboldened to punish and degrade the South. So far there has been little effort to prevent the destruction of our monuments or even to answer the slanders against our ancestors and heritage. Why? I know that many younger people seem ashamed of the South and were more than willing to discard our flag or other emblems of South. Again, why? Because they thought the “optics” of displaying the flag were bad, and that it ”makes us look bad” to opponents. This is just defeatism.
I knew that the vandals who have been destroying Confederate monuments and symbols were planning on removing the Lee statue. Next will probably be Jefferson, as they have forever stained his character by false accusations — and shame on any and all Americans who chose to believe those canards, or worse, to repeat them.
In his book, Lee at Appomattox, Charles Francis Adams, in 1903, muses about a future in which the Confederates would be accepted as part of our American story.
He visualizes the Lee Monument — now removed of course — and writes of the positive qualities of the Confederate soldier. Mind you, Adams had little sympathy for the Southern cause, but was willing to see good in the ‘enemy’, as the war receded into the past.
“…the Confederate had many great and generous qualities; he also was brave, chivalrous, self-sacrificing, sincere, and patriotic. So I look forward to the time when he, too, will be represented in our national Pantheon.– Charles Francis Adams, Lee at Appomattox
The bronze effigy of Robert E. Lee, mounted on his charger and with the insignia of his Confederate rank, will from its pedestal in the nation’s capital gaze across the Potomac at his old home at Arlington.
When that time comes, Lee’s monument will be educational, — it will typify the historical appreciation of all that goes to make up the loftiest type of character, military and civic, exemplified in an opponent, once dreaded but ever respected, and above all, it will symbolize and commemorate that loyal acceptance of the consequences of defeat, and the patient upbuilding of a people under new conditions by constitutional means, which I hold to be the greatest educational lesson America has yet taught to a once skeptical but now silenced world.”
The talk of the acceptance of defeat is a little hard to take. Yes, Lee did accept his defeat in a dignified and manly way. But the defeat the South seems to be suffering now is a bitter pill to swallow. Adams was too hopeful in his vision of a future in which Robert E. Lee’s monument would still be standing, in its place of honor, and a world in which reasonable and civilized people would still honor General Lee and his soldiers, and ‘historical appreciation’ would quell any bitterness about the War.
The hope for such a world to exist seems unlikely now. ‘Historical appreciation’ is in very short supply today.