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Confederate Monuments And The Fourth Of July

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Confederate Monuments And The Fourth Of July

Robert E. Lee

Reprinted with permission from Creators.

In 1871, the city of Richmond, Virginia, publicly celebrated the Fourth of July. It was an unfamiliar experience. There had been no general commemoration of Independence Day since 1860 — before Virginia had seceded from the nation that was formed in 1776.

Other Southern cities were not ready to resume participation in our national ritual. Cheraw became the first place in post-Civil War South Carolina to do so, in 1891. Jackson, Mississippi, waited until 1901 to hold a reading of the Declaration of Independence on the occasion. Vicksburg, Mississippi, didn’t join the party until 1945.

Staunch supporters of the Lost Cause had little fondness for the United States. The Stars and Stripes was the banner of their enemy. When Union troops occupied Richmond in April 1865, the first thing they did was hoist the American flag over the capitol.

The die-hards recognized what some Southerners miss: the deep contradiction between loving America and revering the Confederacy. The struggle over what to do with monuments to rebel leaders is a conflict between those who think what they did was admirable or heroic and those who think it was disgraceful.

My long-dead relatives include several men who fought for the South. One was Gen. Leonidas Polk, who commanded troops in several major battles before being killed in action. He was not the last person to illustrate that fallibility runs in the family.

In 1961, when I was a boy in the West Texas city of Midland, a new high school opened. It was named after Robert E. Lee, for reasons that are obvious: White resentment of the civil rights movement had produced widespread nostalgia for the Confederacy. San Antonio’s Lee High School opened in 1958; Houston’s in 1962.

Midland Lee called its sports teams the Rebels and used the Confederate battle flag as its symbol. Black students didn’t mind, because there weren’t any. They attended a segregated black school.

The general did have a connection to Texas. His last U.S. Army command before the Civil War was at a fort in the Hill Country town of Mason — which has no Lee monument. Gerald Gamel, editor of the Mason County News, ascribes the omission to strong anti-secession sentiment in Mason. That tells you something about why other places honor Confederate heroes.

The town had good company in its resistance. Gov. Sam Houston, who fiercely opposed secession, was removed from office because he refused to take an oath to the Confederacy.

His role comes to mind because of a recent rally in defense of a statue of him in Houston, which supposedly was under threat from leftists because he owned slaves. Armed counter-protesters, many expressing secessionist views, showed up on the appointed date. But the threat was a hoax, and Houston’s self-styled defenders apparently didn’t know that he saw disunion as treason.

It was. Yet grand memorials were erected across the South to celebrate what the traitors did. The monuments were built by whites at a time when blacks had no political power — a condition those whites were desperate to preserve.

They failed, and they deserved to fail. It’s only fitting that Southerners who reject the legacies of slavery, secession and Jim Crow would prefer to be rid of these tributes to them.

It’s not a symptom of modern political correctness. Days after the Declaration of Independence was signed, a New York mob destroyed a statue of King George III.

If the men and women of the Revolution were eager to be rid of the images of those who had oppressed them and made war on America, why should African-Americans in the South feel differently about statues of leaders who fought to keep their race in chains?

For a long time, American history was owned by white men and minimized the treatment of blacks, women, Indians and Latinos. Accommodating our public spaces to their full citizenship doesn’t erase history. It fills in parts that had been shamefully omitted.

The Confederate monuments belong not in places of honor but in museums, as artifacts of past error. They were put up to enshrine an interpretation of the past that has been discredited. Taking them down and putting up different statues is a reminder that in understanding the past, we shape the future.

If there’s a statue of my relative Leonidas Polk honoring his Confederate leadership, I’m willing to see it pulled down. In fact, I’d like to be there to help.

Steve Chapman blogs at http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/opinion/chapman. Follow him on Twitter @SteveChapman13 or at https://www.facebook.com/stevechapman13. To find out more about Steve Chapman and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.



  1. FireBaron July 2, 2017

    Interesting that Chapman offers a place for these statues in museums. Yes, they are a part of our history. So are lynchings, cross burnings and slave auctions. Bedford Forrest was an outstanding commander of Light Cavalry, and his tactics have been studied since the 1860s, especially adapting them for Tank and Air Cavalry warfare. Forrest also started the first group known as the Ku Klux Klan. Originally intended to be a quasi-Masonic organization supporting the widows and orphans of Confederate veterans, it morphed into an anti-Reconstruction program suppressing the integration of blacks into society.Should Bedford Forrest have a statue in his honor? Maybe in a military history museum, but not in a public square.
    Now, one final question – what about Stone Mountain in Georgia?

    1. TZToronto July 2, 2017

      Stone Mountain? How about leaving it as it is and making it a monument to futility, the horrors of racism and slavery, and treason–as well as the freedom to design and carve such an abomination. The story must not be about the glory of the Confederacy but rather the shame that the monument represents.

  2. harviele July 2, 2017

    If you destroy or remove the reminders of the past, you are doomed to repeat it. Rewriting history is very popular today but not very accurate.

    1. I know a joke July 2, 2017

      Yeah that is why Germany is covered in monuments to the Nazis.

    2. Independent1 July 2, 2017

      That might make sense if those hateful monuments actually reminded you southern bigots of the tragedies that the war created in the lives of so many thousands of fallen American men and women; and not about the failed glory you still dream about and wish would come about today.

      1. Eleanore Whitaker July 3, 2017

        One of the very best and most historically accurate documentaries on the Civil War was aired on PBS.

        To my surprise, of the Civil War dead, 900 of them died of disease, not from battle wounds.

      2. Dapper Dan July 3, 2017

        I live up in the Pacific Northwest hardly a bastion for the far right where I live. Yesterday in a parking lot of a popular local store my wife and I shop at I was stunned by what I saw. A big a$$ pickup truck emblazoned with Trump stickers. That wasn’t what jarred me but the huge Confederate Flag they had flying proudly. When we returned from shopping the truck was still there but the flag wasn’t. I’m curious if someone had taken the flag away because of how offensive looking it was. To me I’d have the same reaction if they had displayed a Nazi flag with swastikas. It makes me think they’re going out of their way looking for a confrontation by displaying these hateful images

        1. drdroad July 3, 2017

          I travel full time. I’d have to say I’ve seen at least 5 displays like this, including one driving in and parking at the Safeway yesterday in Baker City OR.

          I was born and raised in the South: East TN, Atlanta, Macon GA, St Petersburg FL, Dallas, Charlotte. My senior year in HS was in Chicago and then we finally settled in Southern California.

          As a travel Photographer, I find myself in the South often. I have never minded the Confederate Monuments. They represent the furtherest from my thoughts and beliefs, but they’ve always seemed more historical than offensive. And I do like the idea of parents having the opportunity to educate their youngsters when they visit a memorial like that. I don’t think I favor them being moved inside a museum and not sure how that would be any different??

        2. Eleanore Whitaker July 6, 2017

          The joke here in NJ is that if some moron in a bull nosed bully boy pickup starts flying the Stars and Bars, it normally gets the typical NJ response: third finger of the hand. rofl.

    3. johninPCFL July 3, 2017

      “Remove” them to museums of past atrocities, like the holocaust museums. They have little to do with today’s America other than as reminders of what mistakes have been made, and what stupidity can do.

    4. Eleanore Whitaker July 6, 2017

      People in the south and midwest just do not want to leave the past behind. It’s fine and dandy to be reminded of the past. It is quite another issue to try and hang onto the past and then ram it down the throats of people who have, for generations, moved on.

      The biggest reason for such high rates of welfare, illegitimate children and joblessness in the south and midwest is due to their clingy attitudes that jobs must last for a lifetime. Not in this lifetime they don’t.

      Now, even personnel recruiters consider anyone who has a resume that shows a single job over more than 5 years a negative factor.

      The reality of employment in the US today is that Americans must face constantly evolving jobs they need to stay ahead in training to qualify for.

  3. rednekokie July 3, 2017

    I grew up in the SW Oklahoma town of Altus. We had a grade school named Robert E. Lee. It was in the low-income section of town, just a few blocks from the black school, named Lincoln. When segregation of the schools was abolished in 1955, both Robert E. Lee and Lincoln were torn down, and all the schools were integrated.
    That happened only because the federal government made them do it.
    At first, people were upset — then they discovered how talented the students from Lincoln and Robert E. Lee became on the football field. Amazing how attitudes changed.

  4. Eleanore Whitaker July 3, 2017

    I don’t have a problem with Confederate monuments. I do have a problem with Confederates who refuse to accept that the Stars and Stripes is the ONLY flag of the USA.

    When they fly that Stars and Bars, it only shows they have so little understanding of the Revolutionary War and only focus on the Civil War.

    Several years ago, I wrote an article about the Revolutionary War. I wanted the article to be “different” than what the history books taught us.

    So, I began it with King George of England. I then tried to encapsulate what the British monarchy intended for the “colonies.” What the Confederates don’t realize is that as British colonies, the colonists in this new world were expected to do as all other conquered British territories had done: pay fealty and homage to a monarchy.

    The first problem with that was that the colonists who came to this country were either indentured slaves King George sent here to work off their debts or they were religious castoffs who refused to accept the Church of England. This caused a major problem mainly because the Pilgrims were in search of freedom from the ties that bound them to the monarchy. When the taxes became too oppressive, they formed the First Continental Congress much to the angst of King George. That’s when he sent his British troops to “maintain order” in the colonies.

    By the time the British troops arrived, the colonials had resolved their survival issues and were fairly productive. Oddly, the loyalists to King George were mostly those who owned the most land. Their version of “wealth.”

    You know the rest of the history. Now we have King Trump who wants total control of the media, our voting rights and our freedoms. History repeats itself?

    1. RichFromShowMe July 3, 2017

      I agree with your comment, but, I thought this was about the Civil War and Confederate Monuments. America should not rewrite history like Socialist – Communist nations run by dictators.

      As for President Trump around 80% of news coverage is negative; i.e., this is why FAKE NEWS foments and leads the “Seditious Conspiracy” in America. As for “Wealth”, its pretty much 50/50 with one glaring exception; i.e., most Republicans have earned their wealth while most Democrats inherited theirs or gained it while in elected office.

      President Trump ignites 10,000 Snowflakes-in-Training and Leftist’s hair on fire with a simple 140 character Tweet – often neutralizing FAKE NEWS of the day. 🙂



      1. I know a joke July 3, 2017

        OK thanks for the weird gibberish, traitor.

        1. drdroad July 3, 2017

          Really, and I’d love to see that research showing rich Dems inherited their money.

          1. I know a joke July 3, 2017

            For starters, Soros and both the Clintons were born into the middle-class.

          2. Eleanore Whitaker July 6, 2017

            The only rich Dems left today who inherited their money are the Kennedys. Soros was a Hungarian Jew who managed by nothing short of a miracle to escape the Nazis and the Russian occupation in Hungary. When he came to the US, he was penniless. This is pretty much also the origin of Warren Buffet’s wealth and also the Gates wealth.

            Sometimes, it takes brains to create that which no one else can.

      2. Eleanore Whitaker July 5, 2017

        Okay. Let’s assume that life was so full of possibilities that we could take a thug like Trump with a past history of grifting, stealing and wheeling and dealing with the most unsavory characters. Got that part?

        Now, since I live in the NY/NJ Metro region and YOU DO NOT, I should think common sense would reign supreme and tell you that you are trying to rewrite Trump history.

        We KNOW why Trump calls the NYT, WAPO and the oldest newspapers in this country FAKE. They have far more journalism experience than his favorite REAL news like National Enquirer, Breitbart, FUX News with its oh so fake hand chosen gaggle of women no older than Barron von und Zu Trump but whose leg spring open just to get a job on FUX.

        If you morons of the right wing bothered to check, it was General Robert E. Lee whose words have been immortalized regarding the Confederacy and its KKK much used flag of bigotry: He stated shortly before he died that he wanted the Stars and Bars “furled and placed in a museum.” He also stated, that “NO Confederate uniform was to be seen at his funeral.”

        What does that tell you? That a much respected Confederate General like Lee was first an American?

        Let me remind who those older military tanks were named for: General William Tecumseh Sherman, as in Sherman tanks. You need them to remind you and the rest of the right wing under educated hicks that your kind have big mouths, no brains and lost the Civil War?

        It might also interest you to know that Sherman was a businessman, an author and an educator. Whereas, Robert E. Lee’s only major claim to fame was in the military.

        That all you boys know? Turning war into corporate business? Turning our young men and women into your personal war machines for profit? Let me know when Barron Trump goes into military or will he do what his daddy did…make up some lame ass excuse to sit out Viet Nam.

        Funny thing about your Lard Ass. He has NO bones spurs when he spends whole days on the golf links does he? Maybe, his real problem was like yours…diarrhea of the mouth.

        1. RichFromShowMe July 5, 2017

          The REAL reason General Lee didn’t want Confederate uniformed personnel at his funeral (1870) was he knew it would raise anew ill feelings and possibly a riot in Lexington City, much the same reason folks distanced themselves from Vietnam Vets and their funerals.

          I think the great majority of Americans have passed the point of arguing the Civil War and who wont it, but evidently I am mistaken?


          1. Eleanore Whitaker July 6, 2017

            Not according to what I saw in the Smithsonian. So now you, the Big Daddy of all the Big Daddies know what General Lee didn’t want. Gee, that’s funny.

            Not what the documents in the Smithsonian all state.

            Not to worry about your Civil War heroes anymore buster. You’d do well to worry about that insanity magnet in the White House and his North Korean adversary.

            As I recall in January of this year, when Trump was asked about North Korea managing to fire off an ICBM, he said and I quote, “It will NEVER happen.”

            Well joy boy? Yesterday, Your Insanity Magnet got the words from Kim Jung Un after he fired off a missile with ICBM capability.

            Happy now asshat? Guess you and your Confederates figure, “What the hell! It’ll hit Alaska first before our Stars and Bars states.” Think again moron.

          2. RichFromShowMe July 6, 2017
          3. Eleanore Whitaker July 6, 2017

            What are you doing on this thread? No one agrees with you. I save all my best foul language just for asshats like you. As for celebrating America’s Independence, what would a Ruskie lover like you know about real independence when your hick states slathered yourselves in free SLAVE labor so you didn’t ever have to raise a blister from REAL work. Get a life loser boy.

            And take a hike while you are at it. You are down for the count on this thread. Take the hint.

  5. johninPCFL July 3, 2017

    “Midland Lee called its sports teams the Rebels and used the Confederate battle flag as its symbol. Black students didn’t mind, because there weren’t any. They attended a segregated black school.”

    My high school was Dixie Hollins (named after a school superintendent from the 1950s). They used a Confederate battle flag as an emblem, sported the Rebels as its football team, had a little Confederate rebel general as a mascot, and was integrated in 1971 while I attended.

    Like Midland, the blacks didn’t mind initially because their high school was Gibbs High, located across town in a run-down part of town. After busing was imposed, Gibbs was upgraded and improved and my children attended magnet programs there.


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