A Comment on Civil War Monuments

Recent events have raised questions about the preservation of Civil War sites and monuments on National Park battlefields. As some of my Emerging Civil War colleagues and I discussed these potential threats, we decided it was important to say something. For various reasons, not everyone is able to join in the discussion, but I volunteered to speak on their behalf:

We urge the protection and preservation of all monuments on our National Park Service managed battlefields. We believe all Civil War battlefields are sacred ground, many of which feature commemorative monuments erected by veterans of these battles. Today, monuments serve as interpretive tools and tangible links to the story that we as public historians work to tell visitors to these hallowed grounds. Monuments help tell a broader history of these fields while imparting the power of place to those that visit. We call on Congress and Federal leaders to maintain the legislation that currently exists to protect these monuments as historic artifacts. The American Civil War still resonates today, and although it can be divisive, we believe telling a complete story is paramount to not only understanding our nation but assisting us in building a better future.

We respect and appreciate all viewpoints and always support educated and respectful dialogue.

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29 Responses to A Comment on Civil War Monuments

  1. dridds says:

    Don’t preach to the choir. Tell the Democratic caucus in the HOR. DFR

    • Diane Mcvey says:

      You are correct Its the Democrats who are cheering as we watch monuments that other persons paid for torn down and desecrated

  2. Donald Smith says:

    Excellent! I will buy you and your better half a beer at the next symposium.

    (There IS beer at the symposiums, right?)

  3. W Charles Young says:

    Agreed.

  4. Debra Page says:

    YES!! Thank you so much for this statement. I sincerely hope that the ‘powers that be’ see this and take it to heart. Of course, I would love to see all the Confederate monuments remain, but they are absolutely necessary on the battlefields. I believe everyone deserves a voice on the battlefields: Union, Confederate, Generals, Privates, civilians, slaves, politicians, spies, medical workers, everyone. Every person that lived during that era has a story to tell and a different perspective from everyone else. We deserve to hear all of their stories. To silence one particular group, does a disservice to all the groups. All of the stories are intertwined.

  5. DC says:

    ECW Thank You. The line has to be drawn somewhere. The slippery slope argument has been proven 10 times over since the last couple months. The same one’s petitioning or introducing legislation to dismantle battlefield monuments are the same one’s who could care less if a big box store builds and sets up shop on NPS land that is typically premium. Same mob give zero’s about historic preservation or history (i.e. Maury Monument in Richmond spray painted – “F History”). Politician’s are ALL for sale to the highest bidder. Leave Battlefield’s and Cemeteries alone. Go read the other legislation being introduced in Congress. The new initiative to develop a “Dept of Reconciliation” which has Congressman Al Green openly discussing a federal ban on anything confederate. I guess this will also include any confederate history publication. I’m reading this stuff and it’s like an Orwellian playbook. Crazytown.

    • Diane Mcvey says:

      I feel a civil war simmering and we have already seen extreme violence and persons killed. Political leaders must put the safety of citizens as well as our First and Second Amendment rights.first.

  6. Robert Rainey says:

    The South is still the whipping boy of our media, and some historians on this site. You fail to defend our Southern history and now you may reap the vandalism and destruction of monuments you hold dear.

    • Diane Mcvey says:

      We have seen months of destruction and violence.If there are any politicians who have a functioning brain and heart they will take a stand against this instead of pandering as usual

  7. Kristen Cart says:

    Well said.

  8. Mike Maxwell says:

    I support the above statement of Kevin Pawlak.
    Mike Maxwell

  9. William Anderson says:

    Well-done. Concur. Write your elected rep. in DC and quote his comment.

  10. Gene Adcock says:

    Strongly support Kevin’s statement—and EDW endorsing his position.

  11. Gene Adcock says:

    Ooops! ECW is my corrected typo.

  12. It’s amazing things have gotten this far. It’s an attempt to undermine not just Confederates but all of American history. Removing evidence of the other side of the conflict for specious reasons devalues its importance.

  13. grego says:

    It’s a shame something like this needs to be said.

  14. John Pryor says:

    Well said, Kevin. Only children are afraid of statues, or give them negative power over themselves. They are effective learning tools, from a time, better or worse, that expressed itself in different ways. In some unfortunate ways, not so different than our our own.

  15. Karl Kunkel says:

    Kevin wrote a well-crafted and thought-out statement. We have to be careful about what historical items get destroyed, removed or forgotten. It is good to have dialogues and discuss different points of view. But right now I am seeing too many monologues, minus the discussions.

  16. Thank you, Kevin.

    Confederate monuments are no more racist than the Union monuments. They are a reflection on history, taken out of context by protestors and politicians trying to use hate for personal gain. That is why HISTORY MATTERS!!! You cannot take what happened in the past within the context of those times and conditions and apply present day values and judgments to past events and artifacts. Nor can you be selective depending on the people involved. If today’s protests are to be applied to Confederate monuments on the basis of racism and slavery, where will it end? Is the Jefferson Memorial next? What about the Washington Monument? Slavery was a condition of the times and definitely NOT the sole prerogative of the Confederacy. Using all things Confederate for the benefit of racial justice is a slander against all Americans whose ancestors fought for the Confederacy and the ideals that were sacred to them, their civil rights to declare their independence against an oppressive government, rights enshrined in the Declaration of Independence.

    Slavery was not created by the Confederacy. It goes back to ancient times when a person could be sold into slavery simply for offending one in power, particularly true in ancient Greek and Roman times. Nor was it racist, it was simply “to the victor go the spoils.” Black African slavery was started by the tribes of Africa wherein the conquering tribe sold off members of the defeated tribe into slavery. In the Americas, it existed in all the colonies and by extension following the Revolution, in all the states. As it became institutionalized in the agricultural South, Blacks as well as Whites owned slaves. One of the earliest slave owners was a black Virginian tobacco farmer named Anthony Johnson. William Ellison, a wealthy black plantation owner and cotton gin manufacturer in South Carolina, owned 63 black slaves, the largest slave owner of 171 black slave owners in South Carolina. In the 1830 census, black slave owners owned a total of 12,760 slaves. In the slave trade, the slaves brought to America from Africa were purchased from black slave owners. [Do your own search — “black slave owners”]

    As for the flag, the flag against which most protest is not the Confederate national flag. It’s the naval ensign version of the Confederate battle flag designed using the cross of Saint Andrew, which for some signified freedom and independence from oppression and tyranny, and the thirteen stars representing the thirteen states that were considered to make up the Confederate States of America (two of which – Kentucky and Missouri – never did secede.) Its unique design made it easy to recognize and to rally around. It was not a racist flag. The racist identity was created over a hundred years later when Neo-Nazi and white supremacist groups used it for their own divisive means, again taken out of the context of historic times, a travesty against those who fought under it.

    And so it has come to pass, that the Confederate flag and the monuments that memorialize those who lead the fight on behalf of their nation or remember the fallen in a thousand different cemeteries, are no different historically than the Queen Ann flag or the Star Spangled Banner or the Minuteman statue or the cemetery monument to Clarence McKenzie, a drummer boy accidentally killed by friendly fire, or the Jefferson Memorial. They are all part of that vast history that is the American Story. To use them today in such a vile manner is a bold-faced lie and should be loudly condemned be all citizens and political leaders who truly care for and respect The United States of America.

    • Robert Rainey says:

      Perfectly stated Mr. Moore, thank you for taking the time to share the Souths history which is mostly ignored or glossed over by many historians.

    • nygiant1952 says:

      A few points…
      1. Union Monuments honor those Americans who fought to preserve the Union, and to keep the United States a perpetual Union.

      2. Recall that these rebel monuments were erected at a time of Jim Crow, when the Civil Rights of freed slaves and Afro-Americans were restricted and in some areas, abolished. They are a reminder to Afro-Americans that Justice was still denied them.

      3.To try and rationalize slavery ,as acceptable, is too ludicrous to respond to.

      4.Let’s recall that any rebel flag, is the flag of a defeated rebellion against the United States, and that those who followed that flag, were traitors.

      A better and more accurate flag, for the rebels…is the White Flag of surrender.

      5. There was NEVER a rebel nation, to honor, as NO significant nation ever recognized the rebelling states.

  17. Maurice McGrath says:

    The statyes put up in various southern cities and towns during the Jim Crow years, late1880’s to1930’s were put up not to only remember southern soldiers but also to put fear into African Americans.
    These statues if taken down by elected leaders I am fine with that. I do not feel that they have a place today if they are there to induce fear and hatred. Having said that they should be removed by the municipality where they are. If a city council votes to remove,so be it.
    But when it comes to the NPS Battle Fields these should not be removed. The historical factors of the placement and movement of troops on either side can easily be shown and explained to those people learning about the conflict.
    Many of these were erected by men in rememberence of fallen comrades.
    And today help all of us to see where the fighting took place.
    So history should be open for all and the whole story no matter how hard it is to hear should be told.
    Buy to have it displayed as a show of dominance and hatred is not the way to do it.
    My opinion no one else has to agree. As others have written here my 1st and 2nd amendment rights.

  18. I completely agree with this statement! Well done and well said.

  19. Matt McKeon says:

    I’ve lurked here, but never posted. First!

    Removing monuments does not erase or remove history. The 2nd best known general in the American Revolution(after Washington) was Benedict Arnold. He doesn’t get much in the way of statues.

    Local communities should have control over their own parks and public spaces. If a city decides they don’t want a big statue of the former owner-operator of Negro Mart(the actual name of N.B. Forrest’s slave dealing business) in the town square, they should have the right to move or remove that sucker.

  20. John Steele says:

    I encourage all who believe that the confederate monuments on the National Park battlefields are historic and should remain where they are to contact their senators in DC. The legislation has passed the house and is now with the Senate. I fear if this language is not removed that it can lead to the desecration of the national military parks and affect how history is taught at these parks. It will also adversely affect the economies of the towns in which these parks are located as it will lead to a decrease in tourism.

    • Here is the notice from an email received from Civil War News.

      LICENSED GUIDES RAISE ALARM OF MAJOR THREAT TO GETTYSBURG MONUMENTS

      GETTYSBURG, Pa. – The Licensed Battlefield Guides at Gettysburg are raising the alarm over a recent vote in the U.S. House of Representatives to have all Confederate monuments, statues and “commemorative placards” removed from Gettysburg National Military Park as well as all other federal parks nationwide.

      “We urge the U.S. Senate to strip out this provision that would destroy the unequaled collection of monuments, Union and Confederate, that set Gettysburg apart as a great battlefield park and a top visitor destination,” said Les Fowler, president of the Association of Licensed Battlefield Guides.
      Fowler said the legislation in question

      – HR-7608 – recently passed the full House. It would direct the National Park Service to remove all Confederate monuments, memorials, placards and statues at Gettysburg, Vicksburg, Antietam, Chickamauga, Manassas, Petersburg, Fredericksburg and 18 other battlefields and historic sites within six months. These Civil War battlefields and their monuments and interpretive plaques have been preserved to help Americans and foreign guests visualize and understand the terrible ordeal that forged this nation. The monuments at Gettysburg from both sides allow us to interpret this national struggle for freedom as it continues today.

      Gettysburg is the largest Civil War battlefield commemorating the bloodiest battle ever fought in North America. Licensed Battlefield Guides have provided tours of the battlefield since 1915 and today are the nation’s oldest professional guide service, providing interpretation and context for the battlefield and more than 1,300 monuments and markers.

      “The monuments representing all of the soldiers who fought here are a critical component of interpreting these sacred grounds,” Fowler said. Veteran battlefield guide Deb Novotny said, “The monuments serve as tools for us to tell the story not only of this battle but of the struggle of our nation to heal itself after the war.”

      Decorated combat veteran Elliott Ackerman, a columnist for the New York Times, recently wrote: “An area of our complex past that should be left untouched are battlefields… Blood consecrates a battlefield, and it is never the blood of only one side.”

      The provision to remove Confederate monuments and markers was buried deep within a 727-page bill that also funds the State department, Agriculture department and the EPA. Despite the House’s action, there is still an opportunity to save the important story told at these Civil War parks by urging the Senate to remove this provision from the final funding legislation.

      “We will do what we can to convince all members of Congress to address and to oppose this removal provision. We encourage all advocates for Gettysburg to join our effort and reach out to their representatives,” Fowler said.

      Here is the text and a link to the HR-7608:
      ——————
      Removal of confederate commemorative works

      Sec. 442. Notwithstanding any other provision of law or policy to the contrary, within 180 days of enactment of this Act, the National Park Service shall remove from display all physical Confederate commemorative works, such as statues, monuments, sculptures, memorials, and plaques, as defined by NPS, Management Policies 2006, §9.6.1.

      Inventory of assets with confederate names

      Sec. 443. Within 90 days of enactment of this Act, the Secretary of the Interior shall submit to the Committee on Appropriations an inventory of all assets under the jurisdiction of the Department of Interior with Confederate names.
      —————-

      Link to the text of the bill:
      https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/house-bill/7608/text

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