The Debate Over Confederate Statues

posted Sep 07, 2017 by Kathy Pinna
There is a lot of controversy about statues on public land that honor those on the Confederacy side of the Civil War. Did you know that there are over 700 Confederate monuments and statues in the United States - not all of them in the South?

Many of these statues - in fact the majority - were erected decades after the Civil War from about 1900 through 1920 (after the Plessy v. Ferguson trial which upheld racial segregation laws) and during the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960's. Who were these men to whom a majority of these statues are dedicated? Perhaps the most interesting perspective comes from Robert E. Lee, one of the men who has the most memorials: "I think it wiser,” he wrote about a proposed Gettysburg memorial in 1869, “…not to keep open the sores of war but to follow the examples of those nations who endeavored to obliterate the marks of civil strife, to commit to oblivion the feelings engendered.”

Jefferson Finis Davis, President of the Confederate States of America

Previously a (Democratic) U.S. Senator from Mississippi and the United States Secretary of War, Davis resigned his Senate position and was easily elected President of the Confederacy.

Davis was President throughout the Civil War but in 1865, after the surrender of the Confederacy, he was captured and imprisoned - accused of treason.

After 2 years in jail, he was never tried and therefore released.

In 1885 - 3 generations of the Davis family.

In the late 1880's, Davis began to urge Southerners to reconcile with the North and be loyal to the United States but he still considered "Yankee and Negro" rule in the South oppressive. And he still thought that the South's secession had been constitutional.

He eventually died on Friday, December 6, 1889 and his funeral was one of the largest that the South had ever seen.

Robert E. Lee, Confederate General

The son of a Revolutionary War officer, Lee was a top graduate of the United States Military Academy and served as its Superintendent before the Civil War.

He wanted the Union to remain intact and was even offered a senior position in the Union Army. But Lee chose to follow his home state, Virginia, into the Confederacy.

At first a senior military advisor to President Jefferson Davis, Lee became the commander of the field army in 1862. He surrendered his entire army to the Union on April 9, 1865 at Appomattox, effectively ending the Civil War.

Lee was married to the great-granddaughter of Martha Washington (by her first husband, Daniel Parke Custis) and inherited slaves and a plantation from his wife's family. The plantation was seized after the Civil War and some of land was used for Arlington National Cemetery.

He died on October 12, 1870 from the after-effects of a stroke. He was buried without his shoes because the only coffin that could be found (due to heavy flooding at the time) was one that was too short for him.

Thomas 'Stonewall' Jackson

Jackson attended West Point and served in the Mexican–American War. But when Virginia seceded, he joined the Confederate Army. A fabulous tactician, his battles in the Civil War are studied today.

While Jackson decided to join the Confederacy, his sister stayed with the Union which he had previously fought for. It is said that when he died, she said that she ""would rather know that he was dead than to have him a leader in the rebel army."

Jackson died as he lived - as a soldier. On May 2, 1863, he was accidentally shot by his own soldiers and his left arm had to be amputated. He died 8 days later of pneumonia. His view of slavery was: "in his mind the Creator had sanctioned slavery, and man had no moral right to challenge its existence. The good Christian slaveholder was one who treated his servants fairly and humanely at all times."

Pierre Gustave Toutant-Beauregard (General G. T. Beauregard)

Born in Louisiana and trained as an engineer, Beauregard was the Superintendent of West Point when the South seceded. Resigning from the U.S. Army, he became the first brigadier general of the Confederate Army. Winning many major battles, by 1865 he (along with his commander) convinced the leaders of the Confederacy (Jefferson Davis and the remaining cabinet members) that the war needed to end.

After the war, he swore an oath of allegiance to the Union and was pardoned for his activities in the Civil War. He became a promoter of the Louisiana Lottery (making his fortune) and died at the age of 74, in his sleep.

Chief Justice Roger Brooke Taney

Why is this Northerner considered a Confederate hero? As the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Taney presided over the Dred Scott v. Sandford decision. He held that the "Congress had no authority to restrict the spread of slavery into federal territories, and that previous attempts to restrict slavery's spread, such as the 1820 Missouri Compromise, were unconstitutional." He also noted that African Americans, free or slave, had not been considered part of the original community of people covered by the Constitution, but people of "an inferior order" going on to say that "they had for more than a century before been regarded as beings of an inferior order, and altogether unfit to associate with the white race, either in social or political relations, and so far unfit that they had no rights which the white man was bound to respect".

Now that you know something about these "stone men", what do you think? Did they lead lives that you admire, revere, or want to emulate? Should public spaces memorialize them for what they did or who they were?

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