As we recognize another Memorial Day and honor the American veterans who gave the ultimate sacrifice for their country, I want to shed light on a group of deceased American veterans whose memory is under vicious attack.
I am referring to the assault on the honorable service of the Confederate American veteran and the attempted erasure of his name, as it stands in any positive light, from history.
As I write this, veterans monuments are sitting in literal junkyards or have been destroyed, while others are under imminent threat of the same fate, based on false narratives and mistruths.
There are those who claim Confederate veterans aren’t “American” veterans. They couldn’t be more wrong.
Let’s start with the actual law. In four separate appropriation acts approved by U.S. Congress (in 1900, 1906, 1929, and 1958), Confederate veterans are officially recognized as equal in status to Union veterans, thus making them American veterans in terms of honors due them.
It is those specific federal laws that the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is directed by when it provides military headstones for Confederate veterans who otherwise have no memorial stone. If Confederate veterans were not legally American veterans, the VA wouldn’t legally be able to provide them military headstones.
The fact is, Confederate veterans ARE American veterans under the law — weak and diversionary arguments to the contrary notwithstanding. It’s why the desecration, destruction, and removal of Confederate veteran monuments is wrong, and is a slap in the face to all American military veterans.
When they attack Confederate monuments, they are attacking American veterans. Let that sink in.
Secondly, when you read the diaries and letters and memoirs of Confederate soldiers and sailors from the time of the war, a recurring theme to be found there is that these men believed they were fighting a Second American Revolution, carrying on the Jeffersonian ideals – the truly original American ideals – of self-government.
Fight for political independence and for his home the Confederate veteran did, but he never for a minute surrendered the proud distinction of being American. In his own mind and heart, the Confederate veteran was always an American. He certainly didn’t see himself as a “traitor” — any more than George Washington did.
The people who claim the perpetuation of slavery as the only real cause of the war in and of itself – and thus try to justify the removal of Confederate veterans monuments – grossly oversimplify the matter while ignoring a number of other key contributing factors, such as high protectionist tariffs and internal spending, cultural and even ethnic differences, and very divergent ideological visions of what the country should be, starting with the relationship between the states and the federal government, among other factors too numerous to mention here.
It’s a complex subject that boils down to the fact that young men of both North and South fought because their individual states called them to service. In addition, the Southern soldier had the added incentive of literally trying to protect his home from invasion.
Despite the narrative you may read and hear by the willfully ignorant, these veterans monuments to generals, statesmen, and the common soldier were not raised as “tributes to white supremacy.” People who say that should try reading contemporary accounts from the time period instead of getting their information from Hollywood movies or from those with an agenda.
These monuments were by and large erected by the wives and widows, children and orphans of the veterans following years and, in many cases, decades of grassroots fundraising, in appreciation for their service and in honor of the leaders.
At the same time, monuments to Union veterans and heroes were erected throughout the Northern States for the same reasons These monuments were given to the communities, North and South, in good faith and have been respected – up until now.
I might add that tens of thousands of people of color willingly served the Confederacy as well, and there is plenty of primary source material to back that up for anyone who cares to look. After all, the South was their home, too. These monuments also belong to them.
I might also add that the veterans of both sides came to respect one another as fellow warriors. I doubt the Union veterans would have stood for the disgrace that is befalling the monuments to their Southern American brethren, as generally evidenced by their own words of praise for their former foes after the war.
I’ve heard it said that “the Civil War is over.” Yes, and so is the Vietnam War, for example. Does that mean we should tear down the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall?
I’ve heard it said that memorials shouldn’t be erected “to the losers.” What a shallow, stupid statement. I need not mention other wars in history that have been lost, yet the veterans are still proudly remembered and honored.
Want to intelligently discuss and debate the various causes of secession and the war? I’m all for it. What I’m not for is the attempted cultural cleansing and eradication of one whole side of the story to silence all contradiction to present society’s official historical narrative – which, I might add, is continually shifting to suit modern day sentiments that have less to do with true history and more to do with advancing certain political and cultural agendas.
What I’m not for is veterans monuments being torn down because manipulative ideologues convince people they should now feel offended, or because it is suddenly trendy, or to prove – “something.”
Leave veterans monuments alone. All of them.
Leave our history alone.
(Wes Franklin can be reached at (417) 658-8443.)