Confederate Monument in Leesburg

The Confederate soldier monument in front of the county courthouse in Leesburg.

Those that do understand history are the very first to repeat its mistakes.

And there is no clearer illustration of this principle than the efforts by Loudoun County Board of Supervisor Chairwoman Phyllis Randall (D) and her efforts to remove the Confederate soldier monument in Leesburg.

Let’s look at some facts.

Nearly 1,000 Loudoun County residents fought for the Confederacy from 1861-1865, with around 200 dying for that cause.

My great-great grandfather was one of them.

Samuel Athey, from Loudoun County, was a poor farmer. He enlisted in the 5th Virginia Cavalry in 1861. Later he was captured at the Second Battle of Martinsburg, was shipped as a prisoner of war all the way to Vicksburg, Mississippi, and when exchanged, walked all the way back to Virginia to rejoin his unit. Later he had his horse shot out from under him at the Battle of Brandy Station. Samuel survived the war, but many of his friends -- and my ancestors -- did not.

These were real people, most of which were poor and fighting because the federal troops invaded their home. It is that simple.

The statue at the courthouse in Leesburg simply says it is for our Confederate war dead. It does not glorify anything, but rather commemorates their sacrifices.

Many people today now oppose President George W. Bush’s Iraq War, which led to the death of several hundred thousand Iraqi citizens. Does this mean, that years in the future, because of public opinion (and mine) that believes that the war was unconstitutional and wrong, we start ripping down memorials to the rank and file soldiers who perished in that conflict? Of course not.

Add to that the fact that ‘free men of color’ from Loudoun County, the period term for non-slave African Americans, fought for the Confederacy, and by removing the monument you are also removing a memorial to their sacrifices. You will start to see that history is not black and white.

In a rush to appease a movement for the political profit, politicians all around the republic and the commonwealth are rushing to remove memorials to individuals, long dead, who are not here to defend themselves.

And by doing so, they are sewing the seeds for more division in our nation, rather than, as the veterans of that terrible war fought to do, heal the wounds of a divided nation.

The facts are there for those that want to read them and not just score political points. Virginia did not secede from the Union when Lincoln was elected, but rather seceded when the federal government demanded Virginia provide troops to suppress those states that already had left the Union.

Viewing this as an armed invasion and the suppression of the rights of those states to secede, Virginians voted to secede. An interesting footnote in this is that the chief justice of the United States Supreme Court, Samuel Chase, agreed in 1865 that secession is constitutional. If, after the war, treason charges were leveled against ex-Confederates, it would “lay 600,000 dead on the steps of the White House”.

Therefore, no ex-Confederates were ever prosecuted for treason to the Constitution.

Another misrepresented fact is the claim that Confederate monuments were put up during the Jim Crow Era. Now, of course these immoral and horrible laws spanned quite a few decades, but the monuments were not erected because of the Jim Crow laws. The answer if simpler.

Immediately after the war the South was destitute and virtually destroyed, both physically and financially. As they attempted to rebuild their lives, local civic groups began to raise funds. The first use of these funds was to provide care for the hundreds of thousands of wounded and maimed soldiers. They had to take care of the living first. Next these funds were used to bring home the war dead, from far away places such as Vicksburg, Mississippi, and Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Unlike federal soldiers, whom the government paid to have reburied in national cemeteries, Confederate dead lay in mass graves, mostly unmarked and left for farm animals to root up their bodies. So the next step was to bring those brave men home to be buried in their native soil.

This was a massive effort that took decades.

Finally, after living veterans were cared for and the dead brought home, civic organizations, many made up of veterans and widows themselves, began to fundraise to build memorials to the dead. This is why it took decades to erect these monuments, such as the one in Leesburg. Not to glorify the cause for which they fought, but rather to honor the husbands, sons, fathers and brothers killed in that horrible war.

Another little-known fact is that hundreds of Loudoun County residents fought for the Union as well -- many also dying during the struggle.

If our goal is to heal the wounds of division, as all the veterans of the war agreed, then the right answer is to instead add a monument to those sacrifices as well.

Combine both monuments to all the war dead as a memorial to all who died for the cause they each held dear.

We should never sew the seeds of more division, for that will lead to more anger, hate and possibly violence.

If we learn nothing else from the horrible war from 1861-1865, I pray that we learn that politicians, for political gain, will gladly turn the people against each other, leading to strife and violence.

Just like those boys that the memorial in Leesburg honors.

S. Chris Anders

Lovettsville

(19) comments

jim3w

The Author mentions his ancestor Samuel Athey by name, describing him as "a poor farmer" from Loudoun County. The beauty of the internet is one can quickly see that Samuel (from Fauquier County not Loudoun) Married Emma Payne, whose daddy Francis owned 14 slaves according to the 1840 US Census. History is complicated and presenting a whitewashed version of history in defense of a statue that today offends many more citizens than it instills pride in is wrong. I too have ancestors who held slaves, fought in the Confederacy, fought for the Union, in the American Revolution, etc. I'm a firm believer that everyone alive today has ancestors that did not-so-nice things to other people to try to get ahead in life. In the name of historical preservation, let's take this statue out of our Courthouse Square and put it in a museum (or a battlefield) before it is torn down and destroyed by an angry mob who disagree with the Author's romanticized notion of what a Confederate Soldier with gun raised symbolizes in front of Leesburg's house of justice.

westernloudounguy

That monument isn't of or to a general, it's of and to local soldiers. I think that probably was the intent in which it was placed on that most prominent spot in front of the Court House. At the time of it's placement- decades before World Wars I or II, the Civil War was the bloodiest, most deadly war this country had ever known. So I understand why they would want to build a monument to locals who went off to war. But this isn't then. We have a much different understanding of history today then the average person had in 1900. That monument is part of history and it should absolutely be preserved... just not at the center of town guarding the County court house. We need to remember our history- good and bad- and talk about it with a full, unbiased understanding of it...and we can't do that by hiding it or forgetting about it. But there are more appropriate places for a monument like that than in front of the Court House. There are any number of nearby battlefields- including one in Leesburg- where it would be perfectly appropriate and accessible. But maybe an even better location would be the Loudoun Museum, which is literally only two blocks away and could provide a proper setting and historical description (including about the soldiers that went off to fight on both sides). Regardless, in my view, no one should have to walk past a monument to anything that even hints at oppression or racism on the grounds of ANY Court house. Just because YOU don't feel intimidated by a white confederate soldier with a gun guarding the court house you might be going into doesn't mean other people don't.

RandomName2019

Talk about "white washing"...

There are nuances to the underlying causes of the Civil War, but they all lead back to the South's reliance on slave labor for their most profitable industries. Those in power (i.e. those who profited from a continuation of slavery) chose to secede and took the citizens of their states, who valued State over Country, along for the ride. Then they lost. They fought a war of rebellion, for the continuation of a system whose very premise was based on the concept that another person could be owned, and they lost.

While family members should certainly commemorate their ancestors individually, the cause that they fought for should never be celebrated. Their armies should not be celebrated. Their soldiers should not be celebrated. The ideas that they fought for should not be celebrated.

Voltaire

RandomName2019—you are correct that there are various political/economic reasons that led to the Civil War. No, they don’t all lead back to slavery. There was a valid question of state’s rights. That is historical fact and cannot be disputed, no matter how people want to try. Yes, the Confederate States of America (CSA) lost the Civil War. That too is historical fact. Nobody is celebrating the cause of the CSA. However, in the eyes of military history, it is proper to review the tactics, strategies, soldiers, and generals of the CSA as they were a key part of the Civil War period of history, both general and military. To suggest that people shouldn’t review that is wrong from both a general and military history point of view. As this is still a free country, people can respect their heritage/ancestors their own way and don’t need to be critiqued/belittled by the mass opinion of the day. That too is wrong. As to communities commemorating their lost citizens, there is also nothing wrong with that either. The Germans do that with a marker that identifies everyone from the town who lost their lives serving in the German Armed Forces (Wehrmacht/Kriegsmarine/Luftwaffe). They aren’t doing to glorify the Fuhrer and his party, but are recognizing that they lost members of their community. What is wrong with towns doing that through a historical marker that provides the names of soldiers (from both sides) and a narrative that provides historical context? Nothing, but it is not the opinion of the day because it mentions the “evil CSA”. That is political correctness at its finest. That is totally wrong and unacceptable.

Aweyrother

Some will claim that Confederates fought for their homes. In truth, they fought for the aims of their leaders. And those leaders were clear about why they were going to war. Confederate Vice President Alec Stephens, for example, claimed that "The new [Confederate] constitution has put at rest, forever, all the agitating questions relating to our peculiar institution, African slavery as it exists amongst us, the proper status of the negro in our form of civilization. This was the immediate cause of the late rupture and present revolution." Confederate leaders claimed that "Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea [of the Declaration of Independence]; its foundations are laid, its corner-stone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery subordination to the superior race is his natural and normal condition."

Loudoun should be better than this. Each day this statue, or any other of its kind, remains in a public space, Loudoun affiliates itself with slavery. Each hour that these symbols are permitted on or near public or government property, Loudoun's government deliberately chooses to affiliate itself with white supremacy.

It ought never be that any part of The United States should force Americans to pay for commemorating people who fought to destroy the Union. It certainly ought never be that Loudoun County should force Americans, least of all black Americans, to pay for commemorating people who fought and died for slavery. If someone wishes to commemorate those who fought for slavery, they should do so on their own dime, in a private space, not near any fixture of an American government.

Voltaire

Aweyrother--the historical record shows that there are more causes, both economic and political, of the Civil War than just slavery, although slavery was indeed a major factor. You cannot make the argument that the County Government is officially condoning/condemning anything just because the statue (which was erected in 1908) is sitting on public grounds. Further, the premise that "...each hour that these symbols are permitted on or near public or government property, Loudoun's government deliberately chooses to affiliate itself with white supremacy..." is flawed. The statue was erected by a non-profit group who wanted the statue to recognize those Loudoun residents who fought/died for their homes. The County didn't specifically erect it and probably doesn't do major maintenance on the statue. You cannot make the argument then that the County, through normal maintenance, is deliberately stating ANYTHING about its views on the Confederate States of America (CSA) or white supremacy. That is a stretch to say the least. As to paying for commemorating people who fought against the Union, that is wrong. So, are you telling me that the National Park Service should not have any Civil War battlefields because the Confederacy fought there? Wrong. That is absurd and is politically correct revisionism. The CSA was a part of the Civil War period of United States history and it deserves to be recognized in the historical record, whether you like it or not.

Bredon31

You know one thing I’ve never heard from a “Lost Cause,” “All Lives Matter,” proponent? An apology, for the suffering the Confederacy caused, and is still causing. Or an acknowledgement that we are still a very racist country. Anyone with a shred of empathy can see how insensitive it is to glorify the Confederacy and it’s participants. But, as you can read - they don’t even acknowledge there’s a problem.

The South should have denazified like Germany did. But, they didn’t, so now we’re going to do it for them.

Voltaire

Bredon31--the Confederate States of America (CSA) fought the Union approximately 150 years ago. If you are looking from an apology from the CSA, you are not going to get on. The CSA, as an institution, is not causing any racism today as it doesn't exist. The viewpoint that we are a "very racist" country is subjective and not reflective of the entire population. I do not see anyone glorifying the CSA. What I do see is that there are people who had family members who did fight for the CSA and died believing that they were doing right and deserve to have their ancestors' memory recognized and not belittled by today's armchair sociologists/revisionists. The viewpoint of if "...there is a problem" is again subjective and does not reflect the entire population. Concerning "denazification" of the South, a review of the historical record shows that that did occur. President Ulysses S. Grant enforced the protection of African Americans in the South through the use of the Enforcement Acts passed by Congress. Grant used the Enforcement Acts to combat the Ku Klux Klan, which was essentially wiped out. As to Germany doing "denazification", that is incorrect. The Allies did the "denazification", through a series of directives issued by the Allied Control Council, seated in Berlin, beginning in January 1946. "Denazification directives" identified specific people and groups and outlined judicial procedures and guidelines for handling them. Though all the occupying forces had agreed on the initiative, the methods used for denazification and the intensity with which they were applied differed between the occupation zones.

workhardgetahead

Really? You're going to force folks to apologize that had nothing to do with what happened over 155 years ago? Get over it. That's old news. Quit using the civil war as an excuse. Quit playing the victim. Stand up, get educated and work hard. This is America and you will thrive. There are injustices everywhere for every race and that includes whites. What matters is how you respond to them and rioting, looting and destroying property isnt the way to go about it.

amerigirl

Then you should get over it too, the statue has to do with the civil war over 155 years ago, just as old news. It is still insulting to many people and taking it down will be a step towards an apology.

AshWilliams

It’s still wrong

Voltaire

AshWilliams--really? What is wrong? You can't make a broad statement like that.

Bredon31

This letter reads like a Lost Cause propaganda pamphlet.

A government-sanctioned memorial, on public property, is telling the community that this person (or people) are worthy of emulation, honor, and imitation. Confederates were very effective at killing US soldiers, trying to destroy the country, and keeping millions in bondage. Which of those values is worthy of emulation?

We are just doing what needs to be done to make things right. People can study Confederate exploits in textbooks, learn about them in battlefield parks, or museums - create a shrine to them in their homes if they want to. But, Loudoun County Government should be clear that their racism and treason against our national institutions are not values we support.

These Confederate memorials are one of the ways our black brothers and sisters are openly disparaged and overlooked in our county. We would not expect a Jewish person to be comfortable in a neighborhood with a Hitler statue. Why do our black citizens deserve any less respect? Why should they have to live in a county that honors and glorifies the efforts of their oppressors?

Removing Confederate street names and monuments is long overdue. 

Voltaire

Bredon31--there are multiple problems here. First, if the Confederate States of America was "effective at killing U.S. soldiers, trying to destroy this country, and keeping millions in bondage" then you have the Confederate official flag flying throughout this county as this county, as part of the Commonwealth of Virginia would have seceded from the Union. Whether you like it or not, Loudoun County, as part of the Commonwealth, officially fought for the Confederacy. Obviously, that is not the case. A review of the historical record shows that there were more reasons, both economic and political, than just slavery that caused the Civil War. It is debatable to say this statue is here to imitate. There is nothing provided to support that premise nor negate it. However, there are people in this community who had ancestors who fought for the Confederacy and believed that the statue was a way in the day, remember the statue was erected in 1908, to remember their lost family members and honor their heritage. It is not the responsibility of the Loudoun County Government to make official judgments about the Confederate States of America.

The historical record is an effective judge of that time period and will make its own assessments. Concerning the premise that "....We could not expect a Jewish person to be comfortable in a neighborhood with a Hitler statue..", that premise is false. Within Germany, there are memorials that honor the individual soldiers/sailors/airman who fought and died for the German state. There are no statues that honor the Fuhrer. Nobody is arguing that African-American citizens in this county deserve any less respect than anyone else. The statue is there to (whether wrong or right is again debatable) to recognize those soldiers who died in the Confederate army. It is not "glorifying" anything about the CSA. But, as the historical record conclusively demonstrates, the CSA existed and cannot, no matter how hard politically correct revisionists want, be erased from the record. However, it is also not right to belittle those families who had ancestors who fought/died for the CSA. It is also not logical/proper to conclude that every soldier/officer who fought for the CSA advocated slavery. However, as Robert E Lee said, correctly in my opinion, there shouldn't have been any statues erected as they continue, to this day, to allow old wounds to fester and slow this nation's advancement. Concerning the renaming of streets, really? How does that offend anyone? That looks to me, to be a waste of taxpayer funding. Statues make sense but street names is a stretch. Where does it stop? Are we going to rename Loudoun County because this county was named after a British royalist who sided against the colonies? How about the name of the Commonwealth as that name refers to the British sovereign?

Karl

I love it when some brainwashed SJW plays the Hitler card. Hitler wrote glowingly about Lincoln in Mien Kampf not Davis. Grant issued anti-Semitic orders not Lee. Hurlbut confiscated Jewish property in Tennessee not Forrest. US Secretary of State was Jewish while US Secretary of War Edwin Stanton issued genocidal orders against Native Americans that would become the model for the Final Solution. The US House Bill #148 of July 16 1862 declared the Continent was meant for Anglo Scandinavian and Celtic Races only. This was not a random Speech or Article but Joint Congressional declaration of the War aims of the GOP. This was before Lee went on his win streak and Lincoln did not anticipate needing Black troop.

Frederick Douglass tried to warm Lincoln but old Ape wouldn't listen and Fred went to Haiti. Many literate Blacks,taught by Professor Thomas Jackson, read H Ford Douglas and other prominent Blacks and knew the Yankees were only offering deportation and Segragation not equality, So many Blacks chose Slavery over Colonization.

After the War all USCT were sent to Texas while Union Contraband Policy killed over a million of their family members at forced labor camps around the South. Many Black leaders like Mississippi Legislator John F Harris and Booker T Washington supported CSA monuments and no less a man than the first Black Senator Hiram Revels complained to Grant about the corruption of the Carpet Bagger Regime and distortions in the Northern Press meant to hide that Corruption by Blaming Ex-CSA leaders for the region's problems. Now Unscrupulous Pious Cause Pseudo-historians resurrected that "Wave the Bloody Shirt" political rhetoric to brainwash the ill informed and manipulate feeling to forward their Political Agenda.

How does it feel to be played like a cheap fiddle?

You should honor Lee for killing enough of the barbarism Invaders to force the Yankees to recruit Blacks like the South did from the beginning of the War. It would have been far better to allow gradual emancipation to continue. But the North invaded for cotton and tariffs not to do Blacks any favors and didn't.

Lawman

It’s already gone.

Voltaire

Wrong. The decision on whether the statue is going anywhere hasn't even been reviewed by the appropriate authorities, which isn't you.

RandomName2019

The BOS will hear public input and then the statue will be removed on an 8-1 vote. Kershnerr will be the only "nay" vote because he posits that removing a statue is akin to removing history and attempts to conflate our founding fathers (who rebelled and won) with the CSA (who fought and lost) simply because they also owned slaves.

Voltaire

RandomName2019--you may be correct however you are making presumptions before the hearing processes commence on July 1, 2020. That is the Board of Supervisors decision to make, and they can make it through the legal process. However, the point made by both Lawman and you is factual incorrect as the official process has not commenced and therefore there is no decision made. That is the point of my comment to Lawman.

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