LETTER TO THE EDITOR: A lesson on flags, monuments and the Confederacy

Let’s explore the Confederate Flag, Confederate monuments and “Southern Heritage” for a bit.

I think I’ll start off with the flag because, honestly, many people who display the “Confederate” flag to show pride in their “Southern heritage” are actually showing a lack of knowledge when it comes to the flags of the Confederacy. What people fly today as the “confederate” flag was never the flag of the Confederacy.

That’s right folks, the Confederate States of America (who had three separate flags while the CSA was in existence) never flew that flag as a symbol of the Confederate government. The flag people fly today was the battle standard of the Army Of Northern Virginia and became the battle flag while the AONV was under the command of Robert E Lee.

The popularity of this flag enjoyed the resurgence it is in today back in the 1950s and 1960s when it became adopted by groups who opposed civil rights and equality for blacks or anyone who wasn’t white.

Now, what about monuments to the Confederacy? Well, many folks are shocked to find out that by and far most monuments that were erected in the years directly following the end of the Civil War, weren’t monuments to the Confederacy, they were monuments to memorialize those who perished in the war.

As with the displaying of the flag, the bulk of the monuments to the confederacy and specific generals came about in the 1950s and 1960s by the same groups who adopted the battle standard of the AONV and who opposed civil rights and equality for blacks.

The message they were trying to send was along the lines of “The federal government says we have to let you vote, so we’re going to make you drive/walk down a street named after a man who fought to keep your ancestors in bondage, to get to a polling place.”

These monuments in the parks and town squares, street name changes and naming schools and other public buildings in honor of confederate generals was to send the massage that “it don’t matter what the federal government says, we will never consider you as equal. We will keep reminding you that your ancestors where in bondage and our ancestors fought to keep them there.”

Of course, even in the 1950s and 1960s they couldn’t come right out and say it that way so, they coined a nifty little phrase that we still here people use today. They said that these monuments, be it a sculpture in a public park or town square, changing the name of a street or naming and dedicating a public school or other public building to the honor of a confederate leader was to honor and remember their “Southern heritage”

Here is a little ironic historic tidbit that might make you laugh. Gen. Robert E Lee who has become a name almost synonymous with these monuments and the Southern heritage folks, was actually against slavery and there are letters he wrote to friends and family in which he talks about how abhorrent he finds the institution of slavery.

Another question I hear all the time that frankly I find annoying and rather ignorant of history is this; “If these monuments have been up for years, why is it a problem now after someone tells them to be offended?”. The movement to have these statues removed and placed in museums, change the street manes and building names, has been around since the 1980s. It just hasn’t been until the last couple of years that they have been getting national media attention. Just because you haven’t herd about it doesn’t mean it hasn’t been going on.

But, the Civil War wasn’t fought over slavery. Was it? Well, this one is a little more complicated than the war was or wasn’t fought over slavery. There certainly were several issues at play however it is important to note that the bulk of the states that formed the CSA mentioned protecting the institution of slavery as a factor for secession from the Union in their ordinances of secession.

So yes, slavery was indeed a core issue of the war. When today’s “Southern heritage” set tells you “the Civil War wasn’t even fought over slavery” while calling the battle flag of the Army Of Northern Virginia the “Confederate” flag, they are woefully ignorant and unaware of the history they are professing to be so proud of.

If you are one who flies a “Confederate Flag” to display a pride in your “Southern heritage,” perhaps you might want to learn more of the history of that “Southern heritage” and ask your self, just what it is you are so proud of.

Ricky Shehorn

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