Yesterday my wife and I stopped briefly at the Pelham Chapel in Richmond, which is the site of the ongoing protest by a group that styles itself, the Virginia Flaggers. As many of you know their protest is focused on the recent removal of Confederate flags from outside the chapel itself. I was hoping to see some Flaggers in action, but in the end I am glad that they decided to take the day off. For the first time in my many visits the chapel was actually open. We weren’t able to spend too much time, but it is an impressive little building.
It’s hard not to walk through without thinking of the Confederate veterans who spent their later years on the grounds that made up the R.E. Lee Camp Soldiers Home. For those who had no families or suffered from wartime wounds – both physical and mental – the home likely served as a place of comfort. The interior of the chapel leaves no doubt that the service of these men was something that the surrounding community continued to commemorate and celebrate. It’s a wonderful place to highlight the Lost Cause through the relationship between the survivors and the broader community.
None of this comes through in the continued protest by the Flaggers. In fact, the obsession with the display of the Confederate flag outside the chapel not only trivializes the story of the men who lived on the grounds, but overshadows what is contained in the building. The chapel has some beautiful stained glass windows that commemorate the service of the individual soldiers and the cause. Of course, they can’t compete with the Tiffany windows at Blandford Cemetery in Petersburg, but they are certainly much more powerful and helpful in understanding the lives of the veterans than a flag that may or may not have flown outside the chapel during their stay. It will come as no surprise that there are plenty of Confederate flags inside.
So glad we took the time to stop by yesterday. Sorry, but the photographs don’t do justice to the chapel windows.