Over the weekend the Sons of Confederate Veterans announced that it will build a 17,000 square-foot museum to honor Confederate soldiers and the Confederate cause in Elm Springs, Tennessee, which is also the home of its national headquarters. Their decision to call it a museum, however, needs serious qualification.
Paul Gramling, Lt. Commander-in-Chief of the SCV described their motivation this way:
Time and time again, we have seen where our monuments and museums throughout the South have been dictated by the state and federal governments on what they can and cannot do. That is coming to an end. At the completion of this museum, it will be out of the reach of the long arm of political correctness. This will be ours, as SCV members, [United Daughters of the Confederacy] members, Southerners to tell the truth between 1861-1865.
Senator Joey Hensley, who is also an SCV member had this to say:
It’s an honor to be a part of this ceremony today, to build this museum so that we can remember the heritage of our ancestors that fought so bravely and valiantly for their homelands, for what they believed in. History has been skewed and many times in society today many people try to make those soldiers out to be something they are not. Most of the Confederate soldiers never owned slaves and didn’t fight the battle because of slavery. They fought the battle defending their homelands against an invading army.
Let’s be clear that the epistemological foundation of this endeavor has much more in common with the Creation Museum, Noah’s Ark Encounter or even the Museum of the Confederacy in its earliest incarnation than anything that we normally designate as a history museum.
Their core value is reactionary and has little, if anything, to do with public outreach or even education. Gramling sums it up best: “This will be ours.”
Ultimately, what we are seeing here is the further acknowledgment that the Lost Cause continues to lose credibility as a legitimate interpretation of the past and as something worthy of honoring or celebrating. We can see this in the ongoing debates about the battle flag and Confederate monuments. This museum will serve primarily as a retreat for a dwindling SCV membership, where they can complain about a public that has left them behind.
It is another acknowledgment (at a cost of $5 million) that the Lost Cause has surely lost.