Defending Lee-Jackson Day from Me and My Followers

I haven’t linked to my Old Virginia Blog buddy in quite some time, but in recent weeks my site has received a great deal of attention from his little corner of the Shenandoah Valley. With that in mind I thought I would quickly return the favor by pointing out that Richard William completely missed the mark in reference to my recent post on Lee-Jackson Day:

Kevin Levin, who has expressed the view he saw no reason to celebrate Lee-Jackson Day, posed the question noted above. Kevin and many of his followers would like to see the tradition of honoring Lee and Jackson in Virginia (and other places in the South) thrown on the trash heap of history.

This is news to me. I don’t see how any reasonable reading of the post could warrant such a conclusion. While I don’t have much of anything invested in Lee-Jackson Day I have absolutely no problem if others wish to acknowledge it in some shape or form. I attended a couple of Lee-Jackson Day events in Charlottesville, Virginia during my time there and even over the years brought a couple of my classes to view the ceremony. Whether it ought to be acknowledged by the state is something that Virginians themselves must decide and for now I think the holiday is safe. Continue reading “Defending Lee-Jackson Day from Me and My Followers”

What Exactly Are the Virginia Flaggers Protesting?

Update: “I was at the chapel on that Sunday. I was chapel organist for the program presented by Lee-Jackson Camp. The colors were presented by Latane Camp. Tripp is not a member of that camp or its color guard.” — comment from Betty Giragosian.

This video pretty much undercuts the 2-plus years of protesting by the Virginia Flaggers in front of the Confederate chapel in Richmond. Their protest has been centered on the removal of the Confederate flag from the chapel grounds. Flagger Tripp Lewis is clearly miffed over being forced to stand on the sidelines during an event that took place inside the chapel on January 19, but once the ceremony ended inside the chapel a color guard was able to take a few photographs on the grounds without any problem.

Lewis claims in the video that he was supposed to take part in the ceremony, but no one in the group leaving the chapel seems to take an interest in the conflict with the officer.

So much for the forced retreat of Confederate Heritage in Richmond. Nothing ever goes right for the Flaggers.

[Uploaded to YouTube on January 19, 2014]

A House Divided Cannot Stand… Sing It

In this video singer/songwriter Rob Tobias uses the “House Divided” meme to make a point about our contentious current political environment. The other day I cautioned my students to be wary of the tendency to equate our own cultural and political battles with the Civil War Era. Such connections simply don’t hold up well under close scrutiny.

The video is well done and is probably worth showing to a class on Civil War memory. It’s another wonderful example of how social media is being used to interpret the past and make memory.

[Uploaded to YouTube on January 21, 2014]

Lee-Jackson Day: Who Is It Good For?

lee-stonewall-jackson-graveI’ve enjoyed reading the comments attached to my last post, which featured Governor Terry McAullife’s first Lee-Jackson Day Proclamation. As readers have noted it contains a couple questionable references, but what I find interesting is just how hollow it sounds. What could you possibly learn about these two men from reading this proclamation if you had no prior knowledge? I would say, next to nothing and yet this is a state holiday.

As it stands the proclamation avoids anything that smacks of controversy. It’s an innocent reminder of a time long past when there was something at stake for a large number of white Virginians in acknowledging the two Confederate warriors and, more importantly, the Lost Cause for which they fought. For most Virginians today who are impacted by the holiday it is little more than a day off from work. With each generation our distance from the war itself grows and the emotional cords fewer. We are likely seeing the last hurrah from a generation that grew up or came of age during the Civil War centennial.

Looking ahead fifty years, I would be very surprised if Virginia and other Southern states continue to acknowledge Lee-Jackson Day.

Gov. Terry McAullife’s Lee-Jackson Day Proclamation

The new Virginia governor’s Lee-Jackson Day Proclamation is quite telling for both its brevity and especially for what it leaves out. Lee and Jackson are respectively remembered for their contributions to education in the Commonwealth and for their roles as military leaders, but no mention is made of the nation who benefited from that battlefield prowess.

WHEREAS, Generals Robert E. Lee and Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson were native Virginians, having served our great nation and Commonwealth as educators, leaders, and military strategists; and

WHEREAS, Lee served in the United States Army for more than three decades until he left his position to serve as Commander in Chief of Virginia’s military forces and as Commander of the Army of northern Virginia; and

WHEREAS, Jackson taught philosophy and military tactics as a professor at the Virginia Military Institute in Lexington for nearly a decade before serving briefly in the United States Army and later joining the Confederate Army to fight for his native Virginia; and

WHEREAS, Lee dedicated his life after the Civil War to reforming higher education in the South by serving as President of Washington College, now Washington & Lee University, in Lexington, Virginia, where he helped to greatly increase the school’s funding and expanding the curriculum to create an atmosphere most conductive to learning for young men of both Southern and Northern heritage; and

WHEREAS, Jackson’s leadership and bravery enabled him to rally his troops to several improbable victories against opposition forces much larger than his own, and Jackson’s inspired “Stonewall Brigade” fought alongside General Lee’s troops toward another victory even after their leader was fatally wounded on the second day of the Battle of Chancellorsville; and

WHEREAS, it is fitting to recognize Generals Lee and Jackson as two of our nation’s most notable military strategists, as beloved leaders among their troops, as pioneers in the field of higher education and as faithful and dedicated Virginians;

NOW, THEREFORE, I, Terence R. McAuliffe, do hereby recognize January 17, 2014; as LEE-JACKSON DAY in the COMMONWEALTH OF VIRGINIA and call this observance to attention for all our citizens.

Perhaps this proclamation falls in line with previous years, but it seems to me to be an exercise in saying as little about the cause for which they fought as possible.