Update: I think it is important to point out that the governor’s proclamation is easily eclipsed by the work of the Virginia Sesquicentennial Committee, which has aggressively pushed for an inclusive and education-driven approach to commemorating the Civil War. I am proud to serve as an advisor to this state-sponsored committee. Click here for more on this issue.
How do I know this? Just read Virginia Governor McDonnell’s proclamation:
Virginia has long recognized her Confederate history, the numerous civil war battlefields that mark every region of the state, the leaders and individuals in the Army, Navy and at home who fought for their homes and communities and Commonwealth in a time very different than ours today[.]
Why does the general public need to be reminded that a war which took place 150 years ago was fought “in a time very different than ours today”? What exactly is the point in making this explicit?
it is important for all Virginians to reflect upon our Commonwealth’s shared history, to understand the sacrifices of the Confederate leaders, soldiers and citizens during the period of the Civil War, and to recognize how our history has led to our present[.]
Yes, many Virginians sacrificed during the war. It would be a mistake, however, to assume that all citizens were loyal to the Confederate government. But if we are simply referring to those people who resided within the borders of Virginia between 1861-1865 shouldn’t the proclamation reference Virginia’s slave population. After all, didn’t they also make sacrifices during the war?
all Virginians can appreciate the fact that when ultimately overwhelmed by the insurmountable numbers and resources of the Union Army, the surviving, imprisoned and injured Confederate soldiers gave their word and allegiance to the United States of America, and returned to their homes and families to rebuild their communities in peace, following the instruction of General Robert E. Lee of Virginia, who wrote that, “…all should unite in honest efforts to obliterate the effects of war and to restore the blessings of peace.”[.]
Really? Can all Virginians, regardless of race, remember a postwar period where peace ruled their communities? Were the “blessings of peace” extended to “all Virginians?
this defining chapter in Virginia’s history should not be forgotten, but instead should be studied, understood and remembered by all Virginians, both in the context of the time in which it took place, but also in the context of the time in which we live, and this study and remembrance takes on particular importance as the Commonwealth prepares to welcome the nation and the world to visit Virginia for the Sesquicentennial Anniversary of the Civil War, a four-year period in which the exploration of our history can benefit all[.]
Well, who would disagree? As a history teacher I strongly encourage those interested to study the rich history of Virginia and the Civil War. What the governor doesn’t seem to appreciate, however, is that the more history one studies the less likely he will identify with the overly simplistic and narrow vision of the war presented here.
Note: Brooks Simpson has also had a go of it over at Civil Warriors. I also recommend reading Robert Moore’s thoughts at Cenantua as well as Richard Williams.