After all, Stonewall Jackson was an active member in Lexington’s Presbyterian Church. He even worked to teach enslaved and free blacks to read the Bible. All of this should appeal to black Americans, who to this day and as a group closely identify with Christianity. Robert E. Lee spent the last few years of his life in Lexington where he served as president of Washington College. During Reconstruction and beyond black Americans identified the crucial role that education would play in their collective success. Taken together both Lee and Jackson have been singled out as embodying Christian virtue and whose lives have been held up as worthy of emulation.
A number of readers took issue with last week’s post in which I reduced the celebration of Lee-Jackson Day, here in Virginia, to free parking. I guess I could have provided some thoughtful analysis about the almost complete lack of interest in this particular day as a result of changing demographics as well as other factors.
So, since I didn’t make my own personal view sufficiently clear, let me do so now. The reason I don’t celebrate Lee-Jackson Day is because I don’t celebrate the cause for which Lee and Jackson are remembered. They are remembered for their service in an army that functioned as the military extension of a government that was committed to perpetuating slavery and white supremacy. I find it simply impossible to distinguish between the individuals in question, including their many virtues, and the cause for which they attached themselves to. Because I abhor slavery I am glad that the Confederate government, along with Lee and Jackson, failed and that our national sin of slavery was abolished.
I don’t think I’ve stated anything controversial here. I do hope, however, that it clarifies things.
On this cold and dreary January day I was pleasantly surprised to find complimentary copies of the latest issue of Civil War Times waiting for me when I arrived home. This latest issue includes my article on Confederate executions. The goal of the essay is to explore how Confederate soldiers, along with civilians, responded to these events throughout the war. This is a condensed version of a much longer essay that I wrote for a graduate seminar back in 2004. Since it’s not one of the more hot-button topics I thought it would make for an interesting magazine article. I also wrote a 500-word sidebar on an execution that took place in Stonewall Jackson’s command in August 1862. Since I didn’t get a chance to do so in the essay I want to acknowledge two sources that were extremely helpful with this shorter piece on Jackson. The first is John Hennessy’s classic, Return to Bull Run: The Campaign and Battle of Second Manassas and the other is Peter Carmichael’s excellent essay on the execution that appeared in the Virginia Magazine of History and Biography (Vol. 111 ). Dana Shoaf did an excellent job editing the essay and I absolutely love the layout in the print version. I also very much appreciate Dana’s enthusiasm when I first submitted the piece. He has done an outstanding job since taking over as editor. Luckily, if you can’t afford the print version you can read it Online. I hope you enjoy it. Comments are welcome if you manage to read through it.
Tomorrow is Lee-Jackson Day here in Virginia. What that means for Virginians is a day off for many state employees. [I am proud to work at a school where we have Monday off in honor of Martin Luther King.] For the rest of us it should be a day without having to deal with parking meters. Unless, of course, you live in the city of Norfolk. It turns out last year the city continued to issue tickets to meter violators. Luckily a local news channel pointed out the problem to the city, which promised to make the necessary corrections. Let’s just hope that the city doesn’t make the same mistake this year and that all proud Virginians are able to embrace the true meaning of Lee-Jackson Day.
In all seriousness, I’ve never attended a Lee-Jackson Day event. Perhaps it is time to head on over the Blue Ridge Mountains to Lexington for Saturday’s festivities. It looks like the SCV has cooked up a real Lost Cause love fest. Interestingly, a PBS affiliate will be filming a documentary on the history of Lee-Jackson Day. That could be quite interesting.