Confederate Flags Return to W&L’s Lee Chapel

Well, not exactly, but John Paul Strain’s latest effort at realism is the next best thing for those people upset with the recent removal of Confederate flags from the chapel room. It’s a curious print and while it may do well within a certain community Strain’s choices distorts the history and identity of Lee Chapel.

Lee ChapelYes, Edward Valentine’s beautiful marble recumbent statue depicts Lee in his military uniform, but as far as I know there are no other symbols of the former Confederacy present when the room was first dedicated. More problematic, however, is the addition of images of Stuart and Jackson on the rear panels. Strain makes it appear that their images have been etched into the panels, but as many of you know, they are in fact clear.

Lee’s burial site was not intended to be a Lost Cause shrine to the Confederacy and the flags that adorned the space, before they were removed last year, only arrived in the 1930s. In my mind the attempt at realism with the addition of Stuart and Jackson does a disservice to the purpose of the space and perhaps even the way Lee wanted to be remembered.

Sons of Confederate Veterans Kicked Out of Lee Chapel

This week the Stonewall Brigade of the Sons of Confederate Veterans learned that they will not be allowed to use the Lee Chapel on the campus of Washington & Lee University for their annual celebration of Lee-Jackson Day. A spokesman for the school made it very clear as to why:

Hosting the program is no longer an appropriate use of Lee Chapel, W&L spokesmen Brian Eckert said, in light of the “distortion, misstatements and inflammatory language” the school has endured from members of the organization upset with its decision last year to remove Confederate flags from part of the chapel.

“The persistent name-calling, vilification and uncivil attacks in messages to the university, letters to the editors of local newspapers and social media postings have persuaded us that our original intent to make the chapel available would not be appropriate,” Eckert said. “We simply are not going to allow our own facilities to be used as a place from which those attacks can be made.”

Continue reading “Sons of Confederate Veterans Kicked Out of Lee Chapel”

The Committee Speaks

This is the first interview that I’ve seen featuring members of Washington & Lee’s “Committee,” which last year successfully petitioned their school’s administration to take down Confederate flags in Lee Chapel and to think carefully about the school’s connection to Confederate history and slavery.

I applaud these students for their commitment to making their campus a more hospitable place for African Americans and for other students who are concerned with questions about the place of the past in the present. One of the two students interviewed closed with the following: “I know that someone is going to feel more comfortable by what we did and that is enough.”

This video is part of a larger project on how we remember and commemorate the Civil War.

The Daily Beast Shows How Not to Think about the Confederate Flag Controversy

Jonathan Horn’s short article in The Daily Beast is designed to highlight his new biography of Robert E. Lee by wading into to the Confederate flag controversy at Washington & Lee University. While it will likely convince those predisposed politically to agree with his conclusions the historical content falls short. Horn’s basic point is that the available evidence concerning Lee’s brief tenure as president of then Washington College and his overall attitude regarding Confederate defeat ought to serve as a guide for how we see the current controversy about the display of the flags.

Far from being relics of Lee’s tenure, the Confederate battle flags only arrived in the college chapel decades after Lee’s death and were later replaced with the historically meaningless reproductions that hung until recently.

Lee did not want such divisive symbols following him to the grave. At his funeral in 1870, flags were notably absent from the procession. Former Confederate soldiers marching did not don their old military uniforms, and neither did the body they buried. “His Confederate uniform would have been ‘treason’ perhaps!” Lee’s daughter wrote.

So sensitive was Lee during his final years with extinguishing the fiery passions of the Civil War that he opposed erecting monuments on the battlefields where the Southern soldiers under his command had fought against the Union. “I think it wiser moreover not to keep open the sores of war, but to follow the examples of those nations who endeavoured to obliterate the marks of civil strife and to commit to oblivion the feelings it engendered,” he wrote.

Publicly, Lee played the reconciled ex-Confederate general. He had every reason not to want to bring negative attention to his struggling college campus in the immediate wake of the war. It is no surprise that he would not have wanted Confederate flags flying on campus or in any other part of Lexington, Virginia. However, as we well know Lee remained bitter in private about defeat, emancipation, and occupation. Continue reading “The Daily Beast Shows How Not to Think about the Confederate Flag Controversy”

Christian Keller on the Military Education of Robert E. Lee

Glad to see that a video of Christian Keller’s recent talk at the Lee Chapel at Washington & Lee University is now available. You will notice that even without the Confederate flags flanking the Recumbent Lee statue it is still possible to commemorate the former general and president on the anniversary of his passing.

[Uploaded to YouTube on October 14, 2014]