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.

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49 comments… add one
  • Forester Jan 22, 2014 @ 22:01

    I’m a Confederate descendant myself, but I gotta side with the people who are against Lee/Jackson Day as an official state holiday. There is no need to specifically honor those two generals unless one is honoring the Confederacy, which most Virginians don’t want to.

    Yes, there is Martin Luther King day, but King’s legacy and message speaks to the vast majority of Virginians. Lee and Jackson appeal only to a minority.

    Also, during the Civil War, Virginia was almost a Yankee state in some places. While my home of Norfolk was decidedly Confederate, our neighbor Portsmouth was a hotbed of Unionism. And despite the Confederate sympathies of Norfolk’s populace, the city was occupied by the Yankees and became a place that slaves fled to for freedom (Google “Fort Monroe”). It seems weird to have Confederate holidays NOW, when not all Virginians were Confederate sympathizers THEN.

    Rather than commemorating the Civil War, the holiday hearkens back to the turn of the 20th Century, when cities erected Confederate monuments and tried to force Lost Cause nostalgia on everyone. Portsmouth, VA ended up having a massive Confederate monument built in the MIDDLE OF A STREET ……….. in a city that was Unionist during the actual war. I dont see the holiday as remembering Lee, but rather remembering a period decades after their deaths when a narrow interpretation of Southern nostalgia was forced on the whole state.

  • London John Jan 22, 2014 @ 0:35

    The proclamation tactfully doesn’t mention by whom Jackson was fatally wounded.

    It doesn’t answer the question: of all distinguished Virginians (eg 7 presidents apart from Washington, Generals Winfiels Scott and George Thomas) why these 2?

    • Woodrowfan Jan 22, 2014 @ 5:29

      It was created to honor Lee in 1889. (Jackson was added about 1904 or so).

  • Jimmy Dick Jan 21, 2014 @ 12:27

    You got me to thinking about that so I went and did some poking around on the Net. Turns out Arkansas celebrates the birthdays of both Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis. It is really a border state. I think that you can see Arkansas transititioning from embracing the Lost Cause heritage junk to embracing its place within the US and its history as part of it.

  • Billy Bearden Jan 21, 2014 @ 11:21

    The two Lee-Jackson Proclamation I sought, submitted and received from Haralson County Ga on Tuesday 14th and Lexington Va on Friday 17th stated Jackson served from 1846 – 1851 in the US Army, then accepted a spot teaching at VMI until joining the CS Army. I also included he taught Natural and Experimental Philosophy and Artillery tactics.
    I would like to read the Lee Proclamations that Governor Bill Clinton issued in Arkansas to see his words.

    • Al Mackey Jan 21, 2014 @ 11:57

      True regarding Jackson. What Jackson taught at VMI would be known today as physics, and he was an artillery instructor. Also, the Stonewall Brigade were part of “Lee’s troops,” so saying they fought alongside Lee’s troops is a strange way to talk about it. One would think the Governor’s office would have done some basic historical research before releasing this proclamation.

      • Tom Heaney Jan 22, 2014 @ 7:46

        Yea, I thought that fighting “alongside Lee’s troops” was really weird too. It would be like saying that General George Patton’s 3rd Army “fought alongside the troops of Dwight Eisenhower.”

        I wonder if it is an unconscious attempt to make both seem equal, as if Jackson’s command was independent of Lee rather than subordinate.

  • Patrick Young Jan 21, 2014 @ 10:08

    It must be tough being governor of Virginia.

    Virginia is likely the state that gets the most dollars from Civil War tourism. It has a huge number of Civil War-related sites. It is close enough to the major Northeastern cities to draw people from outside of the South. I’m guessing that most Virginia governors have been sensible enough over the last 30 years to understand that while the state’s Civil War history is an asset, the insistence of a small but determined band to place Confederate Heritage before that history is damaging to the state’s reputation and to the national election chances of Virginia’s politicians.

    • Kevin Levin Jan 21, 2014 @ 14:07

      I think the content of the proclamation probably reflects the controversy that accompanied Gov. McDonnell’s version a few years ago.

  • James Harrigan Jan 21, 2014 @ 9:46

    Thanks for posting this, Kevin. I agree that it is a masterful exercise in threading the needle. If it were me:

    “WHEREAS, Jackson and Lee are icons of the Lost Cause Mythology, are heros to nostalgic neoconfederates and other white supremacists, and were leaders of the military effort to destroy the United States so as to preserve slavery in the South,

    “NOW, THEREFORE, I herebey call bulls–t on the racially divisive tradition of Jackson-Lee Day. Enough already.”

    • Brendan Bossard Jan 21, 2014 @ 10:06

      Your post reminds me of the attitude that I also find objectionable in the Tea-Party wing of the Republican Party: to hell with the others–we’re right, they’re wrong, and we are willing to split the party if we can’t get everything our way.

      In my opinion, Gens. Jackson and Lee were great men who had severe moral blind spots regarding racial equality. Most of the people who we consider “great” by our standards have marred personal histories. They deserve to be recognized for what they did right, and so do Gens. Lee and Jackson. Not only that, but Gov. McAuliffe is the governor of the *entire* state of VA, not just the people who are on the right side of this issue. He did exactly what he should have done.

      • James Harrigan Jan 21, 2014 @ 11:21

        Brendan, what exactly in my (tongue in cheek) post are you objecting to? Whatever other things Lee and Jackson were, I think my descriptions of them in my WHEREAS statement are simple statements of fact.

        The issue isn’t whether Lee and Jackson were “great men” or not – the issue is who gets an official Virginia State Holiday to honor them. It is the height of white privilege to imagine that picking out Lee and Jackson for special official veneration, out of all the people in Virginia’s history, is anything but an affirmation of Lost Cause ideology.

        I think McAuliffe did the wise thing not to pick a fight about this issue, and his artful proclamation is well done, but that doesn’t make me detest Jackson-Lee Day any less (and notice that I don’t detest Jackson or Lee, though I don’t worship them either – it is Jackson-Lee Day that sticks in my craw every January).

        • Brendan Bossard Jan 22, 2014 @ 7:13

          Mr. Harrigan:

          I understood that your post was meant as satire. It also truthfully spoke about your feelings about the matter. I just believe that it does no good to react with hostility to the celebration of this holiday. Why not “celebrate” it by publishing an educational editorial in a Virginia paper to teach what Gens. Lee & Jackson actually fought for?

          To illustrate, let me tell you a personal anecdote, as told to me by my father. In the early 1970’s, our family rented a house near Alexandria, VA. My family consisted of my white parents, me, and my black, adopted sister. A few of the neighbors frowned upon our mixed-race family. When the first year’s contract was coming up for renewal, one of our neighbors started pressuring the owner not to renew our contract. My father says that it didn’t look good for us, and he started moving preparations.

          One day something happened, and our “enemy” needed some help. My father helped her. After this event, she changed her mind, and we our rental contract was renewed without a hitch.

          If my father had taken legal action rather than doing what he did, might he have obtained a contract renewal? Maybe…but then, maybe not. In either case, our neighbor would have become more entrenched in her views, and nobody would have benefited.

          The lesson? My father stood firm with kindness, not hatred. I think MLK would have loved to hear of it!

          • Kevin Levin Jan 22, 2014 @ 7:17

            Great story, Brendan.

          • James Harrigan Jan 22, 2014 @ 7:22

            thanks for sharing that great story, Brendan. Your father was a kind and wise man and I agree, Dr. King would have approved.

      • Betty Giragosian Jan 21, 2014 @ 11:26

        Mr. Bossard, I do not know whose post that you refer to. I thought the Governor had an excellent proclamation. In the day of Lee and Jackson, few had the ideas about racial equality that we have today. Jackson owned no slaves, and taught a Sunday school class of slave children. There is a window relating to this in the little black church where he taught them. It is near Roanoke, Virginia. Lee told his his men to become good Americans, etc. He influenced many young men at Washington College, and established its prestigious school of journalism. I don’t get your comparison to the tea party. Was it something I said? Horrors!!

        • Al Mackey Jan 21, 2014 @ 12:00

          Jackson did own slaves, Ms. Giragosian–six slaves.

          • Betty Giragosian Jan 21, 2014 @ 18:19

            Mr. Mackey, if you say so then he owned six slaves. My mistake, God forgive me. I don’t care if he did. It was a different time, a different era, and the wrong was accepted, In spite of that. Jackson was a great general, and man with principles, whose movements in battle have been studied by other military leaders. We may seem to be a strange sort, remembering our Confederate Soldiers and Leaders, having monuments erected to them, but I am glad that we have this love and fervor for them. Can you understand that? I really would not worry about it if I were you. Leave us to our own devices, and find someone else to ridicule and criticize. We are not going to change, even if we have been unable to sing Dilxie in publc for many many years. Even Lincoln liked that song.

            • Kevin Levin Jan 21, 2014 @ 18:31

              I didn’t get the sense that Al was ridiculing you. He simply corrected you re: Jackson’s slave ownership. We would also do well to remember that the nation that Jackson aligned with was committed to the preservation and extension of slavery.

              • Betty Giragosian Jan 21, 2014 @ 18:50

                i did not take it that he was ridiculing ME. It is the tone of the entire discussion. Others more clever than I could debate you re the Confederacy being committed to the extension and preservation of slavery.

                • Kevin Levin Jan 22, 2014 @ 3:04

                  Others more clever than I could debate you re the Confederacy being committed to the extension and preservation of slavery.

                  I have no doubt that the same people you have in mind are unfamiliar with the arguments that Confederate leaders clearly laid out justifying secession and the creation of a new nation.

            • Al Mackey Jan 22, 2014 @ 11:29

              Ms. Giragosian, I was neither ridiculing nor criticizing, merely correcting a factual error. Two of those slaves specifically requested then Major Jackson to purchase them. Three were given to Major and Mrs. Jackson by Mrs. Jackson’s father as a wedding present. Jackson later purchased a child as a gift for his wife. The buying and giving of human beings as gifts was indeed an accepted practice in Antebellum Virginia, and Jackson was not violating any local laws or mores. We seek to understand these people within the context of their own circumstances.

              As a former student of Prof. Robertson’s, there will always be a soft spot in my heart for Old Jack.

              • Betty Giragosian Jan 22, 2014 @ 12:34

                Al, there is no one like Bud Robertson. I heard him speak about a month ago on a book he has annotated– the Diary of Judith Brokenbrough. and late in the summer, as well, on, who else, Jackson. I appreciate your explanation, and really was only criticizing the total comments. I do get wound up at times. My grandson was in Bud’s class at Tech, as well. Great privilege.

        • Brendan Bossard Jan 22, 2014 @ 8:51

          Ms. Giragosian:
          I was responding to Mr. Harrigan.

  • Barbara Gannon Jan 21, 2014 @ 9:13

    My proclamation
    Since Lee and Jackson are dead, since this is a day off for some, we are calling it a holiday. Signed Gov. Barb–in her diplomatic mode.

    • Betty Giragosian Jan 22, 2014 @ 6:43

      Ms. Gannon, I don’t believe that Lee-Jackson Day is a day off or state holiday in Virginia
      Schools remain open, and the mail is delivered. We do celebrate it with great style and vigor, however. I attended three programs over the weekend and was exhausted by Sunday night.
      Virginia does, along with the rest of the nation, honor Dr. King on the Monday after Lee-Jackson Day. Again, with style and vigor. There are many fine observances in honour of his life.

      • Kevin Levin Jan 22, 2014 @ 6:50

        A relatively small number of Virginians acknowledge Lee-Jackson Day. Having lived in the state for over 10 years it is evident that for most people it is nothing more than a day off from work.

      • Betty Giragosian Jan 22, 2014 @ 7:06

        Well, Ms. Gannon, l must eat a great big dish of boiled crow, and it is not too tasty. I was just reading an article re Lexington on Kevin’s facebook page, and what did I see? The Virginia state offices WERE closed and the schools in Waynesboro and Lexington were closed as well. I am sure we still got the mail however, that being USA. I believe the rest of what I wrote is correct. It IS a great holiday.

      • James Harrigan Jan 22, 2014 @ 7:13

        Betty, I’m sorry to say that you are incorrect: Lee-Jackson Day is an official state holiday in Virginia. State and local government offices, including the DMV and courts, are closed. Your VA tax dollars, and mine, fund this paid holiday.

        I’m glad you had a nice time celebrating Lee-Jackson Day over the weekend. Just curious: out of the three events you went to, how many African Americans were in attendance? Assuming that the answer is “zero or very few”, did that strike you as noteworthy, in a state where about 20% of our fellow citizens are black? By contrast, every MLK Day observance I’ve ever been to or read about has been gloriously multiracial, as was Dr. King’s coalition before he was murdered.

        Betty, Lee-Jackson Day is a holiday for white people who venerate the Confederacy, the most proudly and openly white supremacist form of government one could imagine. You think it is just fine to have official state government recognition for his holiday. I find it disgraceful.

        • Betty Giragosian Jan 22, 2014 @ 9:13

          James H, On Sunday, the Lee-Jackson Camp No 1SCV held a serivce in the Confederate Chapel honouring Lee and Jacskon. The program was a first person interpretation of General Robert E. Lee. l was present as always, and played the original pump organ for the service. The chapel was filled, We had one African American woman there–the is a member of one of the chapters of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, in Richmond. I saw no others. She was also at the porgram at the virginia state Capitol on friday night, when the Virginia Division UDC had its annual program in the Old House Chamber, where Lee accepted a command in the CSA. His statue is there in the spot where he stood.. On Saturday once again at the capitol, the Stuart -Mosby Historical Society held its annual Lee-Jacskon Day program there. No African Americans were there, but I said hello to a large group of African Americans who were on a tour. All races are welcome to attend these events.
          I was surprised to discover that it is still a state holiday, thinking that is had been abandoned. under pressure. Carry Me Vack to Old Vrginnny was our state song, and the legislature, under pressure, removed it,, even though there were suggestions to eliminate the words ‘darkey and old massa. I have had a music book for nearly 50 years that has a version in it without those wo words.
          I do not like them either. It would have been so simple, but no, it would not do
          No longer can we sing or play Dixie at public gatherings. .Perhaps you, James, can lead a movement that the stae government no longer have a hoiliday on this day. It would not matter to me, or most of us. it is a waste of state money. There are enough of us left to honour these great men without such ‘frills.’ I am glad that Dr. King’s day is celebrated joyously by both races. He was a great and good man. You seem to have a chip on your shoulder dangerously approaching the size of a boulder. You certainly do not have to participate in the Lee-Jackson holidays. You would be most uncomfortable.
          I have no idea where you live, but in the south you will have to endure these days, better yet, ignore them.

          • Kevin Levin Jan 22, 2014 @ 9:17

            I think you just offered a tiny window into why African Americans tend not to see this day (and Confederate heritage broadly) as worth commemorating.

            I have no idea where you live, but in the south you will have to endure these days, better yet, ignore them.

            Most black and white Southerners do ignore it.

            • Betty Giragosian Jan 22, 2014 @ 10:29

              Kevin, most people do not give a hoot abut history, much less admire Lee and Jackson. That is no reason for the rest of us not to honour them.
              As long as we are free to do this, it matters not if most black and white southerners do ignore it. That is no reason for the rest of us not to honour them Confederate history, or rather,
              the public symbols are being chipped away piece by piece, by dismantling statues, changing the names of streets and schools. nix on the singing of Dixie, etc. No need to go on, as it may offend someone. In spite of the sour attitude of folks like James, we will continue, even though our numbers are not ot great note. Few of us are white supremicists and I am certainly am no neo-Confederate. Whatever that is.
              Since threre are relatively few of us, James should just do something else on these days. If he starts a movement for there to be no more state holidays on Lee-Jacskon day, we can still observe them, same as we do Confderate History month in April. We don’t need a proclamation in order to observe it. We just do it. i wish people would stop trying to have a state proclamation makeing it a Confederate History month. It is not necessary.

              • Kevin Levin Jan 22, 2014 @ 11:10

                Hi Betty, — As always thanks for the comments.

                That is no reason for the rest of us not to honour them. As long as we are free to do this, it matters not if most black and white southerners do ignore it.

                I completely agree with you. You should take part in ceremonies that reflect your personal values. You and others who share your values are free to continue to revere Lee, Jackson and anyone else you choose to celebrate. The rub comes when it impacts the rest of the community which may no longer share those values. It is more difficult for people such as yourself to engage in these public celebrations in recent years and I suspect that the pressures will continue to mount. As I stated in my most recent post, the numbers of people who feel a need to publicly mark a day such as Lee-Jackson Day are gradually declining and within a generation or two I suspect that most of the flags will be furled for good.

                • Betty Giragosian Jan 23, 2014 @ 18:47

                  Kevin, i meant ot reply earlier to this. As long as the United Daughters of the Confederacy and the Sons of Confederate Veterans exist, the days honouring our generals, etc, will continue. The UDC has been in existence since 1894, and it is to be hoped that our organization will continue. There are other historical organizations, not as well known, who do good work.

          • James Harrigan Jan 22, 2014 @ 10:19

            Betty, you said
            I have no idea where you live, but in the south you will have to endure these days, better yet, ignore them
            I live in Charlottesville, Virginia, where I teach at UVa. As a state-supported whites-only institution, UVa was once a pillar of white supremacy in our state, but I’m happy to say that those days are over. The end of Jim Crow at UVa and throughout the South was brought about by Dr. King and other uppity people, black and white, who you would no doubt have considered having had boulder-sized chips on their shoulders.

            I love Virginia, where I teach Virginia students, send my kids to Virginia public schools, vote in Virginia elections, and pay Virginia taxes. But I am not about to shut up about the aspects of my home state that I don’t like.

            • Betty Giragosian Jan 22, 2014 @ 12:24

              Glad to know you, James. Two of my grandchildren graduated from UVA, one from Virgina Tech and the other from the University of Richmond. We agree on something–Jim Crow laws were cruel and I am glad they no longer exist. It took a man of Dr. King’s strength and character to lead the way to true freedom for the African Americans.
              Many of the injustices of the past towards the African Americans have been struck down, and most Americans, north and south are better for it and are glad of it. I feel that especially in in the south, many of us are ashamed of segregation and all acts of unkindness. I don’t think I ever considered any of the civil rights workers uppity. They must have been scared to death. They were certainly very brave. Did you participate in any of the marches, sit ins, etc? Maybe you werre too young at the time.
              I am sure you love virginia, and am glad to know that you do have love in your heart. I thought I sensed some bitterness. I do all the things that you do, pay taxes, vote, active in my church and my historical organizations. i am sorry that your taxes are used for a state holiday in honour of General Lee and General Jackson. I do not approve of it being a state holiday either, as it is too costly You can complain about things you don’t like all you want to. No one is stopping you. Anyone is welcome to come to our historical events. Even you, if you so desire ,just don’t bring any signs of protest. We will continue to do our historical events, whether you like it or not. If it sticks in your craw, take a dose of Maalox. We have made great strides in Virginia and folks like you just seem to want to keep things stirred up by fussing over the past wrongs. Quit rubbing it in our faces. I resent it.
              We have made amends are are still trying. As for your threading the needle, or your proclamation, it is a crock.

              • Kevin Levin Jan 22, 2014 @ 12:50

                Even you, if you so desire ,just don’t bring any signs of protest. We will continue to do our historical events, whether you like it or not. If it sticks in your craw, take a dose of Maalox. We have made great strides in Virginia and folks like you just seem to want to keep things stirred up by fussing over the past wrongs. Quit rubbing it in our faces. I resent it.

                Why the double standard? You speak out all the time on various websites against and in defense of various things.

                • Betty Giragosian Jan 22, 2014 @ 14:35

                  Kevin, what double standard are you speaking off? I post on Brooks’ page, fairly often, so where else. Let me read again what I have writlten. I told james he can talk all he wants to. i surely cannot stop him. So–Kevin, what do you mean? I thought I was fairly nice.

                  • Kevin Levin Jan 22, 2014 @ 14:39

                    It’s not about whether you are “nice.” You can read what I quoted in my last response for yourself. I thought your reference to Maalox was clever.

                    • Betty Giragosian Jan 22, 2014 @ 17:24

                      I believe I know what you meant. DUH–I told james not to protest one of our events it he came to it, whereas I shoot off my mouth all the time on your page as well as Brooks.
                      Yes, James has the right, but I surely would hate to see him with a big sign saying bull…. on this event.
                      I really was not trying to be nice in my last post. It just happened.

  • Al Mackey Jan 21, 2014 @ 9:13

    It’s also inaccurate regarding Jackson. Jackson didn’t serve in the US military between being a VMI professor and joining the rebellion, and he wasn’t fatally wounded at Chancellorsville.

    • James Harrigan Jan 21, 2014 @ 9:40

      Jackson wasn’t fatally wounded at Chancellorsville???

      • Betty Giragosian Jan 21, 2014 @ 9:54

        Why not call it a holiday? we were celebrating the birthdays of two of our heroes.

      • Betty Giragosian Jan 21, 2014 @ 9:56

        His arm was amputated due to wounding, but scholars today think that he died of sepsis.

      • Al Mackey Jan 21, 2014 @ 11:48

        No, he wasn’t fatally wounded at Chancellorsville. He survived the wounding, and had his arm amputated. He most likely died from sepsis, or possibly pneumonia.

        • James Harrigan Jan 21, 2014 @ 12:02

          Al and Betty, OK, but this seems like a distinction without a difference – without getting shot at Chancellorsville, Jackson wouldn’t have contracted sepsis or possibly pneumonia and died as a result. Seems like a pretty simple causal chain to me.

          • Al Mackey Jan 21, 2014 @ 15:19

            The wounds themselves weren’t fatal or mortal. They were all survivable. We could just as easily blame his death on the soldiers who dropped his stretcher several times while carrying him to the rear.

            • Douglas Egerton Jan 22, 2014 @ 8:17

              I agree with James, in that this sounds a bit picky. Soldiers wouldn’t have dropped his stretcher–not that they did–had he not been shot. Plus, this tiny point is what people find curious about the governor’s vague proclamation?

              • Al Mackey Jan 22, 2014 @ 11:20

                They did drop him, several times, and I think anyone can tell the difference between being dropped onto the ground and being shot. I’ve identified two points above that I find inaccurate about the proclamation and in other comments below two additional points. I’m approaching this from a historical accuracy perspective. One would hope that in putting together a proclamation dealing with historical figures that the governor’s office would have done some research and perhaps had it reviewed by a noted expert who happens to now reside not too far from Richmond before issuing it.

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