Stonewall Jackson Comes Down at Virginia Military Institute

Since June 1 of this year roughly 87 Confederate monuments have been removed from prominent intersections, courthouse squares, and public parks across the country. This latest wave of monument removals follows in a string of high profile acts of racial violence going back to 2015. Today the controversy returned to Lexington, Virginia and the campus of the Virginia Military Institute.

VMI Archives Digital Collections

This morning the statue of Stonewall Jackson was removed. There are few statues more iconic than that of Jackson on the quad of the campus and in the city that he once called home and where he is buried. Jackson taught at VMI before the Civil War. Since then the community has lionized the former Confederate commander. Even his trusty horse Little Sorrell is on display in the school’s museum. Up until a few years ago, first-year cadets were expected to salute the statue of Jackson. Not surprisingly, this was a problem for many African-American cadets.

A recent investigation into the racial climate at VMI led to the resignation of its commander and increased calls to remove the statue. It was just a matter of time.

This is an important moment in the removal of Confederate iconography from public and private spaces. Along with the removal of monuments on Richmond’s Monument Avenue, today’s removal is one of the most significant. It suggests that while the pace at which these monuments are coming down has slowed there is no chance of ever returning to a point where their presence is accepted without question.

It’s another nail in the coffin of the Lost Cause.

Searching for Black Confederates: The Civil War’s Most Persistent Myth

“Levin’s study is the first of its kind to blueprint and then debunk the mythology of enslaved African Americans who allegedly served voluntarily in behalf of the Confederacy.”–Journal of Southern History

Purchase your copy today!

36 comments… add one
  • Billy Wetherington Mar 18, 2021 @ 13:43

    “we are too proud to admit that someone who had slaves (like most people did in those days) did something good at that time; and the list goes on.” I will gladly admit that “someone who had slaves did something good at that time” but that good was not owning slaves. In addition “most people” did not own slaves in those days. While there is some bickering over an accurate count of the number of people who owned slaves, it was not most. The following link gives a higher estimate than I was aware of. However, I’ll let others evaluate the math in the link.
    https://socialequity.duke.edu/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/8.10.20.pdf

  • Billy Wetherington Dec 19, 2020 @ 15:15

    It’s doubtful that any other than the original 13 states could be considered sovereign and their sovereignty is doubtful as well. The other 37 states were created through the authority of the previous states. Most, with the exception of Texas, were authorized by the existing states. Texas gave up its sovereignty when the USA took over its debts and fought to keep them from the authority of Mexico. Sovereignty may have been a question, but it was a stretch. Insane asylum? Well that may not have been a stretch but they were all too big.

  • Billy Wetherington Dec 13, 2020 @ 16:59

    Growing up in the South was growing up thinking of Lee, Jackson, Davis and so on as great Americans without realizing the underlying obvious problem. They committed treason and though slavery was acceptable to many in America at the time but not to the 4 million enslaved. Lee and Jackson should be studied for their military skills just as German generals from the world wars are; for their military skills not honored for their ideology.

    • Neil Hamilton Dec 14, 2020 @ 5:59

      Billy Wetherington,

      Excellent suggestion.

      Sincerely,
      Neil

  • James Simcoe Dec 13, 2020 @ 15:35

    I think the crucial information in Mr. Levin’s post was that the recent president of the University was forced to step down due to the racial climate!!?? How hard is it to hold the line at ‘All Cadets are Created Equal?’
    I see that John Preston, a Lexington attorney of the time and our own Claudius Crozet (here in Albemarle County) were the true founders. I know Jackson was an instructor there. I have also read that at his funeral, some fellow officers were miffed that a certain VMI figure was present. His sin, being involved in a move to fire Jackson due to his obsessive compulsive mannerisms. Time marches on.

  • Brian Kerr Dec 11, 2020 @ 14:59

    I am really saddened by this moment in history. The people who tumble down statues don’t even know what those heroes did for them. In fact, they did nothing to them. Some fought for independence. Would we be better off as a colony of England? Maybe some would have been slaves longer if not for those heroes whose names are being erased from history. We write history so bad things don;t repeat themselves, but we are too dumb and angry these days to realized that Christopher Columbus was not the first to come to these lands and neither did he set foot in the American continent, thus, his hands never touched an American Indian or an Aztec; we are too proud to admit that someone who had slaves (like most people did in those days) did something good at that time; and the list goes on.

    • Msb Dec 13, 2020 @ 13:52

      Stonewall Jackson tried to help make a separate country out of parts of the USA, and keep 4 million people enslaved. He did nothing whatever for me.

      • Terry Dec 13, 2020 @ 17:51

        Revisit your history and check your facts. Slavery was protected by the United States Constitution until December 6, 1865. To suggest that the war was being fought by the US in contravention of its own Constitution is ludicrous.

        The United States was composed of individual sovereign states, who acceded to an agreed upon Constitution with a Bill of Rights. Simply put, the United States was a collection of States which came together voluntarily for the furtherance of common objectives. To infer that there was a singular consolidated federal government lasting in perpetuity is inaccurate. The tenth amendment, as well as the ratification of various state, emphasize the voluntary nature of the compact and the ability to withdrawal when remaining was no longer in the best interest of the State.

        • Kevin Levin Dec 14, 2020 @ 2:51

          You are certainly free to refight this point all you want. As far as I am concerned it is a complete waste of time. Your characterization of antebellum America is much too overly simplistic. This doesn’t even capture how George Washington understood the relationship between the states and the federal government.

        • James R. Johnson Dec 14, 2020 @ 5:18

          Any suggestion that the “Civil War”, which was anything but civil, was fought over slavery shows how poorly educated our populace has become. The War was one of economics, pure and simple. Without the South, the North was dead broke. All Lincoln cared about was his tariffs, because without them, he had no revenue! So, the North invaded the South and the war was on.

          • Kevin Levin Dec 14, 2020 @ 5:23

            When anyone uses the words “pure and simple” when talking about history I know not to take them seriously.

            • James R. Johnson Dec 14, 2020 @ 6:03

              Those words came directly from the Dean of the History Department of Georgia State University.

              “The Civil War was an economic war, pure and simple.”

              • Kevin Levin Dec 14, 2020 @ 7:54

                Would love to see a reference.

          • Neil Hamilton Dec 14, 2020 @ 5:57

            “Pure and simple” equates to “don’t bother my beliefs with facts.”

          • David B. Appleton Dec 14, 2020 @ 8:05

            Anyone who says that “[t]he War was one of economics, pure and simple” needs to go back and re-read the articles of secession of the individual states leaving the Union. They all make it quite clear that the primary issue was the continuation and expansion of slavery.

          • msb Dec 14, 2020 @ 11:10

            Ah, yes, economics – that’s how 4 million people comprised the largest single piece of “property” in the US. The war, particularly the actions that enslaved people took to free themselves during it, converted $4 billion of “property” back into human beings.
            P.S. The secession documents say’s you’re wrong. You have read them, haven’t you?

          • Jerry McKenzie Dec 21, 2020 @ 10:18

            And yet without the South, the Northern economy did fine, grew, and dominated for many decades afterwards.

        • msb Dec 14, 2020 @ 11:06

          Thank you, I have been studying for decades without your guidance. My comment stands because it is true.

  • David Tatum Jr Dec 11, 2020 @ 9:42

    Unfortunate actions. But they will not stop with Confederate monuments sooner or later Lincoln’s white supremacist views will be brought to light and parking will improve in Washington DC.

    • Kevin Levin Dec 11, 2020 @ 11:27

      Don’t worry. You will always have your little Confederate soldier on your front lawn to look at.

  • Terry Dec 7, 2020 @ 12:30

    Too bad you and others know so little about Jackson. While few, if any, individuals from the 19th century could survive modern day scrutiny on racial issues, I believe an examination of Stonewall Jackson’s life would reveal an enlightened individual truly concerned with the plight of blacks. Jackson violated Virginia law, placing himself in peril, by teaching blacks to read. Throughout the entire war, he regularly sent financial support to the Sunday School for black children he helped establish and taught. His actions to educate and elevate opportunity for blacks was quite progressive for the time

    Since Stonewall did not pass the “Woke” test, perhaps we should reexamine other historical figures such as the anti-Semitic Ulysses S.Grant or the Great Emancipator Lincoln, who supported passage of the controversial “Corwin Amendment”.It is commonly understood that the intent of limiting newly admitted states into the Union as so called “Free” states was to increase political power and preserve racial homogeneity. But why ruin a powerful narrative, justifying a bloody fratricidal war, with facts.

    The monument to Jackson at VMI may now be removed but it is certain that Jackson had more honor than Grant, Lincoln or the feckless VMI Board of Visitors who authorized its removal

    • Kevin Levin Dec 7, 2020 @ 12:33

      Nothing like owning other people to demonstrate that you are “truly concerned with the plight of blacks.”

      Well played. 🙂

      • Terry Dec 12, 2020 @ 8:36

        What are your thoughts on the following comments of a US Senator during a Senate debate over the expansion of slavery in the territories “free blacks would continue to be an inferior caste and simply die out”? The same individual served in the Civil War as a Major General? Should any honors or memorials to him be removed in similar fashion to that of General Jackson?

        • Kevin Levin Dec 12, 2020 @ 9:08

          I have no problem with rethinking the commemoration of any public figure in a public space.

          • Terry Dec 12, 2020 @ 9:17

            Thank You! Those are the remarks of Union Major General John Adams Dix, after whom the US Army’s Fort Dix is named. Clearly, this is a public figure currently honored in a public space.

            • Kevin Levin Dec 12, 2020 @ 10:48

              You are certainly free to begin a campaign to have the name of the facility changed. Best of luck.

              • Terry Dec 12, 2020 @ 10:52

                Can I count on your support for this initiative? It would mean a lot.

                • Kevin Levin Dec 12, 2020 @ 11:37

                  Throw together a serious proposal and I will give it some thought.

              • Neil Hamilton Dec 13, 2020 @ 16:38

                Kevin,

                Do you really think Terry can muster up the time and patience to campaign for the removal of a monument? ANY monument? By peaceful, democratic, and legal means?

                I have to admit, I feel no anticipation for such via a “gotcha” post in your comments section.

                Sincerely,
                Neil

  • msb Dec 7, 2020 @ 10:56

    This is good news. The report on persistent racism at VMI was very concerning, especially the leadership’s complete ignorance of the problem and lack of ideas for tackling it. Removing the statue of a man who gave his life to keep African Americans enslaved is a step forward, if only a symbolic one.

  • Brad Dec 7, 2020 @ 10:32

    I am concerned by, but not opposed to, the removal of this statue. While I support the removal of “Monuments to the Confederacy” on government grounds not directly related to the subject and their careers (the person’s home, battlefield, or post war career), Private land is a different matter, and private land where the subject worked is–normally– a VERY different matter. it is one thing to have the statue on campus and to discuss the subject of the statue; it is another thing completely to require cadets to salute the statue. I am glad to see that it will be relocated; I hope it will go unsaluted.

    • cagraham Dec 7, 2020 @ 11:13

      VMI is a public school.

      • Kevin Levin Dec 7, 2020 @ 12:08

        Thanks for pointing that out.

  • zcrockett53 Dec 7, 2020 @ 9:13

    Today I’m proud to be a Virginian. It is difficult for Virginians to move on from the Lost Cause; it’s imbibed with our mother’s milk. Mr. Levin, you’ve lived and worked in Virginia, so I believe you can confirm this.
    In my home county, Culpeper, the sheriff said he would deputize 500 men to protect the confederate monument at the courthouse. The day that one comes down will be amazing indeed.

    • Kevin Levin Dec 7, 2020 @ 10:00

      I don’t think anyone could have predicted at the beginning of the year that Confederate monuments in Richmond and Lexington would be removed.

      • James Harrigan Dec 7, 2020 @ 11:05

        agreed, Kevin. 2020 has been a hell of a year, but the widespread and unanticipated removal of Lost Cause iconography has been a silver lining. Still impatient for Charlottesville’s statues to go…

Leave a Reply to MsbCancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *