My father told me that the Civil War soldier statues of the two sides, as a sign of peace, face away from each other — those of the Union facing north, and those of the Confederacy facing south. Before us was a fine example — the stone soldier on the square in Bedford, Ohio. It shuns main street, the old town hall, and the old train station, where Abraham Lincoln, on his way to D.C., once spoke — and faces the northern-most side, which seems to hold no special feature. Knowledge of this protocol strengthened my belief that the country was being run by reasonable adults.
But, alas, my recent Internet search did not confirm the reason for, or the fact of, this statue-placing protocol. An article on war memorials in Bedford did say that “[h]istorically, Union statues will face North and most Confederate statues will face South” — but did not say why. Also, it said that the city of LaGrange, Ohio, actually turned its statue to face south “to signify that Union soldiers would not turn their backs to the enemy.” But if those who turned the statue meant to signify a readiness for war, then maybe, by the same token, those who originally placed it meant to signify a wish for peace. Now, I’m fairly sure that many soldier statues, like the east-facing Seventh Regiment Monument in Central Park, New York City, were placed like other statues — to face the thoroughfare. Still, when we see the huge Union soldier statue that stands in the Antietam National Cemetery over thousands of headstones of those that died in the battlefield nearby, doesn’t it seem fitting that it faces north? Looking south, a Confederate soldier statue stands, unarmed and pensive, in the middle of an intersection in Alexandria, Virginia. The bronze soldier is not war-ready, but still, with a choice of four roadways, it gazes southward. But in Georgia, according to Ben Jones, a former Georgia congressman and actor who played Cooter on “The Dukes of Hazzard,” “[T]here must be one [statue] in practically every county, in every town square and cemetery — and it’s facing north, by the way.” So, again, if those who placed these north-facing Confederate soldier statues meant, as Mr. Jones seems to think, to signify a readiness for war, then maybe, by the same token, those who placed the south-facing ones meant to signify a wish for peace.
Antietam National Cemetery, Sharpsburg, Maryland
Through my Internet search, I found that many of the Confederate soldier statues were placed by the United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC), a group steeped in, and active in spreading, the “Lost Cause of the Confederacy” myth. That myth paints a fanciful picture of a gallant South fighting for its genteel ways against the mighty industrial North, and covers over the fact of a brutal slave-holding society fighting to keep and spread its economic system where the capitalist owns the laborer. More than simple memorials, those statues glorify the “Lost Cause,” and cast the supposed fight for it as just and heroic. For instance, the soldier statue (south-facing) in Star City, Arkansas, bears the inscription:
OUR FURLED BANNER / WREATHED WITH / GLORY AND THOUGH / CONQUERED, WE ADORE / IT. WEEP FOR THOSE / WHO FELL BEFORE IT. / PARDON THOSE WHO / TRAILED AND TORE IT.
For another instance, the bronze Confederate soldier (south-facing) in Rockville, Maryland, carries an inscription that was hardly the view of most residents there during the Civil War:
THAT WE THROUGH LIFE / MAY NOT FORGET TO LOVE / THE THIN GRAY LINE
For contrast, let’s take the simple, respectful inscription on the Alexandria statue:
ERECTED / TO THE MEMORY OF THE / CONFEDERATE DEAD / OF ALEXANDRIA VA. / BY THEIR / SURVIVING COMRADES
And for another fine example of a simple memorial to the foot soldier, let’s again look to Bedford, Ohio. The stone soldier monument there reads:
ERECTED AS A MEMORIAL TO THE MEN / THAT ENLISTED IN THE SERVICE OF THE / U.S. DURING THE WAR OF 1861-1865 / WHOSE NAMES APPEAR ON THIS MONUMENT / TO THE No. OF 202.
Civil War Soldier Statue; Bedford, Ohio; erected July 3, 1886 (TheParagraph.com (CC BY))
Civil War soldier statue inscription; Bedford, Ohio (TheParagraph.com (CC BY))
the square in Bedford Google Maps
An article “Bedford monuments honor living and deceased veterans” by Rebecca Boreczky, Cleveland.com; April 24, 2012
Seventh Regiment Monument in Central Park “7th Regiment Monument, New York, NY” by Dave Pelland, CT Monuments.net; April 11, 2011
stands in the Antietam National Cemetery “Antietam National Cemetery, Sharpsburg, MD” by Dave Pelland, CT Monuments.net; April 29, 2011
intersection in Alexandria “The Confederate Statue” – The Historical Marker Database
according to Ben Jones “CIVIL WAR ‘SILENT SENTINELS’ STILL ON GUARD IN NORTH, SOUTH” By CHRIS CAROLA, Associated Press; April 18, 2015
placed by the United Daughters of the Confederacy “Civil War monuments: Tracking Texas history – Book gives background on statues” by Lori Forgay, Denton (TX) Record-Chronicle; July 17, 2009
Members of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, not the state, were primarily responsible for erecting Civil War monuments.
“The majority of statues were funded by women,” McMichael said. “So the women were in charge of creating these monuments and then hosting the public ceremonies and celebrations around these monuments.”
Dr. Randolph “Mike” Campbell, chief historian for the Texas State Historical Association, said the creation of the monuments had a large role in how Southerners came to accept losing the Civil War.
“It is obvious, I suppose, that being defeated in a war creates many problems for the losing side, particularly when it comes to whether their cause was just and their effort was pure,” Campbell said. “The monument movement played a major role in the post-bellum South’s argument that its people had fought valiantly for a ‘lost cause’ that was entirely worthy.”
“Also, as Dr. McMichael points out, the movement helped anchor Southern society in a glorious past during a period of contemporary tumult,” Campbell said. “Overall, her book is an excellent example of how collective memory works to provide a version of the past that, although not historically accurate, meets the needs of a particular society.”
“Lost Cause of the Confederacy” myth “Lost Cause of the South” – RationalWiki
Almost immediately after the war ended, the defeated Southern states had to form a coherent reason why they engaged in a rebellion against the Union. This reason could not highlight the centrality of slavery to the Southern cause, but instead had to minimize, or even deny the role of slavery. Furthermore, many white Southerners during Reconstruction believed that the Union had, in fact, placed an oppressive regime on their states. As a result, once the Yankee troops left the South, Southerners began forming memorials often funded and driven by the United Daughters of the Confederacy and supported by many Southern veterans’ groups. The purpose of this was to try and redefine the meaning of the war to ignore slavery, so that the Southern “heroes” would not seem like evil repressive persons seeking to hold down an entire race of people.
fact of a brutal slave-holding society “A People’s History of the United States – Chapter 9: SLAVERY WITHOUT SUBMISSION, EMANCIPATION WITHOUT FREEDOM” by Howard Zinn; 1980
fighting to keep “The Declaration of Causes of Seceding States” – Civil War Trust
Georgia: … For the last ten years we have had numerous and serious causes of complaint against our non-slave-holding confederate States with reference to the subject of African slavery. They have endeavored to weaken our security, to disturb our domestic peace and tranquility, and persistently refused to comply with their express constitutional obligations to us in reference to that property …
Mississippi: Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery– the greatest material interest of the world. Its labor supplies the product which constitutes by far the largest and most important portions of commerce of the earth. These products are peculiar to the climate verging on the tropical regions, and by an imperious law of nature, none but the black race can bear exposure to the tropical sun. These products have become necessities of the world, and a blow at slavery is a blow at commerce and civilization.
South Carolina … A geographical line has been drawn across the Union, and all the States north of that line have united in the election of a man to the high office of President of the United States, whose opinions and purposes are hostile to slavery. He is to be entrusted with the administration of the common Government, because he has declared that that “Government cannot endure permanently half slave, half free,” and that the public mind must rest in the belief that slavery is in the course of ultimate extinction.
Texas: Texas abandoned her separate national existence and consented to become one of the Confederated Union … She was received into the confederacy…as a commonwealth holding, maintaining and protecting the institution known as negro slavery — the servitude of the African to the white race within her limits — a relation that had existed from the first settlement of her wilderness by the white race, and which her people intended should exist in all future time. …
In all the non-slave-holding States … the people have formed themselves into a great sectional party … based upon an unnatural feeling of hostility to these Southern States and their beneficent and patriarchal system of African slavery, proclaiming the debasing doctrine of equality of all men, irrespective of race or color– a doctrine at war with nature, in opposition to the experience of mankind, and in violation of the plainest revelations of Divine Law. They demand the abolition of negro slavery throughout the confederacy, the recognition of political equality between the white and negro races, and avow their determination to press on their crusade against us, so long as a negro slave remains in these States.
Virginia: The people of Virginia … having declared that the powers granted under the said Constitution were derived from the people of the United States, and might be resumed whensoever the same should be perverted to their injury and oppression; and the Federal Government, having perverted said powers, not only to the injury of the people of Virginia, but to the oppression of the Southern Slaveholding States.
spread its economic system “This Myth Obscures the Surprising Truth About the Confederacy” by Joan E. Cashin, Ohio State University; History News Network – George Mason University; 2015-07-02
In every American war, from the Revolution to the U.S. invasion of Iraq, some citizens have opposed the war effort. That was true for the Civil War. The country broke up in the aftermath of the presidential election of 1860, when the voters had to decide, should slavery expand into the trans-Mississippi West? The issue was not states rights per se, or the abolition of slavery in the U.S., but the expansion of slavery.
The forgotten man of the election, Senator John Bell of Tennessee, ran as a Unionist candidate. He declared that all political issues should be resolved within the Union—that no political issue was important enough to justify secession. A former Whig, like Lincoln, he began a political independent when the Whig Party collapsed in the 1850s.
John Bell won three states in the election—Virginia, Kentucky, and Tennessee—and lost Missouri by approximately a thousand votes. He took about a third of the vote in Alabama and North Carolina. Overall, some 40 percent of the voters in the slave states voted against secession. (In 1860, the electorate in the slave states, and the free states, consisted only of white men.) We have to remember that some three-fourths of the white Southern population did not own a single slave, so the expansion of slavery was not in their opinion worth seceding from the union.
in Star City, Arkansas “Star City Confederate Memorial” – Wikipedia
in Rockville, Maryland “WHAT DOES ROCKVILLE, MARYLAND’S CONFEDERATE MONUMENT TELL US ABOUT THE CIVIL WAR? ABOUT THE NADIR? ABOUT THE PRESENT?” by James W Loewen, History News Network; Jul 19, 2015
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