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Posted at 8:32 PM ET, 10/10/2010

The meaning of Confederate History Month

By washingtonpost.com editors

By John P. Williams
Alexandria

I found it ironic that The Post placed the article “Faces of the Civil War, staring out across the decades” above Robert McCartney’s column, “McDonnell’s laudable lead on Confederate past,” on the front of the Oct. 3 Metro section.

Though I did not vote for Robert F. McDonnell or George Allen for any office, in my mind their proclamations of “Confederate History and Heritage Month” has never been an edict in support of the evil practice of slavery. As the “Faces” article pointed out, most of the brave men who fought for both sides did so out of “innocence and idealism” and to defend their states, which at the time were more important than country.

Confederate History Month is about the sacrifices that made Virginia strong, on the soil where not only the seed of America was planted but also the capital of the Confederacy. You don’t have to recognize it, but please allow those of us with deep roots in our state to honor those who fought and died for Virginia and those who rebuilt it to the prominence it enjoys today.

By washingtonpost.com editors  | October 10, 2010; 8:32 PM ET
Categories:  HotTopic, Va. Politics, Virginia, race  
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Comments

Unfortunately, all causes are not equal, even if the men who fought and die for them do so with dedication and courage. In fact, in nearly every war, the men on both sides fight for what they perceive to be noble ends.

It's up to us to make judgments, in light of history (admittedly heavily influenced by the victors), about which causes were truly righteous and which were not. When it comes to the Civil War, the defeated states immediately began engaging in an effort to re-craft the cause for which they fought. Astonishly, that effort goes on today, 150 years later. The governor's original proclamation was part of that attempt to whitewash a cause the centered around the "peculiar institution" of slavery and the role it would play in the United States. It was wrong, and he deserves credit for changing his mind.

Posted by: krickey7 | October 11, 2010 9:54 AM | Report abuse

Kudos, Mr. Williams, for imparting so succulently why, for those of us with a history in this state, Confederate History Month holds a particular, singular significance.

My paternal great-great-grandparents owned one of the farms the Battle of Bristow (Bristoe) Station was fought on. They were farmers who, with a brood of ten children and one farm hand, cultivated the land and supplemented their crops with dairy cows, poultry and hogs. In the aftermath of the fighting on October 14th, 1863, both Union and Confederate troops carried off provisions from the farm, with the majority of the purloined property carted off by the Federals, including treasured family heirlooms.

My great-great-grandparents never recovered from the war. They were ruined and, even through subsequent attempts at rebuilding, were unable to sustain a profitable farming operation. People died of diseases and starvation. Moreover, there were the cruelties and tormenting they and their neighbors suffered at the hands of the victorious Union Army during Reconstruction, which have been passed down to succeeding generations. Yet, my ancestors persevered through hard work, and rebuilt Virginia.

Yes krickey7, there have indeed been attempts to whitewash the institution of slavery in which many of our ancestors did not partake. Unfortunately, much of that revisionism seems to have come from north of the Mason-Dixon Line.

Posted by: NativeNorthernVirginian | October 11, 2010 3:06 PM | Report abuse

George Allen is a racist. I will never forget how, when he was governor of Virginia, he attended some event at a country club that banned blacks.

I sent him a critical letter about it and soon found myself getting a letter from the VA Dept. of Taxation informing me that my taxes were going to be audited.

Posted by: solsticebelle | October 11, 2010 11:22 PM | Report abuse

To honor the men who fought is understandable. To discuss the different philosophies, economics and politics that led up the the war is, imho, good history.

But to honor anything for which they fought is not. To rename the encounter the "war between the states" or the "war of northern aggression" is ridiculous attempt to paint the south as virtuous and their cause as something better than what the north fought for: the continuation of this nation.

It was a civil war, or an attempted rebellion - an attempt at breaking the union of this country; and as it was about the economic system that was built on the ownership of other people - this is what the south fought for - whether or not they knew it, or participated in it, slavery (in all it's ramifications) was the foundation of the war. Nope, not gonna honor that.

I really wish the Founders had fixed the issue before ratifying the constitution. The south never would have ratified, and two countries would have formed. After all, we are still arguing over the ratification/anti-ratification issues to this day.

Posted by: Greent | October 13, 2010 11:01 AM | Report abuse

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