Posted on August 21, 2023

Save the Confederate Memorial at Arlington

Jim Webb, Wall Street Journal, August 18, 2023

In 1898, 33 years after the end of the Civil War, the Spanish-American War brought a sudden, unanticipated harmony and unity to a country that had been riven by war and a punitive postwar military occupation, which failed at wholesale societal reconstruction. In the South, American flags flew again as the sons of Confederate soldiers volunteered to fight, even if it meant wearing the once-hated Yankee blue. President William McKinley presciently seized this moment to mend a generation’s sectional divide.

McKinley understood the Civil War as one who had lived it, having served four years in the 23rd Ohio Infantry, enlisting as a private and discharged in 1865 as a brevet major. He knew the steps to take to bring the country fully together again. As an initial signal, he selected three Civil War veterans to command the Cuba campaign. Two, William Rufus Shafter, given overall command of the Cuban operation, and H.W. Lawton, who led the Second Infantry Division, the first soldiers to land in the war, had received the Medal of Honor fighting for the Union. The other, “Fighting Joe” Wheeler, the legendary Confederate cavalry general, led the cavalry units in Cuba, after being elected to Congress in 1880 from Alabama and working hard to bring national reconciliation.

Four days after the Spanish-American war ended, McKinley proclaimed in Atlanta: “In the spirit of fraternity we should share with you in the care of the graves of Confederate soldiers.” In that call for national unity the Confederate Memorial was born. It was designed by internationally respected sculptor Moses Jacob Ezekiel, a Confederate veteran and the first Jewish graduate of the Virginia Military Institute, who asked to be buried at the memorial in Arlington National Cemetery. On one face of the memorial is the finest explanation of wartime service perhaps ever written, by a Confederate veteran who later became a Christian minister: “Not for fame or reward, not for place or for rank; not lured by ambition or goaded by necessity; but in simple obedience to duty as they understood it; these men suffered all, sacrificed all, dared all, and died.”

But now in this new world of woke, unless measures are taken very soon, by the end of this year the Confederate Memorial will be gone.

With surprising overbroadness, the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act, passed in the midst of national racial and political upheaval, empowered a Naming Commission to “remove all names, symbols, displays, monuments and paraphernalia that honor or commemorate the Confederate States of America . . . or any person who served voluntarily with the Confederate States of America from all assets of the Department of Defense.” As part of that provision, Arlington National Cemetery has been ordered by Defense Department officials to remove the memorial by the end of this year, though the order is reportedly under review.

{snip} I cannot imagine that the removal of this memorial, conceived and built with the sole purpose of healing the wounds of the Civil War and restoring national harmony, could be within the intent of a sweeping sentence placed inside a nearly trillion-dollar piece of legislation.