Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Foster: A shortsighted rush to remove monuments

Jan. 26, 2018 at 11:47 p.m.

In the politically correct rush to take down Confederate monuments, here's a little known fact that folks who want to take a wrecking ball to history should consider: Confederate soldiers are also United States veterans. Last weekend's celebration of Confederate Heroes Day in Longview brings this issue to the forefront.

Confederate veterans were recognized by the U.S. government as equivalent to Union veterans starting with the Congressional Appropriations Act, fiscal year 1901, signed June 6, 1900. This recognition was further enhanced by public laws approved in March 1906, February 1929 and May 1958.

I haven't researched the rationale behind these laws, but it no doubt stems from the reconciliation by old veterans of the Civil War long after the final shots were fired in 1865.

If you check photo files of veteran reunions at some of these famous battles, most of the images show white-bearded vets warmly greeting and shaking the hands of their former rivals. Whatever anger existed between these old warriors was long forgotten after they left the battlefields.

What they shared was the common experience of combat in some of the bloodiest battles fought in U.S. history. More than 600,000 fatalities were recorded plus an untold number of wounds and amputations, often the only treatment for legs and arms shattered by mini-balls and grapeshot. It's been estimated that Civil War casualties nearly totaled those from World War I and II combined, plus the death tolls in Korea and Vietnam.

While these old vets developed a comradeship that transcended sectional strife, the causation of the war remains a bitter subject of debate even today. Critics say the monuments must come down because they represent Confederate support of slavery. Southern sympathizers say the war was based on states' rights because slavery was present in both the North and South before the Civil War.

In fact, they say President Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation of 1863 that announced freedom of slaves in the South said nothing about slavery in the North. As a result, the proclamation meant that no slaves were emancipated in the nation until the war's end.

We have a current controversy in Texas over signage erected on state buildings during the past century. As governor, George W. Bush had several Confederate plaques removed from state office buildings without authorization of the State Historical Commission. Greg Abbott is poised to do the same with other signs that say slavery was not the primary cause of the Civil War. Both actions were criticized by Sons of Confederate Veterans who sued over the state over the issue.

The sons has an unlikely ally in their cause — the Sons of Union Veterans, which says that destroying Confederate history in effect destroys their history. If history records that the Grand Army of the Republic fought a ragtag bunch of rebels without effective leadership, it diminishes the heroic deeds of their forefathers.

The Sons of Confederate Veterans also points to the Civil War's aftermath, when many Confederate officers were pardoned and reintegrated into the U.S. military.

Descendants of many Confederate officers also played an important part in our nation's history, including three U.S. presidents: Woodrow Wilson's father, the Rev. Dr. Joseph R. Wilson, was a chaplain in the Confederate States Army; Theodore Roosevelt's uncle, Capt. James D. Bulloch, was Georgian chief foreign agent; and Harry Truman was a member of the sons based on the record of William Young, a trooper in the Missouri Partisan Rangers.

Other distinguished officers include the 13th commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps, Gen. John A. Lejeune's father, Capt. Ovide Lejeune, served in the CSA; Marine Lt. Gen. Lewis "Chesty" Puller's grandfather was CSA Major John Puller; Gen. George S. Patton's grandfather, CSA Col. George Patton, was killed at Winchester, Virginia, in 1864; Lt. Gen. Simon Bolivar Buckner Jr., son of CSA Gen. Simon Bolivar Buckner, was killed on Okinawa in 1945; and U.S. Army Air Corps Brigadier Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest III, was shot down and killed over German in 1943. His great-grandfather was CSA Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest.

In the ultimate act of disrespect, the politically-correct crowd wants to take down Forrest's statue and disinter the bodies of Forrest and his wife buried in a Memphis, Tennessee, park named after him.

It makes you wonder if a Hispanic majority in the U.S. in the next century decides that Martin Luther King Jr. or Ronald Reagan were undeserving of their many statues and memorials and would be justified in taking a wrecking ball to them.

— John D. Foster, a former editor of the Panola Watchman, is a regular contributor to the Saturday Forum. He is a member of Sons of Confederate Veterans Camp 1533 in Carthage. Email



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