Having featured Loudoun’s Confederate memorial in an earlier post, let me pass along an update on that story. Yesterday, Loudoun Times posted:
The NAACP’s Loudoun Branch will hold a rally at the county courthouse in Leesburg this weekend in remembrance of the slaves sold on the building’s steps and of the Union soldiers who died in the locality.
The event will focus on demanding the placement of memorial monuments in honor of those slaves and soldiers and on a request that physical recognition be placed on the grounds that the courthouse is a registered National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom historical site.
“The courthouse grounds are rich with history of past activities, but there are only plates and descriptions of selected pieces of that history,” Phillip Thompson, the branch’s president, said in a prepared statement. “Let’s ensure that visitors are able to get the full history, to include the slaves and Union soldiers that fought for Loudoun County.”
The Loudoun NAACP opposes the Confederate statue located on the grounds of the courthouse, the statement said, but the branch decided not to focus on removing that memorial but instead on adding recognition of the slaves sold in Leesburg, the Union soldiers who fought for their freedom and the historical significance of the courthouse.
These parts of history aren’t commemorated, the statement said, while there are “numerous plaques, markers and signs all over Loudoun County celebrating the Confederacy.” (Full article here)
The article goes on to relate details of the rally, scheduled for Saturday, July 18. If I am not employed otherwise, I will likely attend.
I applaud this effort by the Loudoun NAACP and the sentiment expressed by Thompson. This is the right approach, in my opinion, to a complex and tricky subject. While the NAACP chapter may oppose the statue, they are offering constructive alternatives.
However, I have to take exception with the last bit. … “numerous plaques, markers and signs all over Loudoun County celebrating the Confederacy.” We (speaking for HMDB here) have 73 Civil War related Historical Marker Database entries for Loudoun County. Here’s a map for those who prefer the information in that order. There are a few recent Civil War Trails markers that I’m behind on. They will be transcribed and added in good order. So let’s just say 78 as a total for now counting those.
Of these 78 markers, monuments, and memorials (which would include plaques), how many “celebrate the Confederacy”?
Well first off, I’m assuming Thompson used “celebrate” as in the notion of “commemorate.” And that being to “recall and show respect for” in a memorial sense. As I said with respect to Slate’s “chilling inscriptions,” we cannot say that ALL Civil War markers are “celebrating” the Confederacy. I’ve written the text for several of the recent Civil War Trails markers. None of them celebrate the Confederacy. The text is cut to provide facts, figures, and details of the incidents for which they interpret. There is no celebration of either side there. Indeed, just across from the Confederate memorial is this Civil War Trails marker discussing incidents from the town’s Civil War experience.
Portraits of three Federals and two Confederates. I’d say, with a little pride in the work done by our committee over the last five years, that’s rather balanced coverage. And I would further point out that a few blocks away another marker in the Civil War Trails series is fully devoted to the story of the USCT veterans who called Leesburg home:
As expressed when the marker was dedicated, it is my hope this is the first of many in the county to highlight the service of the USCT veterans. Certainly there is more of this story to tell. And perhaps the Court House green is the place to tell that. Our limitation thus far prohibiting more Civil War Trails markers has been funding, not ideas. But as for “celebrating the Confederacy,” of those 78 entries, I find only three. Three… one of which is the Loudoun Confederate Memorial in question.
There is also the 8th Virginia Infantry Regiment memorial on the Balls Bluff battlefield:
More about the 8th Virginia appears on an interpretive marker nearby. Lastly, there is a monument to Clinton Hatcher, also on the Balls Bluff battlefield:
More of Hatcher’s story is on an interpretive marker next to the stone. Of the three, I call the first two “memorials.” Clinton Hatcher’s is more of a monument, as it very much tied to the physical location. But undeniably, all three are commemorative of people who were Confederate. Though, as related before, there is more to that commemoration than the word “slavery.” We need to understand what those inscriptions say before making blanket categorizations.
So just as I said with respect to Slate’s article, we cannot simply say anything mentioning the Confederacy or the Civil War is automatically “celebrating the Confederacy.” The vast majority of those 78 items I catalog above are purely interpretive. Again, is more needed? You bet! And I’ll be working on it!
Yes. There may be “numerous” plaques and markers that mention the Confederacy throughout Loudoun County. But that is not the same as saying those “commemorate” the Confederacy. Let us not impose a “chilling effect” over the subject of the Civil War. Focus the debate where it needs to be, and then let us ALL celebrate our common,shared Civil War history.