“numerous plaques, markers and signs all over Loudoun County celebrating the Confederacy”… Actually just three

Having featured Loudoun’s Confederate memorial in an earlier post, let me pass along an update on that story.  Yesterday, Loudoun Times posted:

Loudoun NAACP To Rally At County Courthouse

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.

Loudoun CH Marker 070

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:

IMG_3135

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.

LoudounCWMemorial

There is also the 8th Virginia Infantry Regiment memorial on the Balls Bluff battlefield:

Balls Bluff 1 Sept 005

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:

Balls Bluff 1 Sept 019

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.

5 thoughts on ““numerous plaques, markers and signs all over Loudoun County celebrating the Confederacy”… Actually just three

  1. I like your blog and enjoy your posts. I have enjoyed your content for the 150th anniversary of that war. I am against hate groups who use the battleflag with no respect of that flag or the men who died for it. There is just too much hatred going on that it seems like the war is still going on. Where do we stop? When all monuments North and South are gone? It is getting ugly.

  2. I understand what you are saying, but just because the monuments are not expressly commemorative of the Confederacy does not mean there is not still a gross imbalance that favors the war’s soldiers over its subjects. Indeed, if not for the subjects (the slaves), there would be no war, yet my guess is that there is scant mention of them on any of the monuments. Perhaps the solution is not necessarily to add to the monuments, if that proves to be too great an expense or bureaucratic burden, but to change the wording on the existing monuments to be more accurate to history. Of course, in some cases, only new monuments will do, as in, for instance, pointing to sites of Underground Railroad, rebellion, or so on.

    • I guess we should “ration” public interpretation? So each subject gets an allocation of markers? Would that work? How about a battlefield where one needs several dozen markers to interpret the complex nature of the action? Would that have to be counter-balanced (as it is overly favoring the soldiers) with a dozen more markers that discuss subjects that are not necessarily related to the battlefield? And keep in mind here there is a big… BIG … difference between a “marker,” a “memorial,” and a “monument.” Consider that in context of your comment. And remember above all that history is what was. It is not what we might want it to be. So we must accept it as-is – good, bad, or other.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s