Recently, we watched in anger and sadness as the dismantling of a beautiful work of art known as The Reconciliation Monument took place at Arlington National Cemetery. It is important that we know the true history behind the memorial and that we share that truth.
William Jennings Bryan said this on 11/13/1912:
“Let this monument be emblematic of our nation’s unity and aim of purpose. Standing on the line that once separated two friendly sections, it becomes a bond of unity and breathing the spirit of Him who laid the foundation of a Universal brotherhood”
James Tanner, Commander National Grand Army of the Republic, said this on 11/13/1912 at the laying of the Cornerstone for the Reconciliation Memorial:
“When Mr. McKinley was in the White House, he asked me what I thought of the then pending bill to grant the use of a part of Arlington Cemetery for this monument. I said to him ‘you and I served the Union, we fought and got through Appomattox.’ He clasped my hand and said I was right: and he signed the bill.”
This is what Gen. Washington Gardner, Commander-in-Chief of the Grand Army of the Republic, said about the Memorial on 6/4/1914:
“This memorial structure speaks the language of peace and good-will. It says to all who come hither and read the superscription that the swords and bayonets that once gleamed along the battle’s fiery front have been ‘beaten into plowshares and pruning hooks.’ It declares through the symbolical wreath of unfading laurel held in outstretched hand above the sleeping dead that the spirit of heroic devotion and lofty self-sacrifice which they manifested is held in grateful and affectionate memory. There is room in the hearts of the people of all the land for cherished recollections of the valorous dead and, at the same time, for the most unfaltering love and loyalty and devotion to the Union of all the States. Without the existence of the former we should be disposed to doubt the sincerity or the steadfastness of the latter”.
President Woodrow Wilson on June 04, 1914:
“Mr. Chairman, Mrs. McLaurin Stevens, Ladies and Gentlemen:
I assure you that I am profoundly aware of the solemn significance of the thing that has now taken place. The Daughters of the Confederacy have presented a memorial of their dead to the Government of the United States. I hope that you have noted the history of the conception of this idea. It was suggested by a President of the United States who had himself been a distinguished officer in the Union Army. It was authorized by an act of Congress of the United States. The corner-stone of the monument was laid by a President of the United States elevated to his position by the votes of the party which had chiefly prided itself upon sustaining the war for the Union, and who, while Secretary of War, had himself given authority to erect it. And, now, it has fallen to my lot to accept in the name of the great Government, which I am privileged for the time to represent, this emblem of a reunited people. I am not so much happy as proud to participate in this capacity on such an occasion: proud that I should represent such a people. Am I mistaken, ladies and gentlemen, in supposing that nothing of this sort could have occurred in anything but a democracy? The people of a democracy are not related to their rulers as subjects are related to a government. They are themselves the sovereign authority, and as they are neighbors of each other, quickened by the same influences and moved by the same motives, they can understand each other. They are shot through with some of the deepest and profoundest instincts of human sympathy. They choose their governments; they select their rulers; they live their own life, and they will not have that life disturbed and discolored by fraternal misunderstandings.”
You may continue reading at this link: https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/documents/address-arlington-national-cemetary-closing-chapter
In 1924, President Calvin Coolidge, a Vermonter and Northerner, placed a wreath on the newly-dedicated Confederate Reconciliation Memorial at Arlington Cemetery.
More importantly, I think we must recall the words of our own General Lee, who prayed for reconciliation before, during, and after the war:
“But what a cruel thing is war: to separate and destroy families and friends, and mar the purest joys and happiness God has granted us in this world; to fill our hearts with hatred instead of love for our neighbors, and to devastate the fair face of this beautiful world. I pray that, on this day when only peace and good-will are preached to mankind, better thoughts may fill the hearts of our enemies and turn them to peace.” — General Robert E. Lee to his wife, December 25, 1862
We’ve also seen a Lee statue melted down in Charlottesville, Va. Like some sadistic ritual, the incineration of the face was recorded and published as if the action was celebratory.
The purge continued as we saw the Women of the Southland memorial removed in Jacksonville, Florida. The Mayor said she didn’t need the city council’s approval to remove the memorial because it was privately funded. It was yet another miscarriage of justice in the frenzied take-them-down mania.
The message is loud and clear. Neither side of the political aisle will step up and save our history. We must build our own museums and parks and protect, repair, restore, and build as many of our memorials as possible. It is up to us, the descendants of brave Confederates, to defend their honor and our legacy.
Start the new year by donating to the NC SCV Memorials Fund and pledging to do your part.
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Donations to the North Carolina Division Sons of Confederate Veterans are fully tax deductible.