‘sons’ of Confederate Veterans Speak Out on Confederate Monuments

Not to be confused with the Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV).

After the very unfortunate events in Charlottesville, many have come to the forefront to express their concerns and views on Confederate monuments. Opinions have come in from all corners of the political spectrum as well as the historical and the heritage communities. Out of this cacophony, a few more voices emerged with an interesting connection to he past.  The ancestors of Generals Robert E. Lee, Thomas ‘Stonewall’ Jackson and Confederate President Jefferson Davis, some of the more prolific figures commemorated, have spoken out on Confederate monuments? 

Robert E. Lee V had this to say to CNN:

Eventually, someone is going to have to make a decision, and if that’s the local lawmaker, so be it. But we have to be able to have that conversation without all of the hatred and the violence. And if they choose to take those statues down, fine..

He went on to add that:

Maybe it’s appropriate to have them in museums or to put them in some sort of historical context in that regard

A descendant of Jefferson Davis, Bertram Hayes-Davis, had this to say:

In a public place, if it is offensive and people are taking issue with it, let’s move it. Let’s put it somewhere where historically it fits with the area around it so you can have people come to see it, who want to understand that history and that individual

Probably the most condemning statement came from two descendants of “Stonewall” Jackson who in a joint statement said:

…we understand justice very differently from our grandfather’s grandfather, and we wish to make it clear his statue does not represent us…But we cannot ignore his decision to own slaves, his decision to go to war for the Confederacy, and, ultimately, the fact that he was a white man fighting on the side of white supremacy…While we are not ashamed of our great great grandfather, we are ashamed to benefit from white supremacy while our black family and friends suffer. We are ashamed of the monument.

It is interesting to read the perspective of the ancestors of these three Confederate heritage heroes. They certainly do not seem to line up with the notion of many organizations, including the Virginia Flaggers, who want to protect and resist the urge to contextualize the monuments to these men. The question remains how much stock should we put into the viewpoints of these ancestors? After all, they are the opinion of one – much like the descendant of numerous veterans of the Confederacy…like me.

6 comments

  1. Thank you for bringing to the fore these statements. It’s interesting to note that the descendants of the most prominent Confederates do not seem to be members of the Sons of Confederate Veterans.

    • I’m really just consolidating what I heard elsewhere and making readers of this blog aware. It is interesting that these descendants spoke out in this way. I’m still curious as to how much weight to afford their statements. Thanks for commenting.

      • What I am curious about is why you feel the statements of these particular descendants hold any specific weight at all?
        There are literally hundreds of thousands of descendants of both Confederate and Union soldiers and officers who have differing opinions today about the subject of monuments and remembering the people who fought in the war.
        The fact that these particular blue-pills are allegedly descendants of Lee, Jackson and Davis mean little in particular. As people like you are so fond of pointing out, Lee was no “marble man”. So what gives a descendant of his any more weight than the descendant of some buck private from a Georgia regiment? In the grand scheme of things, both Lee and said private amount to two single individuals. No more, no less.
        I believe that, operating on the assumption that being generals their descendants rate higher on some imagined pecking order, you presume they hold more weight with descendants who honor the Confederate dead based on….hero worship?
        SMH. Sorry but no. It doesn’t work that way, and likely never really did.

        All the same thanks for the post. It was informative in its own way. Peace out.

        • If you read what I wrote I think I did a fairly good job of answering your question. I inquired more than once (if you add the comments) into how much “weight” we should give these accounts. Granted, my belief in that is we are the masters of now and we are in charge of our own landscape. If we want to tear down what was old, then that is ultimately up to us, like it, love it, or hate it. Each community should be able craft and mold its own historical landscape; state and federal government intervention will only lead to violent reaction as has already been shown.

          What makes their accounts stand above in many ways is that it is their ancestor portrayed on the monument in question (and numerous monuments across the South).

          Not all individuals are equal – either in status, station, or other. We like to think of all as equal – but one gave orders and one followed. One was connected politically and buck private from Georgia probably wasn’t…or he would have gotten out of conscription. It has always worked that way – pretending it doesn’t is romantic and it helps us all, including me, get through the day; but it is unrealistic the majority of the time. This is especially true in the country during that time due to the numerous laws that we judge today as inherently unequal for African-Americans, women, etc. Both accounts carry weight in terms of crafting a narrative about our history and the memory of it, but their perspectives will be different based on the rank of ancestor. What makes these accounts stand out even more is that it is typical to see us be more apologetic to the actions of ancestors whereas here we don’t see that.

          • First of all thank you for posting and responding in a timely manner. This reflects well on your sense of honesty — something rare in this community these days.

            “We are the masters of now and we are in charge of our own landscape.” An interesting philosophy, though I wonder how accurate that really is at times for any of us. Forgive me for being so dark on that, but some of my life’s experiences tend to argue against the idea that, despite all the perceived “privilege” someone of my peculiar demographic allegedly has. I do agree that all the mistakes we make in life are largely of our own design. Okay, I know you are referring to the physical landscape, but I’m just saying.

            Now I suppose we can argue back and forth for months on end about the subject of class and status as it pertains to the 1800s and the here and now, but rather than do so allow me to offer this.

            Sir, I want to point out a contradiction in your argument, specifically that these particular individuals have more say because it is their ancestors specifically. I would like to add that, as symbols, Lee, Jackson and Davis don’t just belong to their descendants anymore than all Confederate dead honored by a battle flag or monument belong to just one individual. Ironically this means they also belong to those who would see them removed from public sight, if not destroyed. In point of fact they even belong to the very descendants of those African Americans who faced historic discrimination. Believe it, or not, these facts are acknowledged by most defenders of Confederate historical heritage. Most recognize that these symbol don’t just belong to groups like the SCV or UDC, but to all Southern born people.

            Ultimately the issue here is not just how these symbols are viewed through modern eyes, or our interpretations of 19th century motivations — either real, of speculated. The issue is what those who seek to change the landscape plan to put in their place. Given the malice that I have witnessed in the last 30 years, or so, I cannot accept that they offer anything morally superior based on such foundations. One cannot have real unity, nor true progress while seeking to stick it to the other person. Why tear one down and build another, only to see those newer ones fall in 30 or 40 years when their own ideologies become obsolete? its a terrible precedent to set.

            There are ways to acknowledge the past and accept it for what it is without the need to destroy symbols. For example, why not just build larger monuments next to the other ones? Instead of pulling a monument out of a cemetery and damaging gravestones, why not just build larger monuments — maybe even ones that (literally) overshadow the former ones at certain parts of the day? Do you recall the idea of putting a bell on top of Stone Mountain to honor Dr. King’s dream of letting freedom ring? We could do that, provided we also put similar bells at the other sites he mentioned in the speech as well. Maybe even choose a day of the year to ring them at once across this nation of ours? perhaps that would send a realistic message of unity without malice?

            Sorry for the manifesto, but there was much to unpack there. Thank you for your time and the use of your platform, sir. You are more than welcome to come to my site as well and add your own two cents anytime. ~Carl R.

          • I never argued that these particular ancestors have more to say or more to argue. In fact, I actually question whether we should give their testaments more weight over other accounts. Their reflections are interesting to me, and therefore worth posting, in the sense that their ancestors are Lee, Jackson, Jefferson, Stephens, etc. – and they are reflecting on incidents dealing specifically with statues of their ancestors. I also want to reiterate that rather than provide an apologetic heritage trope that many Confederate commemorators are quick to use, these descendants of famous Confederates chose to be more critical of their ancestors. It makes the comments appear, at least superficially, to be unbiased.

            I don’t necessarily disagree with what you said about symbols belonging to all – but I’ve yet to see a UDC or SCV camp support a local southern town’s decision to remove a Confederate statue or lower a flag. If they truly believe the symbols belong to all, then wouldn’t they support the will of the majority to absolve themselves of a symbol they deem hurtful? The opposite has been true, they have lobbied, protested, and fundraised for state laws that will “protect” the monuments in their current place. Their actions indicate that they believe their ownership of said symbols outweighs the ownership of others. Which frankly, as I mentioned earlier, only spells doom for the statues i.e. “Silent Sam.”

            Who is they? Who’s modern eyes? There are always a couple of generations alive at one time – each typically attempting to keep things “pure” in their own sense. As far back as Socrates humans have argued that the degradation of society comes with the next generation. Just because what you hold dear isn’t held dear by younger people doesn’t mean either group’s stance is or isn’t morally superior. Sometimes it is, sometimes not. It is true with changing times comes changing attitudes. Not to be preachy but remember that the Founding Father generation, as prim and proper as they were, are also noted for anarchist thoughts, the destruction of private property, and the destruction of English statues. Of course we today suggest those things to be grade-A American. Who knows, maybe what we consider today to be less than morally superior will one day be “Apple Pie.” But why tear one down and build another? Why change the law? Why change anything? I want to live, work, and function in a community that represents the values of that community. A community should have every right to that. By that same token, I realize that two generations down the road, my community’s attitudes and morals might change; and they have every right to build a community that reflects that. We can’t argue that these symbols and statues are important and historic while at the same time argue that they don’t represent the communities in which they stand. They absolutely reflect the community’s standards, views, and ideology. So shouldn’t a community have the right to build or tear down statues that accurately illustrate that?

            I agree with you. Contextualization. Add-don’t subtract. These are arguments I’ve heard and read before. I agree with some, some more than others, and emphatically disagree with a few. But as I mentioned above, I believe ultimately that decision is in the hands of the community itself. I’ve often thought a giant carving of Outkast on Stone Mountain would be fun. But alas, due to state laws, most of the monuments and the grounds they stand on cannot be altered.

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