COMMENTARY | There’s a petition to remove the Confederate carving of Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson from Stone Mountain, Georgia. It’s chances of being successful are about as good as the real “lost cause” was.
The author of the change.org petition called in “an embarrassing smudge” and hopes to replace it with a tribute to Georgia’s veterans.
A tribute to Georgia’s veterans should be placed in the Stone Mountain Park, but the monument shouldn’t be destroyed.
Yes, the Confederacy seceded first and foremost due to slavery, as evident in Confederate secession documents written by CSA slaveowner politicians. It wasn’t about states’ rights or tariffs, as modern revisionists claim.
But Generals Robert E. Lee and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson were not the evil men critics claim they were. General Lee publicly spoke out against slavery even before the war.
And in Harper’s Magazine, during a Northern account of Jackson’s death after the Battle of Chancellorsville, a story was told about a letter he sent his congregation at the height of his popularity during the Shenandoah Campaign, where he outwitted and defeated much larger armies. The pastor read it aloud during the sermon (Jackson was a deacon at the church), only to find out it was an admonition of the church for not doing more to educate blacks, teach them to read, and get them their bibles.
Lee and Jackson can do much to heal the racial wounds that fester today if the truth about their views on race and slavery, progressive for those days, were added to the Stone Mountain display, so Southerners can know how their Confederate heroes really felt about African-Americans.
I can’t say as much for President Jefferson Davis, both for his views and leadership of the Confederate States of America. It would be nice if General Patrick Cleburne was featured instead. The “Stonewall of the West” experienced many successes in battles in Northern Georgia and elsewhere.
In early 1864, General Cleburne proposed freeing the slaves and allowing them to defend the South. In the proposal, Cleburne claimed that slavery was the Confederacy’s “most vulnerable point, a continued embarrassment, and in some respects, an insidious weakness.” Cleburne was roundly rejected. He died at the Battle of Franklin later than year, forced by his superior officer to lead his men into a suicidal charge.
I believe that McCartney Forde, if he knew these events, would support having them grace the Stone Mountain site at a viewing point, so others could see the truth of how Confederate military heroes really felt about racism and slavery.
John A. Tures is a professor of political science at LaGrange College in LaGrange, Ga.
Photo, taken by the author, is from Andersonville, Georgia museum, showing Confederate states and where slaves were.