“I like people who weren’t captured. He lost and let us down. I’ve never liked him as much after that.
I don’t like losers”
— Oval Office Occupant #45, Donnie Trump, speaking about John McCain, a Vietnam War POW
For a creature who “doesn’t like people who were captured,” Donald Trump’s sudden affection for the slaveholder generals of the Confederate Lost Cause is almost laughable. Given that The Donald’s grasp of American history is thin at best, his sudden embrace of the Civil War amid the present racial divide is sickening.
Even Gen. Robert E. Lee himself had a better reckoning of post-Civil War memorials.
The one-time commander of Confederate forces, on several occasions after the war, said he was opposed to any monuments, as they would, in his opinion, “keep open the sores of war.”
Yet according to a December 2018 special report, Smithsonian Magazine, “taxpayers have directed at least $40 million to Confederate monuments — statues, homes, parks, museums, libraries and cemeteries — and to Confederate heritage organizations.”
Despite losing the war, it’s clear that forces of evil were still at work.
Besides peddling their glorified view of the Old South with statues and memorials, white racists kept the war alive with Jim Crow laws, which were state and local laws that enforced racial segregation in the Southern United States. These laws were enacted in the late 19th and early 20th centuries by state legislatures to disenfranchise and remove political and economic gains made by Blacks during the Reconstruction. Jim Crow laws were enforced in many places until 1965.
In practice, Jim Crow laws mandated racial segregation in all public facilities in states of the former Confederate States of America and in some other states, beginning in the 1870s. Jim Crow laws were upheld in 1896 in the case of Plessy v. Ferguson, in which the U.S. Supreme Court laid out its “separate but equal” legal doctrine concerning public facilities for African-Americans. Moreover, public education had essentially been segregated in most of the South since the Civil War in 1861–65.
George Floyd’s murder this year at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer helped initiate a new reckoning about Confederate memorials, though it’s not too surprising to see Trump align himself with the wrong side.
Another example of Trump’s obstinacy can be seen by his opposition to renaming military bases that are currently named after heroes of the Confederacy. Among them:
- Fort Lee, Va., (1917) named for CSA Gen. Robert E. Lee
- Camp Beauregard, La., (1917) named for CSA Gen. Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard
- Fort Benning, Alabama/Georgia (1917) named for CSA Brig. Gen. Henry L. Benning
- Fort Gordon, Ga., (1917) named for CSA Maj. Gen. John Brown Gordon
- Fort Bragg, N.C. (1918) named for CSA Gen. Braxton Bragg
- Fort Polk, La.,(1941) named for CSA Gen. Leonidas Polk
- Fort A.P. Hill, Va., (1941) named for CSA Lt. Gen. A. P. Hill
- Fort Pickett, Va.,(1942) named for CSA Gen. George Pickett
- Fort Rucker, Ala., (1942) named for CSA Gen. Edmund Rucker
- Fort Hood, Tex. (1942) named for CSA Gen. John Bell Hood
- Camp Breckinridge, Ky., (closed), named for John C. Breckinridge, U.S. vice president and Confederate general.
Trump, ever champion of lost causes, decided that opposing the movement to rename the bases would be his path to re-election. He vowed to veto a $740 billion defense bill if Confederate-named military bases were renamed.
Meanwhile, Lee’s antebellum home during the Civil War, Arlington House, in Arlington County, Va., overlooks Arlington National Cemetery. The estate became the site of Arlington National Cemetery in part to ensure that Lee could never return to his home.
The National Park Service describes the property as “the nation’s memorial to Lee. It honors him for specific reasons, including his role in promoting peace and reunion after the Civil War. In a larger sense, it exists as a place of study and contemplation of the meaning of some of the most difficult aspects of American history: military service; sacrifice; citizenship; duty; loyalty; slavery and freedom.
The U.S. Mint used the images of Lee and Stonewall Jackson on its 1925 commemorative silver U.S. half dollar, along with the words “Stone Mountain.” The coin was a fund-raiser for the Stone Mountain monument in Georgia, which honors Confederate generals. The authorized issue was 5 million coins, to be sold at $1 each, but that proved overly optimistic and only 1.3 million coins were released. Many of those coins ended up in circulation after being spent for face value. The caption on the reverse reads “Memorial to the valor of the soldier of the South.”
Lee has been commemorated on at least five U.S. postage stamps. One 1936–37 stamp featured Gens. Lee and Jackson, along with Lee’s plantation home, Stratford Hall in Virginia.
A total of eight Confederate generals ended the war on April 6 as captured. Those included some of the Confederacy’s most well-known commanders, Richard S. Ewell; Joseph B. Kershaw; Montgomery Corse; Eppa Hunton; Dudley M. DuBose; James P. Smith; and Seth Barton. But perhaps the most notable capture that day was Gen. George Washington Custis Lee, Robert E. Lee’s eldest son.
Amazing how easily the president of these United States forgets history and abandons principle in a lame attempt to win re-election.