To the Editor:
As part of Alexandria’s Commemoration of the Sesquicentennial of the Civil War, in June, Kim Holien gave a compelling talk about Civil War officers, six Union and six Confederate, for whom some of our west end streets were named; it noted that both sides included thorough rascals. If the city renames “Confederate” streets, renaming “Union” streets is equally appropriate. Last year, Dr. Charles Poland gave an excellent lecture about some of the numerous and complex factors that provoked the war. Dino Drudi’s recent letter ably listed a good number of them. The causes of the War cannot be reduced to just slavery without mangling the truth.
Virginia’s secession was a legal exercise of state’s rights to resist Lincoln’s unConstitutional invasion. Six months before his call for 75,000 troops to invade the Southern states, Virginians had voted 9-1 to remain in the union, but that action immediately reversed their vote, again 9-1. Alexandrians voted in the same proportions as other Virginians both times.
Re the slavery argument: Lincoln said he declared war to restore the seceded states to the union. He never attempted to free the slaves in the four slave states remaining in the union. Slavery was legal under the U.S. flag until the 13th amendment was adopted in December 1865, although Lincoln’s party controlled Congress. The Emancipation Proclamation, issued nearly a year and a half after his invasion, applied only to the rebellious areas where all knew it had no means of enforcement; it was widely recognized as only a political ploy. At Appomattox, Grant owned slaves; Lee had freed all the Custis slaves by 1862, complying with his father-in-law’s will; the Lees and other Southerners opposed slavery. The CSA Constitution outlawed the importation of slaves. The slave trade was a most profitable enterprise for Northern shipowners; many amassed great wealth from it.
History books and instructors have not emphasized these important facts. History books are mostly written and published in the North, which still wishes to minimize/omit mention of its responsibility for slavery as well as continuing racial divisions in housing, schools, etc.
Our mayor and council are on record in the July 9, 2015 Washington Post as calling for no longer flying the Confederate flag in Alexandria in accordance with our long tradition of so doing for Lee’s Jan. 19 birthday and Confederate Memorial Day, May 24, although they said they will consider the matter when council reconvenes in September.
Justin Wilson, in an interview aired on WTOP on July 12, said both sides of the War’s history should be presented. Because the city already has several museums, statues and cemeteries reclaimed/created and funded with our tax money, that present the Union side and Black history, the rest of our history of that time should also be told in full and permanent form to educate citizens and visitors. How will council plan to do so? Flying the Confederate flag twice a year is now the only city-funded activity related to showing Alexandria’s Southern sympathies during the War. Even the city’s Civil War app omits all our Confederate sites.
Ellen Latane Tabb