Finally, some good news on the Heritage front

Appomattox is the name of a bronze statue that is positioned in the center of the intersection of South Washington Street (Virginia Route 400) and Prince Street in Old Town, Alexandria, Virginia, in the United States. It was created by sculptor M. Caspar Buberl and commissioned and erected by the Robert E. Lee camp of the United Confederate Veterans (forerunners to the Sons of Confederate Veterans, comprised of living veterans of the Confederate forces) in 1889. The form of the soldier was designed by John Adams Elder, who modeled it after a painting of the same title that shows a lone Confederate viewing the aftermath of the battle of Appomattox Court House, where Gen. Robert E. Lee ultimately surrendered to Union general Ulysses S. Grant. The dedication ceremony was held on May 24, 1889, and was attended by a vast crowd. It was noted that by noon of that day, a great influx of visitors had swarmed the town of Alexandria to take part in the ceremony, which was overseen by Fitzhugh Lee, who was governor of Virginia at that time. Joseph E. Johnston, former Confederate general of the Army of Tennessee, was also in attendance. The UCV foresaw the controversy that would arise over the monument. Thus, they petitioned the Virginia House of Delegates in the same year to have it protected by state law.

The Johnny Reb statue, known as Appomattox, in Alexandria. (Dayna Smith/The Washington Post)

The Johnny Reb statue, known as Appomattox, in Alexandria. (Dayna Smith/The Washington Post)

The base is made of concrete and marble and bears several inscriptions. The north side of the base reads, “They died in the consciousness of duty faithfully performed.” The south side reads, “Erected to the memory of Confederate dead of Alexandria, Va. by their Surviving Comrades, May 24th 1889.” The east and west sides bear the names of those from Alexandria who died during the Civil War.

A short way from the statue is a stone historic marker with a bronze plaque upon which is engraved the following:

THE CONFEDERATE STATUE

The unarmed Confederate soldier standing in
the intersection of Washington and Prince
Streets marks the location where units from
Alexandria left to join the Confederate Army
on May 24, 1861. The soldier is facing the
battlefields to the South where his comrades
fell during the War Between the States. The
names of those Alexandrians who died in service
for the Confederacy are inscribed on the base
of the statue. The title of the sculpture is
“Appomattox” by M. Casper Buberl.

The statue was erected in 1889 by the Robert E. Lee Camp
United Confederate Veterans.

It is this very statue in Alexandria, known as Appomattox, which came under fire and was last week; recommended to the City Council to remain at the intersection of Prince and Washington streets by a racially divided citizens’ advisory group. But to appease those who are offended by the statue, the advisory committee further recommended that the city should make “additional efforts to add context to its story.” The seven-member Advisory Group on Confederate Memorials and Street Names included two black Americans. The group was tasked with determining whether to move the Appomattox statute to a location where fewer people would be offended and figuring out what to do about streets named after Confederate figures. Neither of the black Americans were in favor of the groups recommendations. One of them, Mr. Eugene Thompson, founding director of the Alexandria Black History Museum and a member of the Alexandria Society for the Preservation of Black Heritage, explained his stance in an email: “I am not looking for any context to be added to the statue. I think it should be moved, but it cannot be moved without permission of the state. If the city is not going to ask the state for permission to one day move the statue, then we should stop discussing the statue.”

After nearly a year on the advisory group, Thompson was exasperated. Five public hearings, testimony from more than 60 people and thousands of comments posted on the city government’s website did not yield the outcome he had hoped for. In recommending that the Appomattox statue not be moved, the report said: “Unlike similar statues elsewhere in the former Confederacy, the location was chosen for its own significance. It marks the site from which the 17th Virginia Regiment mustered to withdraw from the city prior to Union occupation in 1861, and the names inscribed on it are of local residents who fell during the war.” The statue, a seven-foot bronze Confederate soldier standing atop a concrete and marble base, was installed in 1889. It is owned and maintained by the United Daughters of the Confederacy. The advisory group did recommend changing the name of Jefferson Davis Highway, named for the president of the Confederate States of America. But that scarcely touched the magnitude of the street problem as Thompson saw it. “It was not until my junior year of college, when I took a course on the history of the Civil War and Reconstruction, that I began to associate the names of Confederate officers to the street names in my city,” he recalled. “The city has between 30 and 50 streets that are named for Confederate officers. If I could wave my hand and get rid of all of the street names, I would. Do I think it is realistic to think that city officials would do that, since it would affect thousands of people? No.” Thompson refuses to give up hope. The City Council is expected to take up the recommendations next month, and a new round of public hearings are scheduled to begin.

While this temporary sanctuary stands, it is nowhere near the end. Thompson and those like him intend to fight for its future removal, and will not be pleased until any vestige of the old South is eradicated. Despite the spewing of hatred and animosity against our flag and culture, the fact remains, poor Irish teens didn’t go to war to preserve slavery. They went to war because they were invaded. Their rights were trampled. The power of the State to decide its own destiny was abolished. Sovereignty was murdered. Undue taxes and tariffs were levied. The majority of those that fought and died never owned a slave in their life, and weren’t fighting to preserve racism or slavery. They were fighting for what they believed in. Freedom. I urge any and all to write to the State and to the City. Take a few moments and shoot off an email. Share this post. Do anything you can to ensure that this monument to the freedom for which we fought and the brave souls that died for it remains.

The world will not be destroyed by those who do evil, but by those who watch them without doing anything.

Albert Einstein

All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.

Edmund Burke

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