Letter to the Editor for Sept. 21, 2017

Special to the PRESS

Dear Editor,

Many monuments to the Confederacy are being removed all over the USA, many of them in the old Confederacy.  These monuments include school names and Confederate battle flags being flown over public buildings.  It is time for Brownsville to remove all Confederate monuments from public institutions and places. Why should we honor traitors who supported slavery?  There are no statues honoring Hitler in Europe and it is illegal to display swastikas in Europe.  European neofacists use Confederate battle flags instead.  Why do you think that is?

Supporters of leaving Confederate monuments and place names in public spaces either do not tell the whole truth about those they want to “honor” and in some cases they outright lie.  Let’s look at the monument to Jefferson Davis in Washington Park and buildings named after Robert E. Lee in Brownsville.  It is often said of these men, particularly Lee, that he did not really support slavery and that the Civil War was fought over constitutional questions and to resist Northern aggression.  Neither of these statements are true and anyone who knows how to use an internet search engine can verify this in a few minutes.

Lee’s views on slavery are obvious in a letter he wrote in 1856 stating that slavery was a necessary step for slaves to become “civilized.”  In 1858 two slaves, a brother and sister, escaped from the Lee-Custis (Lee’s wife) plantation and were captured.  Lee ordered 50 lashes for the brother and 20 lashes for the sister.  Lee applied for a pardon and swore allegiance to the USA shortly after his surrender at Appomattox.  His application for a pardon was shuffled around the post-war Republican cabinet and Lee died in 1870 without having his citizenship restored.

Jefferson Davis is even less deserving of any honor than Robert E. Lee.  He never applied for a pardon or restoration of his citizenship. Shortly before he died in 1878, Davis said, “It is said that I should apply for a pardon, but repentance must proceed a pardon and I have not repented.”

There is common myth that the last battle of the Civil War was fought in Texas more than a month after Lee surrendered because news of his surrender was not known but this is probably untrue.  The transcontinental telegraph line was completed in 1861 and news of this importance would have traveled by couriers if necessary.  What is more probable is that the Texas Confederates were trying to arrange safe passage for Jefferson Davis to Mexico to form a government in exile.  Davis was captured before he could get to Texas.

Both Lee and Davis did not have their citizenship restored until the 1970s.  Since Davis never repented or signed a loyalty oath, there was no real reason to ever restore his citizenship.

Recently many descendants of Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson have called for their monuments to be removed.  We should listen to them.  Removing monuments is not erasing history.  I’m sure a majority of Confederate worshippers have heard of museums and books.  Those are the places to learn about the Confederacy.

I had relatives fight on both sides in the Civil War.  I’m sure that a lot of us did. It was over a hundred and fifty years ago.  We have no reason to bask in glory if our relatives fought for the Union or to be ashamed if they fought for the Confederacy.  The Confederacy lost and it’s long past time for its supporters to get over it.  You can see that I don’t live in Brownsville.  I visit it all the time. Additionally, I’m concerned with what happens all over the USA.

Walter B. Birdwell
Laguna Vista

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