As I pointed out in my article “The VMI Controversy,” the VMI administration has recently removed a statue of Stonewall Jackson from the VMI parade ground in front of barracks. The statue was given to VMI in 1912 by its sculptor, Sir Moses Ezekiel, an alumnus of the college. The decision to remove the statue came in response to pressure placed on the VMI administration from Virginia Governor Ralph Northam and from the mainstream press, especially the Washington Post.
Last weekend I was hiking at Manassas National Battlefield Park and came across … Horrors! … yes, a statue of Stonewall himself. And not just any statue. It was a gigantic statue depicting Jackson on his horse.
The statue commemorates Jackson’s role in the Battle of First Manassas (also known as the First Battle of Bull Run) in July 1861, when Confederate troops sent both Yankee soldiers and Washington, D.C., socialites scurrying back to Washington in fear and humiliation.
It was during that battle that Thomas Jonathan Jackson received his nickname. With his South Carolina troops overwhelmed during the battle, Confederate Gen. Barnard Elliott Bee Jr. rallied them by exclaiming, “There is Jackson standing like a stone wall. Let us determine to die here, and we will conquer. Rally behind the Virginians!”
My question is a simple one: If Stonewall is good enough to be depicted at a U.S. government national park with a gigantic statue, then why isn’t he good enough to be depicted by a statue at the college at which he taught and that he venerated?
Oh, that’s not all. About hundred yards from Stonewall’s statue are a plaque and a sign commemorating Confederate Colonel Francis S. Bartow, the first Confederate officer killed in the Civil War at that very place. The sign says that Bartow was “an ardent defender of slavery and states’ rights.”
So, let me see if I have this right: the feds are commemorating “an ardent defender of slavery and states’ rights” (and presumably secession as well) at its national park, while VMI is pressured into removing Stonewall’s statue from its parade ground. What’s up with that?
Yes, I suppose it’s possible that the enlightened Gov. Northam might start calling on the feds to remove that statue, sign, and plaque from their national park in Manassas. But if the feds are going to do that, then why not remove the Confederate cannons from the park as well? After all, weren’t those cannons used to kill and injure Yankee troops in the Confederacy’s attempt to secede from the Union?
For that matter, doesn’t federal ownership of Manassas Battlefield National Park itself commemorate and honor the Confederate victory over the feds at the Battle of First Manassas? If statues, signs, and plaques honoring Confederate heroes are going to be removed from history, why not all commemorations of Confederate victories as well? Heck, why not just privatize the park and simply remove the Battle of First Manassas from the history books?