The Civil War is over. The South lost. Let’s move on

The war is over. Time to put this flag out of our misery.
The war is over. Time to put this flag out of our misery.
The war is over. Time to put this flag out of our misery.

Washington and Lee University said Tuesday they are removing Confederate Battle Flags from Lee Chapel while the school continues to study its historical involvement with slavery.

A victory for some W&L students and others who want to put the Civil War behind us and move on?


W&L President Kenneth Ruscio also said in his statement that while the Battle Flag reproductions will disappear from the Chapel, the school will replace them with real flags from the American Civil War Museum in Richmond.  The real flags will be in the Lee Chapel Museum, not on display in the main hall.

W&L will also continue to allow racists to use the Chapel to celebrate Lee-Jackson Day on the weekend before Martin Luther King Day.

A story about this decision in the Roanoke Times brought about 50 comments as of this morning, most of them decrying the decision, calling it a “disgrace” that dishonors “one of the greatest generals in American history.”

Lee was many things but one of the greatest generals in this country’s history? There are well-regarded historians who will disagree with such a sweeping endorsement.  He was, after all, the general who lost the Civil War.

Such is the hysteria that still follows that despicable war more than 150 years after its sordid existence in American history.

Memo to the fanatics who still wave the Confederate flag and claim the war was not about preserving one of the most disgraceful parts of American history:  The war is over. The South lost. Forget it and move on.

As a Southerner, I have never understood the region’s fascination with the Civil War. I also can’t understand the fear, bigotry and stupidity that led to it.  I have this belief — unpopular in too many circles around here — that people of all races, ethnic backgrounds, sexual preference, religion belief (or non-belief) and philosophical persuasion should be treated with respect and allowed to co-exist among us in peace.

This, course, goes against the grain of racism, bigotry, homophobia and discrimination that still dominates too much of our society today.  Too often, we hear homophobia preached as “the word of God” from pulpits along with pathetic attempts to explain away racism as “just part of past times.”

America should be better than that.  The sad fact that it isn’t is a cause for concern and regret.

When I returned to Virginia in 1981 with my Illinois-born wife, she looked around at all the monuments to the Civil War and said: “My God, how many of these would you have if the South had actually won that war?”

Thankfully, the South did lose and America moved on.

Actually, only parts of America moved on.

Lynn Ellen McCutchen Thompson (no relation thankfully) of Roanoke summed up the feelings of too many area residents when she posted this comment in The Roanoke Times:  “Sorry to hear W&L is giving in to a few students. Shame of you.  Did you forget what Lee and the Confederacy stand for?”

No, Lynn, they didn’t what Robert E. Lee and the Confederacy stand for.  Unfortunately, it appears you did.

© 2004-2021 Blue Ridge Muse

40 thoughts on “The Civil War is over. The South lost. Let’s move on”

  1. without the civil war my grandkids would have no place to go during summer break i teach them about each site we visit. this year we will be in virginia visiting sites civil war was a good thing

  2. While I support the removal of the flags from the chapel at W&L, I can’t really get with you on some of your other points. Painting all who celebrate the life of Lee or Jackson at W&L as racists is unfair. I don’t pretend to understand Civil War enthusiasts (especially those who wear the uniforms and go to reenactments), but I sure don’t think they are all racists.

    While there may be some who question Lee’s skills as a military leader, the consensus among historians is that he was an excellent general. It is also worth pointing out the W&L is named (in part) for Lee and that the college is unlikely to say or do things that would tarnish his name and legacy. The world has changed a lot since the 1860’s and holding people of that era to today’s standards of behavior and political correctness is patently unfair in my opinion.

  3. You know nothing about the war or the Confederacy which is evident in your ignorant cry of “racism”. Grant and the North held slaves until after the war when the law made them free tehir slaves. Slaves were brought to America under the US flag, the Confederate Constitution forbade importation of slaves. Lee freed some slaves he inherited well before the war.

    You attempt to smear a man of great honor with your foolish whining. You shall never besmirch his name or his legacy. Try as you may.

    How about looking at your hero Lincoln then find me where Robert E. Lee ever expressed anything close:
    “I will say then that I am not, nor ever have been in favor of bringing about in anyway the social and political equality of the white and black races – that I am not nor ever have been in favor of making voters or jurors of negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry with white people; and I will say in addition to this that there is a physical difference between the white and black races which I believe will forever forbid the two races living together on terms of social and political equality. And inasmuch as they cannot so live, while they do remain together there must be the position of superior and inferior, and I as much as any other man am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the white race. I say upon this occasion I do not perceive that because the white man is to have the superior position the negro should be denied everything.”


    Abraham Lincoln
    (1809-1865) 16th US President

    Fourth Debate with Stephen A. Douglas at Charleston, Illinois, September 18, 1858
    (The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln edited by Roy P. Basler, Volume III, pp. 145-146.)

  4. Its not about moving on or racism……its about honoring men who defended their homeland and fought for what they thought was right. You dont understand it because you probably dont know squat about the times and events leading up to the war and why some of us love our southern traditions and ancestory so dearly. Just because you and a few others disagree does not mean you are right and whats taking place at W&L is just.

  5. Those that think we Southrons will ever forget the ruthless invasion of our land and the murders of over 500,000 of our people had better think again.

    Not only are we not going to forget, we’re working on protecting our people from the predations of the Yankee Empire that continue to this day.

    We’ll move on to gain our freedom.

  6. While I agree that the civil war was waged largely over slavery but, let’s not forget the old axiom “history is written by the victors”. Would you say the same thing regarding the whole countries obsession with manifest destiny and the way it effectively destroyed many native cultures? “the war is over. the Native Americans lost. move on.”

    “Memory says, ‘I did that.’ Pride replies, ‘I could not have done that.’ Eventually, memory yields.” – Nietzsche

    Many people forget that while the north and south were divided on slavery they were hardly different when it came to discrimination against African Americans at the time. Many of the northern states like Michigan, Pennsylvania,New Jersey, Missouri, Minnesota, and even your wife’s home state of Illinois struggled with integrating freed slave into schools and general society, the rise of the KKK, interracial relations, and voter access for freed slaves. Lynchings continued in the north well into the 1920’s.

    “He who controls the present, controls the past. He who controls the past, controls the future.”- George Orwell

    Abraham Lincoln himself was a huge supporter of racial separatism and was a member of the American Colonization Society for a time. The groups stated goal was to keep the races separate by establish colonies in Africa for freed slaves and other free black in the United States. This result in one of the poorest in least stable countries in the world known as Liberia.

    Robert E. Lee was considered by pretty much the entire country to be the greatest military mind of his time. He was a top graduate of the United States Military Academy. He opposed succession and was offered a senior Union command position. He only refused because of loyalty to his home state of Virginia and didn’t actually take a command in the confederate army until the year after the Civil war began. He fought alongside Grant in the Mexican American war and both commander had great respect for each other. His views on slavery are debatable to say the least but I think Douglas S. Freeman’s 1935 Biography probably offers the best insight on the subject.

    “This [opinion] was the prevailing view among most religious people of Lee’s class in the border states. They believed that slavery existed because God willed it and they thought it would end when God so ruled. The time and the means were not theirs to decide, conscious though they were of the ill-effects of Negro slavery on both races. Lee shared these convictions of his neighbors without having come in contact with the worst evils of African bondage. He spent no considerable time in any state south of Virginia from the day he left Fort Pulaski in 1831 until he went to Texas in 1856. All his reflective years had been passed in the North or in the border states. He had never been among the blacks on a cotton or rice plantation. At Arlington, the servants had been notoriously indolent, their master’s master. Lee, in short, was only acquainted with slavery at its best, and he judged it accordingly. At the same time, he was under no illusion regarding the aims of the Abolitionists or the effect of their agitation.”

    So pretty much the brand of “milder” religious racism that was popular in the border states at the time was what he adopted. He mostly considered it a political issue though. Something to be discussed and decided by politicians rather than military men. His wife and mother in-law supported the same ACS that Lincoln was a member of. His wife also set up an illegal school for slaves while they were living in Texas before the war. At the end of the war when the south was becoming a lost cause he even promoted the idea of emancipating the slaves and hire all men willing to join the confederate army but by that time (late 1864 I think) it was to late for such a policy to be enacted widely as the war ended in march of 1865. “We should employ them without delay … [along with] gradual and general emancipation.”

    Most historians view Lee as someone who was somewhat in favor of emancipation even prior to the war but, he could see the economic ramification would be dire for the south and effectively destroy the way of life he had grown up in. After the war he was a strong supporter of president Johnson’s campaign for reconciliation, and greatly oppose gorilla resistance groups like the early KKK going so far as to say “far from engaging in a war to perpetuate slavery, I am rejoiced that slavery is abolished. I believe it will be greatly for the interests of the South.”

    Like I said; I basically agree with your sentiment. Even though racism was the popular ideology at the time it was certainly abhorrent as was fighting to maintain slavery, and any group that claims otherwise is promoting racism , or at the very least being intentionally dismissive of the issue of racism in the United States, But history is pointless if we intentionally ignore facts in favor of our preferred ideological narrative.

    • …And we will keep coming until the truth is known about the “Un-Civil War” and the attempts to brainwash Southern people have ceased. Washington and Lee is a place that belongs in the hands of those that will treat it with respect and honour.

      When right is wrong and wrong is right, all people suffer, but whitewashing history in order to mollycoddle those with an inferior ability to “co-exist” with those that embrace their particular history is a calamity. Isn’t it ironic that this article clamors about the need for people to “co-exist” but applauds the decision to limit some peoples desire to remember their heritage. Doesn’t sound like some folks understand the meaning of “co-exist”.

      If you are a Southern, white, person of Christian beliefs you are constantly being shown how to “co-exist”. Let’s co-exist by not saying Merry Christmas, let’s co-exist by not praying in school or in public, let’s co-exist by no wearing a Confederate battle flag on our t-shirts, let’s co-exist by accepting homosexuality, let’s co-exist by being called racist, let’s co-exist by having all of our school mascots and school names replaced because they are named after a Southern person or emblem, let’s co-exist by being taught to feel ashamed and guilty for being white, let’s co-exist by forcing our children to be taught lies about their Confederate ancestors….etc etc etc.

      So in closing let me say, “Bless your heart” and if you don’t know what I mean by that, you aren’t from the South either!

      • Wanda-how does removing a flag/flags from the chapel at W&L dishonor anyone? I think the administration at the school came up with a compromise that solves most of the issues raised, but probably satisfies no one as compromises are apt to do. As for the Confederate flag on shirts, etc.—. It has been my experience that most who wear this apparel are not Civil War enthusiasts, but self-identified “rednecks”.

        • Firstly, I am not a “Civil War” enthusiast. There was no “civil” war. Look up the definition of the term, the war was fought by people of different countries, you know, the Confederate States of America vs those people? 😉

          Secondly, I am no “redneck” and my battle flag t-shirts portray historical events or places. I abhor the “redneck” shirts that include ANYTHING that creates or depicts a trashy imagine that does nothing to preserve the memory of the gallant men who bravely fought under that banner. Selecting attire that commemorates Confederate history and at the same time is tasteful, is how I chose a Confederate article of clothing.

          Removing the battle flag that General Lee bravely fought under, from a building that HE had built when he was the president of the university, is a GRAND SLAP IN THE FACE and is a HUGE DEBASEMENT to the the memory and honour of General Robert Edward Lee. Lest we forget to mention that he and his entire family are entombed in the basement of the chapel.

          What a disgrace!

  7. OK, Doug, since you persist in perpetuating the myth that the war (which was not a ‘civil war’ to anyone who knows the definition of the phrase) was over slavery, please educate us as to when slavery ended in the North. (HINT: it was AFTER your so-called ‘civil war’ had ended)

  8. Most likely the author has no family connection to the war. I do…as a matter of fact there is a letter signed by Lee in the collection of letters my ancestor wrote before, during and after the war. These letters are the basis of the book I am writing. I would suggest the author study the history of the war and not take the simplistic route of beating the drum of slavery. Otherwise he is just another coca cola cowboy as the song goes….

  9. Oh my, Doug! They take the bait so easily every time you put it out there. If anyone doesn’t believe we have a serious problem with racism in this country, all they need to do is read these posts. Clearly it’s still a Southern tradition.

    • Anyone who can’t accept that their heroes are capable of great vice and their villains are capable of great virtue has no interest in history or truth. Their only function is to promote dogma. To seek knowledge of the truth is never a moral failing. To deride the truth in order to promote your chosen dogma is.

    • I find is EXTREMELY SANCTIMONIOUS that ANY African American would complain about racism, being mistreated or being disrespected by another people (mainly Southerners who are celebrating their own distinct heritage) when they are SOLIDLY destroying their own. The Hip Hop/ Thug culture, the nasty and many times racist, lyrics in those demeaning Rap songs, the outrageous numbers of crimes being committed against each other in their own communities, the fatherless homes, the unbelievable statistics of aborted children, the drop out rate, the violent gangs, jobless rate, etc.

      Really, and an emblem of mine bothers them more? Really?

      • Wow Wanda, you prove me correct. Do you fancy yourself an expert on Hip Hop? On African American culture? I’m not sure where you received your African American studies degree from but that institution will forever be suspect.

        You do realize that there are Southerners who are black, right? My very black, very Southern, jazz loving, aerospace physicist father (how’s that for not fitting into your stereotypes) understood that the white Southern heritage, which you love to celebrate, was based on racism. It started in the 1600s when the first slaves arrived on the shores of Virginia and, again as you have proven, exists today.

        Post Civil War, those violent gangs you speak of terrorized black communities, committed crimes against them, worked hard to make sure they remained uneducated and lived in poverty. But that was a long time ago and we’re not supposed to complain about the lasting effect that kind of treatment had on us.

        Odd that there are Southerners who don’t celebrate the flag and your heritage? Not at all odd that you don’t understand that. Really.

        • The first slave on this continent was owned by Anthony Johnson. A free black man, who went to court to insure that he was able to keep an indentured servant who was supposed to be released from his servitude, as a slave. A black man owning another black man. This is the very first reported case of slavery in the 1600’s in Virginia.

          Are YOU trying to tell me that those things are not a problem in the African American community? I am an expert on Hip Hop, I happen to be a DJ. The culture I speak of is the Thug culture, are you telling me that it isn’t a problem for the African American community? I live in an area where the news reports are full of details of the crimes the gangs and thugs are committing.

          Are you denying the fact that the streets in African American communities are full of gangs? These thugs affect all people. Not just their own. Ever heard of reconstruction? You don’t think that that amounted to gang violence to the white Southerner?

          I don’t find it odd at all that we are surrounded by Southern apologist. They are taught to be ashamed of their ancestors. To celebrate the tyrant lincoln. So was I. But when you find out that you have been lied to all of your life by those that were supposed to be your educators, it makes you mad. Then you dig deeper and find the documented proof of the simple fact that, the victor writes the history. Whitewashing history….shameful.

          If you wanna celebrate your heritage the way you want to…so be it….leave me to mine. And trust me, I don’t and can’t appreciate some of the things that other races/religions/cultures hold dear…. but we’re supposed to be able (in this country) to be free enough to embrace our own without fear of someone else telling us we can’t. If you want rights, you must respect others rights.

          • I think that what you fail to realize the the gang that has TRULY affected the black community is the gang of self-righteous white people that have ALWAYS put down and oppressed black people. From the whites putting blacks on boats, to the overseers on plantations, to the KKK, to people like you who wrongly celebrate your racist ancestors, White America has been at the forefront of holding African-Americans back in this country. Tell me, what did your racist flag stand for, if not for hundreds of years of oppressing and bringing down a proud, captive race?

          • Your degree in history is also questionable. What was Johnson before he was a free man? That’s right, a “servant” owned by another man who wasn’t black. He may have been the first black man to own a slave but first slaveowner? Not so sure about that. But what if he was? What does that prove? The overwhelming majority of slave owners were white. If it was Johnson’s idea, as you suggest, it was white slaveholders who took it and ran with it and made it their own. The racist attitudes you hold dear today originated from them.

            Wanda your not an expert on hip hop or black culture. Just because you are a DJ doesn’t mean that you know anything about music history or the culture and history of those who create it. You would actually have to visit a black community to gain that knowledge and we all know that your not going to do that. In your prejudiced mind all black communities are rife with crime and violence and “thugs”, oh my!

            So you will remain ignorant and your ignorance is far more harmful to the black community than hip hop and thugs.

        • I’d say that slavery would have ended in the US without the cost of 620,000 lives and the destruction of the South, followed by 12 years of reconstruction. I don’t mean the rebuilding of the South. It ended in every other country in the world without a war.

          Ponder this, if the “war” was about ending slavery and ending the injustice of the black race, why is it that just 3 months after the end of the “war”, the same federal troops that were supposedly fighting to end slavery, waged war on another dark skinned people, the plains Indians. The murdered them, took their lands, put them in reservations, and took away their freedoms. Add insult to injury, the soldiers that were known as the “Buffalo Soldiers” were the black federal troops that fought for the north during the war. The freed black men were now helping to enslave another race of people.

          I can go all night… The war was not about slavery. Slavery was an issue that was wrong, however, it was used as propaganda for the lincoln administration to halt the eventual assistance of the Europeans who were about to side with the South. He used it to label the South as inhuman, and by the way, the north was also full of slaveholders prior to the war.

          Shall we discuss the free blacks who owned thousands of black slaves? Both in the north and the South in areas like New Orleans?

    • Oh, is that all you’ve got, an attack on my character and opinion?

      Are you denying the fact that it is completely ridiculous for these students to bellyache about what another culture is doing when their own is completely falling apart? Really, are you saying that?

      It is an outright attack on all things Southern. Be it our heritage, religions or race.

      I don’t see anyone being forced to amend their Kwanzaa or Hanukkah traditions or celebrations. I don’t see anyone removing a Gay Pride flag. I don’t see anyone taking away the right of Islamic prayer in public.

      The human race is made up of various races with distinct religions and cultures and all have a distinct heritage and ancestry. We all deserve to celebrate in our own way…

      Leave mine alone and I’ll leave you to yours…. No?

  10. I would argue that those things are a function of generational poverty and not race. It can take many generations for a family to run through the inheritance (whether economic or social) of a wealthy patriarch/matriarch and, by the same token if your, ancestors were slaves and were systematically discriminated against for at least one hundred years after that; it can take many generations to build enough economic and social capital to have anything at all to pass on to your children and grandchildren. It takes even longer if we’re talking about an entire race of people rather than just singular families. One side needs to accept that the problem of generational poverty among African American is inseparable from slavery and racism and, the other side needs to accept that building true wealth in a democratic and capitalist society can take a long, long time. Still I think we can all be proud of the progress we’ve made in the last 40 or 50 years, and do our best to continue into the future and make things better for all races. But yeah, as long as their are poor people their is going to be crime because they won’t have the same educational or job opportunities as someone wealthier or more connected. When cut off from any opportunity to escape poverty in your lifetime other than crime most people will start committing crimes.

    • I would say that the center of the problem is indeed rooted in the slavery issue. Freedom came to the slaves and many at that time were unable to care for themselves, poor, uneducated, no options. Today, their descendant are struggling still. However, like the story about teaching a man to fish, instead of simply giving him fish, I think the US government has done a great disservice to the African American community by propping them up instead of giving them a hand up and out of their struggle.

      I would argue that too many gifts oft times make a man lazy and erases his drive to improve his situation.

      Let me add, we are all simply Americans with different roots. Why is it necessary to continue to address an American as an African American, an Italian American, a Japanese American, a Chinese American or Native American? Isn’t that another way to be divisive?

  11. I am telling you the truth. The truth isn’t cliche. I have many friends and family members of color!! OMG…yes I said family members!! OMG!! Your assumptions are wrong and your attempt to label me is comical. Historical facts are documented and can speak for themselves. The current situation of the black family is also common knowledge. I’m not making fun of it. It is horrible. However, for these students to come to a school KNOWN to be one where a great Southern General worked and made his home and is now buried there, they appear to me to have an agenda and clearly have a problem with allowing the Southern people to “co-exist” with them. Who is causing the problem? Really, after 150 years of this university honouring Lee and the Lee Chapel housing the remains of the Lee family, these handful of students show up and demand to whitewash history??

  12. For 200 years it was fine to many that blacks couldn’t vote…why was it necessary to change that? Women’s suffrage? Why did those ladies get so in an uproar about their limited rights when it had worked just fine for so long? And that darn lynching thing…it was working so well until some liberal-minded do-gooders had to wreck it, huh? So yeah, those dang kids and their ignoring 150 years of tradition…who do they think they are?

  13. LOL that’s funny Rob. I have 5 handsome nephews and a wonderful brother in law…of color as you put it… They all believe as I do, Confederate proud. I guess it all in how you were raised. We are very, very close.

    • I find that incredibly difficult to believe. Do they know how you feel about black families, communities, history? How dismissive you are of people of color? What color could they be? Can’t be black because black kids don’t have fathers, right?

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