The Civil War is a tragic and unavoidable part of American history. The Confederacy lost, and the union was preserved. The Union’s monumental victory was one that absolutely deserves commemoration in public places because the Union was fighting for a right and good cause.
Though the courage and dedication of Confederate fighters was admirable, their cause was not. It deserves to be taught, researched and analyzed as history – inside museums and libraries where the context of the Civil War and the Confederacy’s role in fighting to preserve slavery can be examined and dissected.
Americans do not need plaques and monuments that hold Confederate leaders out as heroes. They were on the losing side of history for a reason: The so-called “Lost Cause” was shameful. Their fight to split apart our nation failed because the rebels stood for values that right-thinking Americans abhor. By leading men to their deaths in defense of the supposed right of one human to own and enslave another, commanders did nothing to deserve places of honor.
Across the South, local governments and universities are rethinking the monuments that leaders decades ago erected to honor fallen Confederate fighters and commanders. The city of New Orleans has generated much controversy by dismantling four monuments erected to Confederate leaders that had adorned parks and squares, some for a century or more. South Carolina’s Legislature voted to stop flying the Confederate battle flag from the statehouse grounds after the 2015 massacre of black churchgoers by a self-avowed white supremacist.
Whenever it happens, critics will protest, insisting that it’s an attempt to erase history. No, it is an effort to put Confederate history in its proper place, inside a museum.
Decisions to erect such monuments were made in a different era, when survivors of the Civil War still walked the streets and memories of major battles were still fresh on people’s minds. Debate about the war still raged. Not everyone was convinced that the right side won the war. Erecting such monuments helped keep the peace.
It took decades to name streets and schools, install busts and erect monuments commemorating the Confederates. It'll probably take decades more to reverse that process – and lots of money. Gravesite tombstones commemorate those who fell in battle, regardless of the side they were on. Monuments should be reserved for those who fought and sacrificed for honorable causes.