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Here’s to a great time of contemplation and inspiration as you finish your latest contribution that will help us understand our complicated past.

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Thanks, George.

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Hi Kevin, I'm wondering what your thoughts might be on James Tanner's presence and remarks at the cornerstone laying ceremony of the Arlington Confederate Monument. I'm trying to reconcile what Barbara Gannon wrote about him in "The Won Cause" with what Washington D.C. newspapers reported in 1912.

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Hi Bob,

Tanner's postwar involvement in commemorative events is a reminder of the complexity of Civil War memory, even when it comes to the trajectory of individual people. I really like this piece by Jim Marten on Tanner's involvement at the dedication of the Confederate monument in Arlington. I also highly recommend his biography of Tanner if you haven't already read it.

https://www.journalofthecivilwarera.org/2017/10/brave-men-true-comrades-union-veterans-confederate-memorials/

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Thank you! I haven't read Marten's book. Thanks for the recommendation. I'll check it out.

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Thanks for replying, Dr. Levin.

Of course the UDC hoped to vindicate the sacrifices of the fathers and brothers. That’s why it’s a memorial to the dead. If it’s a political statement, no one is listening. If it’s a rallying point for fascism or racism, I have yet to see the crowds gathered inside Arlington National Cemetery.

Many others north and south perpetuated despicable policies of racism in the Civil War (like white officers leading black troops into battle) policies that continued into the 20th century, as evidenced by segregation in the armed forces in WWII. Political and societal forces bigger than Grant and Eisenhower dictated their actions. We don’t remove monuments celebrating their service and sacrifices, do we?

But that’s not the issue here.

The UDC also wanted to honor a request from President McKinley, a Union veteran, that Southerners rallying to the flag, including senior officers of the Confederacy, had affirmed their loyalty to the United States at the beginning of the Spanish-American War. A memorial at Arlington National Cemetery was deemed appropriate by three successive administrations.

The UDC raised the money for the memorial; they neither conceived nor drove the decision. They simply honored McKinley’s request.

Having visited repeatedly over the years in times of sorrow and hopelessness, I see little in Ezekiel’s work that celebrates anything except the folly of war, the sacrifice of sons.

And from my perspective as the descendant of both Union and Confederate soldiers, the grandson of a West Point graduate, the son of a Naval Academy graduate, and having worn the uniform myself for 13 years, I believe the many monuments and graves in Arlington National Cemetery and the Confederate memorial are sacred. Their presence affords us an opportunity to reconcile our differences with one another.

Lastly, I know you believe the Moses Ezekiel bronze can be removed without desecrating the site. Pray tell. Better we remove the dead and erase any evidence of their, and our, complicated past.

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Thanks for the follow up.

There is indeed a long history of racism in the United States, but I agree that this isn't the issue. Confederates committed treason in the hopes of creating an independent slaveholding republic.

I agree that many former Confederates had "affirmed their loyalty to the United States," but they did so under the assumption that their own cause had been vindicated.

The UDC did much more than raise the money for the memorial.

McKinley approved the reinterment of Confederates at Arlington, but he had little inkling of the monument that would be placed at the center of Section 16. Politics was at the center of M's interest in this project as well as his sympathy for those he met that expressed concern about Confederate graves.

I agree that monuments have the potential to reconcile one-time enemies, but let's not forget that at no time was reconciliation between North and South ever complete. Plenty of Union and Confederate veterans spoke out against the creation of a Confederate section at Arlington.

I see no reason to remove the Confederate graves and honestly I wouldn't lose any sleep if the monument remained as well. Either way, I don't see anything hinging on our ability to acknowledge and explore the complexity of our nation's history.

Thanks again for this thoughtful response.

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Re the Arlington Confederate Memorial, my perspective is the statue acknowledges the burial place of 400 or so soldiers who did their duty in a time and place long ago. As my grandfather’s and father’s caissons and my grandmother’s and mother’s caskets passed by the site, I was moved to remember that reconciliation in the eyes of God is possible, even for those who took up arms in rebellion. For us today to desecrate the graves of these men for our own purposes is a sin. Leave them in peace. Contemplate the tragedy of their lives, and ours.

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Hi Michael,

Thanks for the comment. I would be more sympathetic to your point if the monument was a simple shaft that referenced the dead, but it does much more than that. Ezekiel's monument is a celebration of the Confederacy, its cause, and a view of African Americans as loyal. We can certainly disagree on whether removal of monument constitutes the 'desecration' of graves, but let's at least acknowledge the full story that the United Daughters of the Confederacy hoped to vindicate with this monument. Thanks again.

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Look forward to reading the new book when it's published

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Thanks, Chris. I look forward to finishing it. LOL

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