Over the last few weeks, many opinions have been voiced about the removal of monuments and statutes to many Confederates in New Orleans and other Southern Cities. Emotions run high as each side of the issue tries to make their point. Cries of “liberal madness” and “we are denying history” as well as “we are sanitizing history” have risen. But what did the veterans of the Civil have to say about monuments being raised up in the south to their former enemies?
In the December 29, 1887 issue of the National Tribune, the weekly newspaper of the veterans’ organization the Grand Army of the Republic, a writer known only as E. N. N. writes a letter to the editor with the title, “Plain Language.” I have included a link to the entire article, but I have excerpted several paragraphs below.
“Becoming more bold, the ex-rebels began to raise monuments, in the form of names of hotels, places of business, etc., in honor of those who had been prominent as leaders in the rebellion. This being permitted, they next raised monuments of stone to those ‘heroes.’ No one objecting, except feebly, occasionally, they began to demand that those who fought to preserve the Nation must not do anything or say anything that could remind the rebels that they had been defeated, lest it hurt their tender feelings.”
“If this Nation is to be permanent, treason must be made odious! Traitors must not be permitted to live in the United States. As soon as one does or says anything against the Union, he should be expelled from the Nation. Every monument, sign or token raised, printed or painted in honor of treason and rebellion, or of any traitor, must be utterly destroyed, or we cannot feel safe or secure.”
“Old veterans of the South, you fought well, and surrendered as brave men. You now claim fealty to the Union; then let yours be the hands to gently remove those monuments and hide them where mortal eyes will never see them again. There is no necessity for you to grovel in the dust and say you were wrong when you were fighting to destroy the Nation—no necessity for you to condemn your leaders—no reason why you should not continue to have Reunions; but, if you really care for the perpetuation of this Republic, destroy as early as possible every trace of anything that in the faintest degree is in honor of rebellion.”
“We who fought for and against the Nation are the ones to make the Union perfect. You who wore the gray, do your duty as citizens of this Republic; destroy the idols raised in honor of rebellion or disunion, and join hands with us in the purification and perpetuation of our home—the United States of America.”
Emotions will continue to run high on this issue, but I thought it was important to hear the words of someone who fought to preserve the Union and how they felt about the monuments being erected.
Special thanks to my friend Jerome Kowalski for tipping me off about this article.