As explained here, the Spirit of VMI Pac and many other historic preservation groups tried to save the National Reconciliation Monument in Arlington National Ceremony.
Similar to how some people use the greeting “Merry Christmas” while others state it as “Happy Holidays,” there is great power in names.
Many voices, including those in the legacy media and those seeking its removal, dubbed it “the Confederate monument.” Clearly, today’s cultural momentum is to remove Confederate references. Indeed, the memorial was paid for by the Daughters of the Confederacy, does not show the horrors of slavery, and has 14 shields. Each shield represents each of the states that seceded to form the Confederacy, plus three of the border slave states that did not secede but remained in the Union: Maryland, Kentucky, and Missouri. (The state of Delaware also kept slavery legal throughout the Civil War but also remained in the Union.)
In contrast, those who call it the National Reconciliation Monument point to these facts.
One, the monument comes from a time when the federal government was far smaller than it is today, and it was normal for private, civic groups to raise money to erect monuments rather than waiting for the government to do something. Moreover, any historic monument reflects the worldview and outlook of its time, regardless of how realistic it is or how people 100 years later would view it.
In that sense, any historic monument is a tangible relic reflecting the views and values of a bygone age.
Two, the memorial was planned and erected around the turn of the 20th century, about 40-50 years after the end of the Civil War in 1865, at a time when most of the surviving veterans were in their 60s and 70s, at that time an ancient age.
Three, most of the supporters of the monument’s creation were, like Lincoln, northern Republicans. (In contrast, the governor of each state that had seceded in 1860-61 had been a Democrat.)
For example, Pres. William McKinley, a Republican from Ohio, was so impressed with how southern troops had performed gallantly for the USA in the Spanish-American War that he went to Atlanta in 1898 and declared, “sectional feelings no longer holds back the love we feel for each other.”
(In an historic oddity, a young McKinley and Rutherford B. Hayes…who both became president later…passed through the Roanoke Valley during the Civil War, when their Ohio regiment was involved in a small skirmish on June 21, 1864 called the Battle of Hanging Rock. The engagement was around the the current site of the Orange Market at the corner of Routes 419 and 311. Clearly McKinley, who saw combat in the Civil War and saw his fellow Americans die, would not as president support a memorial “celebrating” the Confederacy.)
In 1900, Congress followed suit by declaring that Confederate remains could be buried in Arlington National Cemetery, in Northern Virginia right across the river from Washington.
In 1906, another Ohio Republican, Secretary of War William Taft who would later become president, approved construction of the monument to celebrate the national reconciliation of North and South.
The sculptor chosen for this honor was Richmond native Moses Jacob Ezekiel, the first Jew to graduate from Virginia Military Institute.
Pres. Woodrow Wilson unveiled the new statue in 1914. (Wilson’s birthplace in Staunton, Virginia is the presidential birthplace closest to Roanoke.) Wilson later built his political reputation in New Jersey and today is celebrated by the left as one of the architects of big government. For example, the national income tax and Federal Reserve all began under Wilson.
(Ironically, 1914 is also the year WW I began.)
The statue is topped by a woman with an olive wreath, an international symbol of peace. Also, a Bible verse is inscribed at her feet. “They have beat their swords into plough-shares and their spears into pruning hooks.” (Isaiah 2:4). (Notably, that is the same verse the USSR had inscribed on its peace memorial it gave to the United Nations Headquarters in New York City many decades later, during the Cold War.)
Moreover, since Ezekiel and a few others are buried at the base of the monument, its supporters explain that its removal is a kind of grave desecration.
Some have pointed out the irony of the memorial being removed just days before Christmas, a time of reconciliation and greetings of “peace on earth.”
The beloved Christmas carol “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” from the prolific pen of Charles Wesley claims, “Peace on earth, and mercy mild, God and sinners reconciled!”
Cynics would also point out that the government often “schedules” many potentially unpopular or controversial moves during the holidays, when they know most people are distracted or busy.
In a last-ditch attempt to save the Memorial, 40-some GOP members of the House of Representatives signed a letter on Dec. 11 calling on the Defense Department to delay the removal. (That represents about one-fifth of all GOP members of the House.)
Locally, Sixth District Congressman Ben Cline and Fifth District Bob Good signed their names to the letter, adding their support to the historic preservation.
On Dec. 20, after a federal judge approved the final removal of the memorial, Bob Good posted this to X: “I am deeply saddened that once again the Leftist mob has gotten their way to further destroy our country’s history. The media branding it as the ‘confederate statue,’ is only flaming the fire. It is called The Reconciliation Monument and that is exactly what it represents.”
In contrast, Republican Rep. Morgan Griffith (VA-9) did not add his name. The Roanoke Star contacted his Roanoke office asking for a statement but none has been received. Democrat Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine are on record for having voted for the Defense Bill that funded the removal.
Sen. Kaine and Reps. Cline, Good and Griffith are all facing re-election in 2024.
Go deeper: a statement about the Memorial can be found on this official webpage for Arlington National Cemetery. Since the Cemetery is operated by the Defense Department, it is part of the Executive Branch currently run by the Biden Administration.