Wednesday, July 09, 2014

My thoughts on Lee's Chapel.

Certain parts of the internet are all ablaze this morning on the news that the Confederate flags surrounding the statue of Robert E. Lee in Lee Chapel on the grounds of Washington and Lee University are going to be removed. This action comes as a result of a complaint of a group of six law students at the University. I guess the message of tolerance is lost on some people.

The last time I was in Lee Chapel, the reproduction flags were not in their holders, high above Edward Valentine's marble statue, but in holders on the floor. My guess was they were so place so they could quickly be moved for events when certain people might be "offended." I guess that's ok. But then again, it's not. I learned a long time ago that in life, I will be in places and situations in life that I find offensive. Do I raise a fuss? Do I cry out at the idiocy of some people? No. I had a better upbringing.

As a peace offering, the president of the University has stated that the reproduction flags will no longer be displayed. Instead, some of the flags that were originally on display in Lee Chapel will be returning, and will be on a rotating display. Hmm. This presents a problem for me. While I regret the decision of the school to remove all of the flags, and while I regret the cowering of the school administration to six minority students, to be able to see the original flags in a place where they were displayed for decades is something that I actually look forward to. Will they be hanging from their original  flag staffs? No. But still....

I have written before of my own story regarding one of those flags. In 1988, I visited Lee Chapel for the first time and saw the banner of the 37th North Carolina Troops, a flag captured on April 2, 1865, just outside Petersburg. Little did I know that my first book, released in 2003, would be about that same regiment. I've spent countless hours studying that flag - first at Pamplin Park, then at the North Carolina Museum of History, and finally at the Museum of the Confederacy's complex at Appomattox Court House. To have a chance to see the flag again near the statue of Lee would just be another piece of the journey that I am taking.

By the way, the Lee Chapel web page on the flags state that the flag picture, that of the 37th North Carolina, has "battle honors sewn into the fabric." That is not true. They are painted.

The web page also states that the first of the original flags scheduled to be displayed is that of the 26th North Carolina Troops, captured at Gettysburg, and still blood-stained.

Do I regret the decision of the school to remove the flags? Yes. Am I looking forward to seeing the flag of the 37th NCT back at Lee Chapel at some point in the future? Yes. 

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