Editorial: Putting history into its proper perspective

From the editor:

On December 4th, 2008 the Confederates Today blog reported that:

“Louisville’s Confederate Monument, the largest in the Commonwealth of Kentucky, is getting new neighbors. For 113 years the historical monument to the Confederacy has stood alone and proud on city property, adjacent to the Belknap campus of the University of Louisville.

Now, “politically correct” university officials have announced plans to surround the monument with a new Freedom Park which will contain a new statue, exhibits, and an interpretative center, all honoring the civil rights movement. The university’s elite of academia say this will “put the monument in its proper perspective.”

Mark Hiland, Adjutant to the John Hunt Morgan Camp 1342, Sons of Confederate Veterans in Louisville responded, “In my mind, this would be akin to putting the Vietnam War Memorial on the Mall in Washington DC ‘in its proper perspective’ by surrounding it with statues of Jane Fonda and William Ayres and erecting an ‘interpretive center’ dedicated to the so-called Peace Movement.”

He’s exactly right and it’s not the first time that Confederate history has been deliberately diluted and dishonored.

Take for instance Richmond, Va’s Tredegar Iron Works, which is part of the National Park Service. In April, 2003 a bronze statue of Abraham Linoln and his son Tad was dedicated. It was placed at Tredegar to commemorate Lincoln’s tour of Richmond in 1865.

So what happens when Southerners try to put “history into perspective” by attempting to place a bronze statue of Confederate President Jefferson Davis, his son Joseph and his adopted mixed-race son, Jim Limber next to the Lincoln statue at Tredegar?

The National Park Service dictates the terms of how the statue will be interpereted and liberal bloggers like Kevin Levin who writes on his Civil War Memoryblog , cry “fowl”.

On his August 17, 2008 posting , Levin writes:

“What I am having trouble understanding is why the SCVoffered the statue at all.  I agree with fellow blogger, Richard Williams, who recently suggested that the statue would find a much better home at Jefferson Davis’s Beauvoir, which is now being maintained by the Mississippi Division, SCV.  In that setting the statue could be displayed with a straightforward interpretation that reflects their preferred story.  In offering the statue to Tredegar the SCV, perhaps unknowingly, placed themselves in a rather difficult position.  First, regardless of the SCV’s understanding of the relationship between Limber and Davis, any critical historian would have to come to the conclusion that there is simply not enough information to justify the statue.”

Not enough information to justify the statue?

First, there is the fact that Jefferson Davis was the President of the Confederacy and that Tredegar produced armament for the Confederate Government.

Second, Joseph Davis was President Jefferson Davis’ son.

Third, it is historical fact that the Davis family did take in Jim Limber and raise him as their own. In the May / June , 2008 issue of Confederate Veteran magazine, there is an article entitled, “Jim Limber and the Davis Family” in it we learn that:

“Mrs. Davis documents that President Davis went to the mayor’s office in Richmond and had Jim’s free papers registered to insure his safety from his former oppressor. We also have the written words of Varina Davis. The Museum of the Confederacy in Richmond, Virginia, possesses the only known ambrotype photograph of Jim Limber. This photograph is labeled in the hand of Varina Davis, with the following inscription-” James Henry Brooks ADOPTED by Mrs. Jefferson Davis during the War and taken from her after our capture. A great pet in the family and knwn as Jim Limber.”

Besides, the “not enough information to justify the statue” argument went out the window, when the Lincoln propaganda piece was placed at Tredegar to begin with.

According to the December 29,2003 issue of The Weekly Standard, ( a publication that promotes neocon idealism), in an article entitled, “When Lincoln Returned to Richmond” we learn that:

“No one knows for sure whether Lincoln and Tad visited Tredegar, or whether they passed by the Works during a carriage ride they took later the same day, but they’re there now–so a romantic would say–in the form of a bronze statue. “

Levin, continues in his August 17, 2008 blog post by stating:

“I am not suggesting anything nefarious about the relationship, but Tredegar’s Board owes it to their patrons, and to the community, to ensure that the highest standards of scholarship are applied in carrying out its mission.  Without the necessary scholarship the SCV’s offer tells us more about the agenda of their organization and their place in the broader spectrum of Civil War memory than it does about this tiny slice of history.  If the SCV simply wanted to counter the presence of Lincoln and Tad or offer a representation of his human side than why didn’t they commission a statue of Davis and his biological son or even all of his kids, including his wife?  They could have made it a true family affair.  Instead, what the SCV has done is dug themselves a hole.”

Of course Levin is mysteriously silent on the plans for the civil rights monuments to surround the 113 year old Confederate monument in Louisville, Ky, or how the City of Louisville, “owes it to their patrons, and to the community, to ensure that the highest standards of scholarship are applied in carrying out its mission. “

As far as Levin’s suggestion that Jim Limber be left out of a statue honoring Jefferson Davis, it is pure hypocrisy on his part. There are plenty of “Levin’s” in the world who cloak themselves in “academic integrity” yet insinuate the South’s role in the War for Southern Independence was purely based on race.

Mr. Levin, the Sons of Confederate Veterans have not “dug themselves a hole” by attempting to include Jim Limber in a statue to honor President Davis, you and your Liberal friends have “dug yourselves a hole” by revealing their layton racism in their defense of Abraham Lincoln.

Clint E.Lacy

is a Southern author and activist who resides in the Ozark Foothills of Southeast Missouri. He is a member of the John T. Coffee Camp#1934 , Missouri Sons of Confederate Veterans and currently serves as an alderman for the City of Marble Hill, Missouri.

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