Commemorating and Memorializing the Civil War

By Andres Rodriguez

The Civil War is the deadliest war in American history to date because since it was a Civil War within one country, no other country or nation took part in this war. The question many Americans ask today is why did the Civil War occur in the United States. Many people believe the war occurred because southern states wanted to keep the institution of slavery while others believe Southern States wanted to keep their state rights. According to the John Oliver video that was about the ongoing debate about controversial confederate monuments in public spaces, he brings a very interesting static that reads, “48% of people, in the U.S., believe that the main cause of the Civil War was over state rights and only 38% of people believe it was because of slavery.” (John Oliver Video) This static brings confusion because I personally thought that most Americans believed the Civil War occurred because of slavery. Going back to the controversial confederate monument debate, many people are arguing for the removal of Confederate Monuments because they are offensive to African Americans and their ancestors. In Drew Faust book, This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War, she mentions various themes like “Dying,” “Killing,” “Burying,” “Realizing,” “Believing and Doubting,” “Numbering,” and “Surviving.” (Faust) The theme of “Killing” can help defend African Americans who find certain Confederate Monuments as offensive because of the treatment of African Americans who fought in the Civil War. For example, The Secretary of War James Seddon of the Confederate South is said to have “declared…that negros captured will not be regarded as prisoners of war.” The question that usually comes next is what are the “Negros” that are captured regarded as? They were executed with no mercy. On page 44 Faust mentions how W.D Rutherford of South Carolina wrote to his wife in which said these words, “the determination in our army is to kill them all and spare not” (44). The treatment of captured black troops and the overall perspective of black troops from the Confederate army is immoral and racist. The perspective of many Americans towards Confederate Monuments is mostly negative except for those few Americans whose ancestors fought on the Confederate side. Those certain individuals find it more disrespectful to take down such monuments because “it is history and you cannot erase history” as said by one of the individuals on the John Oliver show. I do understand the difficulty of accepting that your ancestor fought for the side that wanted to keep slavery going in America but I do think the removal of Confederate officers is disrespectful. These monuments should not be destroyed after they are taken down from public spaces but should be put in Museums where people can learn about the Civil War in a more private and optional space. I think the overall problem with having Confederate Monuments in public spaces is that it commemorates certain Confederate officers, even though they fought for the institution of slavery which is very offensive to African Americans. The history of Slavery can never be erased but it can be put in places where it can be option for people to view or read it like museums. Also, military cemeteries can also be an alternative way of commemorating and memorizing  the Civil War for both Union and Confederate Soldiers. In the Faust book, the “Burying” theme has similar burying rituals for both Union and Confederate soldiers. For example, the Gettysburg cemetery is considered to be the most equal and democratic of all grave sites from the Civil War because it has no private sections for officers, everyone is buried together regardless of rank or race. There are alternative ways to commemorating and memorizing the Civil War without offending Union/Confederate ancestors.


Robert E. Lee Sculpture, Charlottesville, VA, courtsey of the New York Times. Found on

This photo is displaying white nationalist who are commemorating a statue of Robert E. Lee who was the famous Confederate General during the Civil War. This photo is quite disturbing because there are clearly so many people who are commemorating a statue of a man who served for the side that wanted to keep the institution of slavery. This photo also brings the attention of the static I mentioned earlier that about 48 percent of Americans believe the main cause of the Civil War was over state rights. The people in this photo are the 48 percent. This statue should be taken down because the more people are clearly being offended by it being up than being taken down. Robert E. Lee should not be forgotten or erased from history but should not be in a public space where many African Americans walk by it. It is offensive to African Americans because of the mistreatment of slaves and statues that commemorate individuals who wanted to keep slavery alive should be taken down from public space and put in an Museum.

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