Understanding all the meanings behind Civil War monuments

By: Sukhvir Singh

The Civil War is by far one of the most important time periods when it comes to pivotal moments in U.S history that defined and guided the United States to where it is today. A bloody war on a scale not yet experienced by the citizens of such a young nation, both sides suffered an unthinkable amount of casualties. As Faust explains the realization the country felt soon after the war’s beginning  “Americans recognized that they had embarked on a new king of war, as the [First Battle of Bull Run] yielded close to 24,000 casualties, including approximately 1,700 dead on each side” (56). The horrors and pain of war was experienced by both sides of the Civil War, however the south’s causes were rooted too much with slavery of african americans, and were doubly hurtful in the time after. This is not to forget the losses suffered by families of the South, but to understand and realize that the South and Confederacy’s motives were too aligned with slavery to stand in public because that is a reminder for those whose family during this time were victims to the cruelties of slavery.

When I first heard about the debate in Charlottesville surrounding the removal of a Robert E. Lee monument, I shrugged it off as something that should have happened sometime ago but none the less happy that the community came to appreciate the sensitivity of the issue and deeper meanings behind the messages that the statute sent that hurt members of the community. However, the subsequent riots and violence that ensued made me realize that the feelings that were at the core of our greatest civil conflict are not yet erased and will not be until the markers of the past are gone. Every awful part of the war, experienced by soldiers and those not on the battlefield, are encapsulated in memorials like this. Faust details how powerful the images of fields of dead soldiers was on men, changing them thereafter (55). These memorials are reminders of those insane number of lives lost on that field, and the power behind them comes from the reminder that those men were killed over a conflict that focused on the oppression of their fellow man. Yes, the north has memorials, and yes they carry heavy feelings as well, but their ambitions were that of the United States and for the equality of all, not the enslavement of one.  

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This is the statue that sparked the controversy in the Summer of 2017. This towering statue of known anti-abolishinist and Confederate army leader creates feelings of a dark and painful time for African Americans, and that is the message sent by the statue. that the community of Charlottesville stands by the South’s causes.

Memorials sites, statues, commemorations are intended to spur remembrance, inspire, and be make the nation in this case look good, but this cannot happen when it contradicts itself by making another group who suffered at their hands have feelings of sorrow, remembrance of painful and dehumanizing times? The American public memory should always serve to not target or offend anyone, and or it goes against it’s own created identity of welcoming all with open arms.

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