Some Thoughts on the Removal of Southern Civil War-Related Symbols

By John C. Fazio
The Cleveland Civil War Roundtable
Copyright © 2017, All Rights Reserved

The recent dismantling and removal of Southern statuary, monuments and other symbols relating to the Civil War and its aftermath has, not surprisingly, generated a lot of heat between those favoring the same and those opposed. It is also unsurprising that proponents and opponents are often identified by race, so that a political and regional conflict morphs into a racial one. For this and other reasons, we need to ask ourselves if what appears to be such a good idea, and one whose time has come, is really that, or if our country and its citizenry would be better served by a different approach, one more in keeping with “the better angels of our nature,” to use Lincoln’s immortal phrase from his First Inaugural Address.

Let me make myself clear: I am a dyed-in-the-wool Unionist and therefore believe that the right side won the war. The alternative, in my judgment, would have resulted in the Balkanization of the country, if not the continent, with interminable fratricide. Further, I also believe that it was time for slavery to go. All the major powers of the time (Great Britain, France and Russia), and most of the lesser powers, had already abolished it. The Confederate government’s rear-guard action on the path that led to the future, therefore, stood no chance against the locomotive of history. I also believe, strongly, that the highest levels of that government and its Secret Service, principally President Jefferson Davis and Secretary of State Judah Benjamin and the head of the Secret Service in Canada, Jacob Thompson, were complicit in the attempt to decapitate the United States government on the night of April 14, 1865. On the other hand, I also believe that this conviction does not have much relevance to regional relationships more than 150 years after the fact and that, for that reason and others, our country and its citizenry are better served by letting sleeping dogs lie.

The Robert E. Lee monument in Richmond, Virginia

The truth is that the South put up an incredible fight for independence, despite a multitude of disadvantages, and I believe recognition of that fact should be given. Southerners are justifiably proud of the tenacity with which their ancestors fought against great odds. It is also true that there were dreadful black flag excesses –rape, pillage, plunder, terrorism and horrible neglect and abuse of prisoners of war–committed by both sides, and that this too should be acknowledged. When I was president of the Cleveland Civil War Roundtable (2007) I provided for recognition of the fight made by the South (honor to the courage and bravery of those who fought and died for the cause of Southern independence) to be written into our Wikipedia entry. It was and is still there.

I believe, further, that it is reprehensible and counter-productive for victors to gloat over their victory and to “rub it in” to their enemies or former enemies. Ulysses S. Grant instinctively knew this when he signaled his men to desist from cheering when Robert E. Lee left Wilbur McClean’s home at Appomattox after his surrender there on April 9, 1865. And Lincoln instinctively knew it when he told his commanders to “Let em up easy.” The Allies rubbed it into Germany and her people after WWI and the result was Hitler, another world war and another 60 million dead. Accordingly, I am inclined to the view that more time should be permitted to pass before we begin to dismantle and remove the iconic symbols of the Southern Rebellion, more time for the wounds to heal and for greater attention to be given to the things that unite us and less to the things that divide us. Let there be no doubt that regional conflict still exists. Southerners and Northerners cannot even agree, for example, on what to call the war. Most of the country calls it the Civil War, but this term is not favored by Southerners; they prefer to call it The War Between the States or The War of Northern Aggression. Nor is there anything even close to unanimity of opinion as to the causes of the war. Nor have epithets lost favor: Southerners still call Northerners Yankees (always in a pejorative sense) and snowbirds, and Northerners still call Southerners rednecks and crackers.

I am fully aware of the atrocity that occurred in Charleston almost two years ago and that has provided the impetus to dismantle and remove the iconic symbols. No one with a brain in his head and a heart in his chest would dare to minimize that tragedy. No one is more sympathetic to blacks and their experience since the first slaves arrived in Virginia in 1619 than I am, including 246 years of slavery, 11 years of Reconstruction, in which thousands of them were slain and their property destroyed, and 100 years of Jim Crow, when they were murdered, abused, degraded, humiliated and exploited, so I fully understand their feelings on the matter.

Nevertheless, I appeal to them to accept the reality that ridding the South of iconic Civil War-related symbols at this time will not improve race relations in the South, but will make them worse, and that the last thing black Southerners need is worse race relations. A better policy, in my judgment, is benign neglect of such symbols until such time as their removal will not stir feelings of great hostility. And even then, the symbols should not be destroyed, but placed in cemeteries, museums, etc., where they will continue to memorialize, without celebrating, a terrible time in our history, the crossroads to true nationhood, a time that scholar and historian Shelby Foote described as “a helluva crossroads.”

Related Links:
The Campaign Against the Confederate Battle Flag
The Confederate Battle Flag, Personal License Plates, and Litigation
Jefferson Davis Monuments Being Removed?
Whose Maryland?

Wilson’s 1865 Raid

By Dennis Keating
The Cleveland Civil War Roundtable
Copyright © 2017, All Rights Reserved

On March 22, 1865, 13,480 Yankee cavalry in three divisions left their camps at Eastport, Alabama on the south shore of the Tennessee River for the biggest raid of the Civil War. Armed with Spencer carbines whose purchase for the expedition was arranged by its commander James H. Wilson, this corps would have devastating firepower as it aimed at the destruction of the South’s remaining war manufacturing centers in the deep South of the states of Alabama and Georgia. Wilson had successfully argued with George Thomas for this campaign in the waning weeks of the Civil War.

Wilson spent the early part of the war in the East, including serving on George McClellan’s staff at South Mountain and Antietam. He then went West and served as a staff officer for U.S. Grant in the Vicksburg and Chattanooga campaigns. Wilson became the youngest Union brigadier general. He was next assigned to the War Department as head of the Cavalry Bureau. In Spring, 1864, he took the field as commander of the Third Division of Phil Sheridan’s Cavalry Corps of the Army of the Potomac. His performance in the Wilderness and his Ream’s Station raid south of Petersburg in June, 1864 were not auspicious but Grant sent him back West in October, 1864 and he commanded ably at the battles of Franklin and Nashville in the destruction of Hood’s Army of Tennessee.

Originally scheduled to depart on March 5, Wilson’s army was delayed by heavy rains. It also was without its fourth division for lack of enough horses. Wilson’s cavalry consisted of 23 regiments, including the 1st, 3rd, and 4th Ohio. Notable among its commanders were First Division commander Edward McCook, one of the many Fighting McCooks of Ohio, Fourth Division Commander Emory Upton, best known for his assault at Spotsylvania, and Fred Benteen, commander of the 10th Missouri, best known for his role in the defeat of the 7th Cavalry at the battle of the Little Bighorn in 1876.

Opposed to this huge Union cavalry force were the small, scattered Confederate forces in Mississippi and Alabama under the command of Nathan Bedford Forrest, the “Wizard of the Saddle” and the nemesis of William Tecumseh Sherman and other Union commanders.

As Wilson pushed through Northern Alabama without resistance, Forrest desperately tried to concentrate what few forces were available while the Confederacy also attempted to defend the port of Mobile against the attack of Edward R.S. Canby, who had been reinforced by another of Wilson’s cavalry divisions.

On April 1, 1865, Wilson’s army was met by Forrest at the village of Ebenezer Church, north of Selma, the first target of Wilson’s raid. Forrest, without two of his forces, could not hold back the flood of charging Union cavalry. Wounded by a Union officer, Forrest personally killed a Yankee for the last time.

Selma, Alabama was a center of Alabama’s iron works region and produced a wide variety of weapons for the Confederate armies and navy, along with food from Alabama’s agricultural black belt. It was lightly defended with extensive but some unfinished defensive works. On April 2, the wounded Forrest conferred with Richard Taylor, the department commander, as he prepared to entrain for Mississippi. To defend the city, Forrest had only a few thousand troops and those civilians that he gathered in the city. Against them was arrayed Wilson’s army (but without John Croxton’s brigade detached to destroy the facilities at Tuscaloosa, which became “lost” and did not rejoin Wilson until April 29).

Late on April 2, Wilson launched his attack and overwhelmed the undermanned Confederate defenses. 2,700 Confederates were captured . Wilson’s casualties were 46 killed, including the commander of the 4th Ohio, and 300 wounded, including the commander of the Second Division. Forrest escaped but only a few days later he met Wilson, ostensibly to discuss a prisoner exchange (but Wilson was attempting to determine the whereabouts of Croxton’s “lost” force). Wilson wrote in his diary: “Forrest did not impress me as I expected-neither as large, dignified nor striking as I expected-seemed embarrassed”. Forrest told Wilson: “Well, General, you have beaten me badly, and for the first time I am compelled to make such an acknowledgment”. Forrest’s attempt to defend Selma was his last Civil War battle.

Wilson’s men followed their victory with the destruction of the Confederacy’s war plants (as they had previously done enroute to the city). Wilson’s army then headed east to capture Montgomery, the original capital of the Confederacy, which surrendered without a fight on April 10. Wilson then headed for the rail center of West Point, Georgia, which was captured on April 16 and hundreds of locomotives and rail cars were destroyed. That same night, Wilson’s troops also successfully routed the defenders of Columbus, Georgia in the last battle of the Civil War east of the Mississippi (and a week after Lee’s surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia). Like Selma, Columbus was a major war manufacturing center. While his army again wrecked Confederate plants, Wilson stayed in the home of an avowed opponent of secession.

The next night, Wilson’s army headed for Macon, the state’s new capital following Sherman’s capture of Milledgeville on his March to the Sea. Its commander, having learned of the Sherman-Johnson truce in North Carolina, surrendered on April 20 along with four other Confederate generals.

This effectively ended Wilson’s Raid. Over the course of two months, his corps had killed and wounded over 1,000 enemy soldiers and captured 6,820 Confederates, while losing 99 killed and 598 wounded. His troops seized 288 artillery pieces and almost one hundred thousand stand of arms. His path of industrial destruction included seven wrecked iron works, seven foundries, seven machine shops, two rolling mills, five collieries, thirteen factories, four niter works, three arsenals, one naval yard,and one powder magazine. They also destroyed five steamboats and the railroad stock plus many miles of tracks. And they destroyed huge amounts of military supplies.

Wilson’s troops capped this saga with the capture of Confederate President Jefferson Davis and his fleeing refugee party on May 10 and then Andersonville prison camp commander Henry Wirz. Following the Civil War, Wilson served in the Corps of Engineers until 1870. He later served in Cuba and Puerto Rico in the Spanish American War and in China during the Boxer Rebellion in 1901.


In 2000, a monument of Nathan Bedford Forrest honoring his 1865 defense of the city was unveiled by the Friends of Forrest at a Civil War museum in Selma. After many protests, the monument was moved to a cemetery. On March 12, 2012, the head of Forrest was stolen and never recovered. In May, 2015, the Friends of Forrest and the United Daughters of the Confederacy erected a new bust of Forrest. After a dispute over restoring the monument, the Selma City Council by a vote of 5-3 had deeded an acre in the cemetery to the Daughters of the Confederacy, as well as settling a lawsuit over the delay in permitting construction of the new monument.


James Pickett Jones. Yankee Blitzkrieg: Wilson’s Raid through Alabama and Georgia. 1976.

Jubal Early: Lee’s Bad Old Man

By Dennis Keating
The Cleveland Civil War Roundtable
Copyright © 2017, All Rights Reserved

Edward H. Bonekemper III, our September 2017 speaker on “The Myth of the Lost Cause,” writes of Jubal Early in his 2015 book:

Early, who faltered at Gettysburg, lost the Shenandoah Valley and his corps, been relieved of his command by Lee, and fled the country for a few years after the war, was an early critic of Longstreet and others who could be blamed for Lee’s shortcomings. Early was a better propagandist than general. As an author and president of the Lee Monument Association, the Association of the Army of Northern Virginia, and the Southern Historical Society, he acted as Lee’s chief votary for three decades.

Called by Robert E. Lee his “Bad Old Man”, who was Jubal Early and what was his record during and after the Civil War? Early was one of ten children born in 1816 to a slave-holding family owning a tobacco plantation in southwestern Virginia. The owner of a single slave himself, Early was a strong supporter of slavery and a believer in white supremacy. He entered West Point in the class of 1837 with many Civil War officers on both sides (e.g., Braxton Bragg, John Pemberton, Joseph Hooker and John Sedgwick). A mess hall altercation with Lewis Armistead led to the latter’s dismissal from West Point. After graduation, he served briefly in the Seminole war in Florida before resigning and practicing law in Virginia. He served a term in the Virginia legislature. He volunteered during the Mexican war but didn’t see combat.

In the 1861 secession convention Early was a Unionist in the majority initially opposed to secession. However, once Virginia did vote for secession following Lincoln’s call for volunteers after the assault on Fort Sumter, Early volunteered to defend his state and organized Confederate volunteers in Lynchburg and became commander of the 24th Virginia. His early combat service in 1961-1862 enhanced his reputation – at First Bull’s Run, Williamsburg (where he was wounded), Cedar Mountain, Second Manassas, Antietam (Sharpsburg), and Fredericksburg, rising to command of a division under Stonewall Jackson. “Old Jube” developed a pugnacious reputation. At Chancellorsville, Lee had Early defending the heights at Fredericksburg against John Sedgwick. Early’s outnumbered force had to retreat in the face of Sedgwick’s advance.

With Jackson’s death, Early’s division was now in the new Second Corps commanded by Richard Ewell. They would be the source of great controversy at Gettysburg on July 1, 1863. Returning from York, Early’s division routed Barlow’s division of the Union XI Corps. But later that day Early supported Ewell’s decision not to attempt an assault on Cemetery Hill. Early’s division would attack Cemetery Hill and Culp’s Hill later in the battle but failed to dislodge the Yankees from their position.

1864 would see Early play a prominent role in the Army of Northern Virginia’s defense against U.S. Grant’s Overland campaign. He would occasionally become acting commander of the Second and Third Corps due to the illness of Ewell and A. P. Hill, fighting at the Wilderness, Spotsylvania Court House, and Cold Harbor.

Promoted to the rank of Lieutenant General, on June 12, 1864 Lee sent Early and the Second Corps from the defense of besieged Petersburg to the Shenandoah Valley to drive the Union army away and to relieve pressure on Lee’s remaining army. Early’s military reputation would largely rest on this campaign. First, Early joined John C. Breckinridge and saved Lynchburg which was threatened by David Hunter. Then with Lee’s support, Early and his small force headed for the Lower Valley and a possible strike north of the Potomac. After failing to drive Franz Sigel from Harper’s Ferry at Maryland Heights, Early crossed into Maryland and captured Frederick. While Early haggled with the city fathers for a ransom and supplies, his army then met Lew Wallace’s hastily assembled force at the Monocacy River on July 9 and were delayed for a critical day before Wallace withdrew and the road to Washington City was open.

On July 11, Early and his vanguard arrived before the city’s formidable string of fortifications which at that point were undermanned. However, Early hesitated while waiting for the rest of his army to arrive on a hot summer day. By the next day, elements of the VI Corps of the Army of the Potomac sent by Grant were arriving to thwart any Confederate attack. Best remembered was the presence of President Abraham Lincoln at Fort Stevens to observe the skirmishing. Early’s raid ended with his escape back across the Potomac to the Shenandoah Valley as the Federals did not immediately pursue him.

This soon led to Grant’s appointment of Phil Sheridan, commander of his Cavalry Corps, to head a consolidated command (the VI and XIX Corps and the Kanawha Corps from West Virginia) to drive the Confederates from the Valley and destroy the breadbasket of Lee’s army. This would lead to the destruction of Early and his reputation as a commander. However, first Early routed the Federals at Second Kernstown on July 24. He then ordered cavalry under John McCausland to ransom Chambersburg, Maryland. When this demand was refused, the town was burned down. The justification was retaliation for David Hunter’s earlier devastation of Lexington and other locations in the Valley on Grant’s order.

On September 19, Sheridan moved against Early in the battle of Third Winchester. After troubles in the beginning, a sweeping attack by Sheridan’s cavalry finally led to Early’s defeat. Retreating south to Fisher’s Hill, Early’s army was again routed on September 22 by a flanking attack led by George Crook’s troops. Seemingly no longer able to hold back Sheridan, Early nevertheless struck back in a surprise attack orchestrated by John B. Gordon at Cedar Creek on October 19. With Sheridan away, his army was initially scattered in an early morning attack in the fog. Then, with Gordon urging further assaults, Early demurred. Inspired by Sheridan’s return after his famous ride from Winchester, a reconstituted Union army counterattacked and again routed Early’s army. Early would claim that his halt and defeat was caused by many of his soldiers looting the captured Union camps. Sheridan’s victory was seen as sealing Lincoln’s election in November, 1864.

Most of the remnants of Early’s Valley army were returned to Lee at Petersburg. Early remained with a skeleton observation force as Sheridan continued to burn the Valley’s farms to deny supplies to Lee’s army. Finally, on March 2, 1865, Early’s tiny force at Waynesboro at a Blue Ridge mountain gap was virtually destroyed with Early barely escaping. Thus ended Early’s Valley campaign and military career. His eventual loss of the Valley would be unfavorably compared to Stonewall Jackson’s acclaimed 1862 Valley campaign.

Early sought another command but on March 30, shortly before the fall of Petersburg and Lee’s retreat, Early was dismissed from the army by Lee. While thanking Early for his service to the Confederacy, Lee said that he could no longer command the support of the people and the confidence of the soldiers.
With Lee’s surrender. Early refused to follow his example. Instead, he headed on horseback to join Kirby Smith’s Trans-Mississippi army which surrendered before Early’s arrival in Texas. He then went into exile in Mexico, then Havana, Cuba, and then in Toronto, Canada, where he wrote his memoir, mostly about his Valley campaign.

Pardoned in 1868 by President Andrew Johnson, Early returned to Virginia in 1869. For the rest of his life before he died in 1894, Early was one of the most prominent proponents of the “Lost Cause”. He notably criticized James Longstreet, blaming him for Lee’s Gettysburg defeat. He also became embroiled in disputes with several other Confederate generals including Gordon, John Mosby, and William Mahone.

Related link:
The Battle of Cedar Creek


Benjamin Franklin Cooling III. Jubal Early: Robert E. Lee’s “Bad Old Man” (2014)

Gary Gallagher, ed. Struggle for the Shenandoah Valley: Essays on the 1864 Campaign (Kent State University Press, 1991)

Marc Leepson. Desperate Engagement: How a Little-Known Civil War Battle Saved Washington, D.C., and Changed the Course of American History (2008)

Charles Osborne. Jubal: The Life and Times of General Jubal A. Early, CSA, Defender of the Lost Cause (1992)

Jeffrey D. Wert. From Winchester to Cedar Creek: The Shenandoah Campaign of 1864 (1987)

Click on any of the book links on this page to purchase from Amazon. Part of the proceeds from any book purchased from Amazon through the CCWRT website is returned to the CCWRT to support its education and preservation programs.