Dead Confederates, A Civil War Era Blog

Moving Day at the MoC, and Other Stuff

Posted in Memory by Andy Hall on January 27, 2019

Last week the Museum of the Confederacy in Richmond began moving its collections from its old location in the middle of the VCU Medical Center to its new location at Tredegar, where a new, expanded exhibition facility will open in May 2019 under the aegis of the American Civil War Museum. The MoC closed that location to the public in September, although the adjacent “White House of the Confederacy” remains open for tours. Although this move has been an obvious and inevitable part of the consolidation of the MoC and the American Civil War Center at Historic Tredegar that was announced five years ago, and referenced many times since, the actual sight of moving vans outside the old MoC facility has set off the usual bluster and shouty nonsense it did back then. Longtime readers may recall that in August 2014 the Virginia Division of the SCV was soliciting funds to fight that merger in court;  I wonder whatever became of that, because as far as I know they never actually, you know, filed a lawsuit. So what happened to the money?

As Kevin notes, the Battle Flag taken down from the State House grounds in Columbia, South Carolina in 2015 has gone on display in the South Carolina Confederate Relic Room and Military Museum, with an accompanying caption that completely ignores the events and rationale that led to its removal in the first place. Kevin calls this a “betrayal of the Charleston Nine,” and he’s right. I’ll add only two additional descriptors: cowardly and dishonest.

Also in South Carolina, the South Carolina Secessionist Party, which has been the most prominent and vitriolic heritage group in the state, has formally dissolved because — well, it’s not quite clear why. Based on a close reading of the article, it sounds like the group may have become too extremist for its long-time chairman, James Bessenger, who said that “the organization was taking a turn I didn’t want it to take.” Lie down with dogs, etc.

A few weeks ago the Texas State Preservation Board voted to remove the “Children of the Confederacy” plaque in the Capitol in Austin, which was done shortly thereafter. While the plaque had been the subject of controversy for some time, the move by the Preservation Board caught some folks off-guard. This past Friday, the board convened a meeting to discuss what should become of the plaque, and they got an earful from folks opposed to the move, particularly without having had a period for public comment before making their decision to remove it in the first place. In Friday’s meeting, the board ended up putting off a final decision on the disposition of the plaque until after a 90-day waiting period for public comment. Perhaps the way forward was suggested by Martha Hartzog of the UDC, who argued since the plaque was never formally gifted to the State of Texas, it should be returned to the UDC are the parent organization of the Children of the Confederacy group. That seems workable to me. (Full disclosure here: Martha is a friend of mine.)

In 2017 the City of Dallas removed a large equestrian statue of Robert E. Lee from a local park. Recently the city began removing the granite plinth on which it sat, prompting a new lawsuit by Warren Johnson, head of a group called “Return Lee to Lee Park.” (Johnson is apparently a plaintiff in a separate lawsuit over the removal of the statue itself.) Johnson claims that the removal of both the statue and the base violates his own First Amendment rights, which seems to me to be a non-starter; no government or organization is obligated to place or maintain a monument simply because Johnson (or you, or I) think they should. Johnson also argues that the City of Dallas is “exercising viewpoint discrimination against works of art,” which reflects a recent narrative among the heritage folks that Confederate monuments should be preserved irrespective of their subject or content, simply for their aesthetic properties as works of art. I honestly doubt that argument will stand in court, given the Supreme Court’s 2015 ruling in Walker v. Texas SCV that states (and presumably their subdivisions, like counties and cities) have their own autonomy to decide what message they will convey through their own property.

Finally, in response to a posting about the Dallas lawsuit at the Southern Heritage News & Views, there are a long series of responses promoting the white identity movement, rancidly anti-Semetic tropes, and straight-up advertising for the Confederate Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. (Here’s a screen shot of that last one, in the event it gets taken down.) Useful to know who these folks are, what they believe, and who they are willing to have in their ranks.

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4 Responses

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  1. jcburden said, on January 27, 2019 at 10:46 pm

    Thanks for a great summary — lots of disparate threads coming together there.

    • Andy Hall said, on January 27, 2019 at 11:01 pm

      All of these things burbled up in the last several days.

  2. Msb said, on January 28, 2019 at 1:34 pm

    Kevin Levin seems to be right that the news shows signs of Lost Causer retreat, but I fear that that mule, however bad his health, has at least a few final kicks left. But I was surprised by the speed and finality of the departure of Silent Sam.

    • Andy Hall said, on January 28, 2019 at 1:37 pm

      There is a hard, residual, revanchist core that will always be there, like clinker on a furnace grate.


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