Dead Confederates, A Civil War Era Blog

Beating a Dead Traveller

Posted in Memory by Andy Hall on July 13, 2014

You had to know that Brandon Dorsey, the local Confederate Heritage™ guy in Lexington, would be all over the Washington and Lee flag business, calling for the university to “return the mausoleum to the ownership of the Lee Memorial Association.” I’m not sure who Dorsey is talking about, as the Lee Memorial Association that originally funded the mausoleum appears to have furled its banner decades ago. There’s a present-day Robert E. Lee Memorial Association that operates Stratford Hall, that was begun in New York state and adopted its current name when it moved to Virginia in the 1970s, but that’s (1) clearly not the same group as in the 1880s, and (2) is one that has no claim, legal or otherwise, to the site at W&L.

Dorsey, who calls W&L President Ken Ruscio “the nations [sic.] most notorious grave robber,” has a pretty abysmal track record as a coordinator of protests going back to the Lexington flag ordinance in 2011. That ordinance passed easily, despite Dorsey’s efforts to bring in dozens of people from out of town to tell the Lexington City Council how to run their little city; his campaign to oust Mayor Mimi Elrod, that also relied heavily on people not actually from Lexington, came to naught in 2012 when Elrod won re-election by a wider margin than before; the lawsuit against the city he encouraged in federal court was a complete bust, and his ongoing boycott of the city has had no observable effect on the local tourist economy.

He did successfully coordinate the installation of a fiberglass statue of Stonewall Jackson with a sword in one hand and a golden cross in the other, by the same sculptor who did the dinosaurs-eating-Yankees amusement park, so there’s that.

Interestingly, in making his call for W&L to turn over the mausoleum to a private organization that appears not to exist, Dorsey cites the wording of the original 1882 agreement transferring the mausoleum to the school:


That upon the completion of the mausoleum and its inauguration under the auspices of this Association the title to, and the care and custody of, both the mausoleum and the marble statue of General Lee shall be vested in the corporation of Washington and Lee University, upon the sacred trust that the mausoleum shall be preserved as a perpetual place of sepulture for the remains of Gen. R. E. Lee, and of Mrs. Lee, and of such other members of their family as it maybe the pleasure of the family to have interred there, and that the building and statue shall receive from the authorities of the University such care and attention from time to time as shall be needful for their preservation; and upon the further trust that neither the mausoleum, nor the ground upon which it is erected, nor the statue and appurtenances of the mausoleum, shall ever be in any way, or to any extent, liable for any claim against, or debt of said University, or be charged with any mortgage, deed of trust, or other encumbrance.


Dorsey doesn’t explain why this particular passage is important, perhaps because it isn’t.  Nothing Washington and Lee has done violates this agreement. They haven’t mortgaged the mausoleum, or put it up as collateral, or interfered with the interments of Lee and his family. They removed decorative flags that wouldn’t be added for almost another fifty years, as is their prerogative as owners of the Washington and Lee Chapel.

Everything I’ve read about Lee suggests to me that he abhorred flashy showmanship, and was more than a little uncomfortable with the fame and renown he achieved during his lifetime. As I said last week, he didn’t use his five years as president of Washington College to turn the school  into the Confederate shrine some people today want it to be, and I genuinely believe he would be embarrassed by the desire by some to make his and his family’s resting place a shrine of quasi-religious veneration, a sort of Confederate Lourdes or a Dixified version of the Kaaba. I certainly don’t believe he would have any patience with the hair-on-fire shriekers who use his memory as an excuse to engage in the most vile sort of threats, name-calling and accusation in defense of Confederate Heritage. The real, live Robert Edward Lee, a Virginia patrician first and last, wouldn’t have had those people in his front parlor.



Checking Back on Lexington

Posted in Memory by Andy Hall on January 17, 2014



Today is the Friday before the third Monday in January, and that means it’s  Lee-Jackson Day in Virginia. This seems like an opportune time to check in on Lexington, and see how the Virginia Flaggers’ boycott of the city is going.

Long-time readers here will recall that, as part of their campaign to force the city council to reverse its September 2011 flag ordinance, Confederate Heritage™ advocates urged area residents and visitors to boycott city businesses as a means of putting pressure on the council.

When we last checked, the city had released its comprehensive financial report for FY2012 (July 1, 2011 to June 30, 2012), that covered a period for about ten months after the council vote and the initiation of the boycott. The results were pretty good for the citizens of Lexington, but not so good for those actively working to harm that city’s tourist economy — business activity as measured by sales tax revenue, restaurant food tax revenue and hotel/motel tax revenue all improved substantially over FY2011.



So how did things go in FY2013 (July 1, 2012 to June 30, 2013)? As it turns out, by those same measures, FY2013 was another good year for tourism-related business in Lexington. Here are the numbers from the city’s Comprehensive Annual Financial Report for FY2013 (p. 91):




Note that in each of those tourism-related categories, actual revenues exceeded the city’s own budget projections by several thousand dollars (last column).

So after nearly two years of a tourism boycott led by local SCV leader Brandon Dorsey and promoted by the Virginia Flaggers, what’s been the effect on revenues for the city? An increase of nearly $340K over FY2011 levels, led by a whopping 25.5% boost in restaurant food tax revenue in the past year alone:




I know Dorsey and the Virginia Flaggers want folks to believe that Lexington has turned its back on Lee and Jackson — a claim that seems ludicrous, given those mens’ prominence in local tourism literature (above) — but their boycott doesn’t seem to be having any more more effect than the”Boot Elrod” campaign did in 2012, when the Lexington mayor was re-elected with a larger share of the vote than in 2008. Unemployment in Lexington remains higher than the national average, but it has been for a long time, since well before the flag ordinance, and is substantially lower than in September 2011. The reality is that Lexington’s tourism-related business numbers are strong, and that part of the local economy is doing better than the U.S. national economy overall.

I sure hope Brandon Dorsey and the Virginia Flaggers decide to organize a boycott of tourism in my town; we could use the boost!