11 May 2018

Civil War Trust Members Oppose Removing Confederate Monuments


That appears to be the take away from the nation's largest and oldest battlefield preservation organization's recent survey, which I posted about previously. I think it's important to note that CWT members are, by the very fact of their CWT membership, seriously engaged and involved in the study of the Civil War and, it's safe to assume, more knowledgeable about the war than the average American. The rank and file CWT members are passionate about the study of the war and about preserving the hallowed ground of battlefields. I think this adds weight to their opinion on the topic.

The survey results, while somewhat mixed, definitely reveal that an overwhelming majority (83.2%) of these folks oppose moving Civil War (particularly Confederate) monuments. A slim majority favors adding interpretation.

Then there's the opinions expressed about Robert E. Lee. Despite the widespread efforts among many academic historians to disparage Lee's character and motives, a whopping 91.1% of survey respondents agree with this statement:
Robert E. Lee was a product of his time, a Mexican War hero, and a top Army officer of his day. Even though he fought for the Confederacy, he still exhibited many honorable traits, and sought to heal the wounds of division after the Civil War. He is still worthy of respect today.
Less than 9% agreed with this statement about Lee:
Robert E. Lee turned his back on his country and his flag when he decided to fight for the Confederacy. He is not someone who should be held up as a person worthy of respect in society today.
That is stunning given the current environment. One might conclude, based on these survey results, that those attacking Lee's character are, despite all the noise, having little impact among the majority of those who are serious students of the Civil War. They are, however, getting lots of notice and are seeing results politically; i.e. the removal and renaming of monuments, buildings, etc. It is a strange dichotomy.

Here's another surprise result from the survey:

Question:
Interpretation of our nation's rich history changes over time. America seems to be experiencing shifts in interpretation of, particularly, the Civil War era, which concern many people, especially as it relates to the Confederacy. What is your opinion toward the Confederacy and how it should be viewed in our society today?
Again, an overwhelming majority of 82.6% chose this as their response:
The Confederacy certainly seceded from the Union, and slavery was an evil institution, but people who lived during the Civil War were the product of the times in which they lived, and we should not rush to judge them based on the standards of today's society.
And only 17.4% agreed with the following statement:
The Confederacy rebelled against the Union, supported slavery, and its leader committed treason against the lawfully elected government. It is time to stop romanticizing the "Lost Cause" and set the record straight.
Those numbers are diametrically opposed to what many (if not most) "mainstream" academic Civil War historians are writing these days and what you read on many (if not most) "mainstream" Civil War blogs. This begs the question: Are these CWT members a bunch of ignorant "Lost Causers" or are academic historians simply out of touch pushing a less than objective perspective of the Civil War? It's a serious question. They can't both be so far apart and both be right. Some very prominent historians are already on record stating that academic historians are out of touch--in general--and not just with Civil War history in particular. Does the CWT survey provide more evidence of such an opinion?

And if you assume that most of the survey respondents were Southerners with Confederate ancestors, you'd be wrong. A much larger percentage were from the Northeast vs. the South and almost twice as many respondents claimed Union soldiers as ancestors as those who claimed to be descended from Confederate soldiers. Interesting indeed.

You may read the complete survey results below.

Monument Survey Results
5,122 Responses
Question 1: The issue of removing Civil War Monuments, particularly Confederate monuments which were erected after the war in public spaces such as town squares, courthouse lawns, libraries, etc., has exploded onto the nation's consciousness. Please select the statement below which most closely aligns with your opinion:
I support keeping all war monuments, from any conflict, exactly where they are, with no added interpretation or explanation needed

I support keeping monuments where they are, but would support adding additional interpretation, if needed, of the circumstances of how each monument may have come into being, to add to the story of our nation’s history

I support the removal of Confederate statues from public spaces if that is what the local community wants to do

32.6%
50.6%
16.8%

Question 2: There is some concern that if Confederate monuments in public spaces are removed, monuments on battlefields may soon face a similar fate. What is your opinion of those monuments on battlefields, whether or not they are owned by the federal government (through the National Park Service), a state or local government, or a private entity such as the Civil War Trust?
I support the removal of Confederate monuments on Civil War battlefields

I do not support the removal of Confederate monuments on Civil War battlefields

3.1%
96.9%


Question 3: There have been calls for the Civil War Trust to take action to provide protection or sanctuary for any statue that is being removed. Seeing as how this would be a departure from the Trust's stated mission of saving battlefield land, and could cost hundreds of thousands of dollars per year in transportation, maintenance and other expenses, such a move could negatively impact the Trust's ability to save threatened hallowed ground. What is your opinion?
The Trust should immediately get into the business of saving monuments, even if it means that we cannot save as much actual battlefield land

The Trust should offer limited support to local groups or national heritage organizations who are better situated to take the lead in this effort, but keep the focus on battlefields

The Trust should stay out of the monument preservation business altogether, and should keep its focus on saving hallowed ground

13.1%
50.9%
36.0%

Question 4: Interpretation of our nation's rich history changes over time. America seems to be experiencing shifts in interpretation of, particularly, the Civil War era, which concern many people, especially as it relates to the Confederacy. What is your opinion toward the Confederacy and how it should be viewed in our society today?
The Confederacy rebelled against the Union, supported slavery, and its leader committed treason against the lawfully elected government. It is time to stop romanticizing the "Lost Cause" and set the record straight

The Confederacy certainly seceded from the Union, and slavery was an evil institution, but people who lived during the Civil War were the product of the times in which they lived, and we should not rush to judge them based on the standards of today's society

17.4%

82.6%


Question 5: Statues of Robert E. Lee in particular have emerged as flashpoints in cities such as Charlottesville and New Orleans. What is your opinion of Lee?
Robert E. Lee turned his back on his country and his flag when he decided to fight for the Confederacy. He is not someone who should be held up as a person worthy of respect in society today.

Robert E. Lee was a product of his time, a Mexican War hero, and a top Army officer of his day. Even though he fought for the Confederacy, he still exhibited many honorable traits, and sought to heal the wounds of division after the Civil War. He is still worthy of respect today

8.9%

91.1%


Question 6: Did you have any ancestors who fought in the Civil War (of those who responded)?
Union
Confederate
Both
None/Don’t know
24%
13.7%
15.7%
46.6%

Question 7: Which part of the country are you from?

Northeast
Mid-Atlantic
Southeast
Deep South
Midwest
Plains
Southwest
Northwest
West
25.7%
18.6%
8.9%
8.3%
26%
2%
4.8%
1.7%
4%

2 comments:

Phil said...

I suspect that one reason other blogs are not discussing the Civil War Trust (CWT) survey results is because the Civil War Trust is not publicizing the results. I, for one, was unaware of the results until I saw your blog post Perhaps the results were only made available to subscribers to "The Hollowed Ground", which is a magazine published by the trust.

I can find no record of a press release. The only newspaper that I have seen that discussed the results is *The Washington Examiner.* It provided no link to a press release summarizing the results.

I am suspicious that the CWT really does not want the results widely publicized because they do not support the dominant opinions of academia, which appears to be the chief source of articles for the CWT website.

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Hi Phil. Yes, my source stated that the results were shared with members. And I'm just cynical enough to believe that your last paragraph is at least a possibility. However, the CWT did make this public announcement late last year:

"As a general rule, we believe monuments should remain where they were erected."

Source:
https://www.battlefields.org/message-headquarters-september-21-2017

The Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation has been even more vocal about preserving monuments:

“SVBF is opposed to the wholesale eradication or removal of plaques, statues, monuments, place names, and other public honors associated with the history and heritage of the United States.”

Source:
http://www.shenandoahatwar.org/shenandoah-valley-battlefields-foundation-issues-major-statement-on-civil-war-monuments/

My opinion pretty much lines up with SVBF:

“Rather than taking down Confederate monuments, we should be adding additional monuments that address the subjects of slavery, the Underground Railroad, self-emancipation, U.S.C.T. service, the 13th through 15th amendments, reconstruction, the Jim Crow era, and the Civil Rights Acts. Existing monuments should be kept intact, but can often be complemented with interpretative signage that provides context and reflects a broader history than the monument itself evidences.”

I've been involved in this approach directly as I've authored/co-authored and helped sponsor 2 historical highway markers here in VA which address some much overlooked aspects of our history.

See here: http://www.markerhistory.com/john-jasper-marker-f-99/

And here: https://www.hmdb.org/marker.asp?marker=23800

Add, don't subtract.