Saturday, July 10, 2021

The Removal of Robert E. Lee's Statue from Charlottesville

Early this morning the statue of Robert E. Lee was finally removed from a park in the city of Charlottesville.  This issue had brought the awful racist riot on August 17, 2017, which led to Heather Heyer being killed by a racist in a car. A statue of Stonewall Jackson, long located on the city courthouse site, was also removed, as well as later in the day without warning a statue of Lewis and Clark with Sacajawea. The statues are going into city storage with the ultimate destination of these statues still to be determined. The statue of Lee in Richmond remains in place, more seriously in place.  It took a change in Virginia state law in 2020 to allow the City of Charlottesville to remove these statues.

I note that the statue of Lee in Charlottesville, an impressive piece that I have always thought looked pretty impressive, was only put up in 1926, with the photo of the event showing what it was really about, a manifestation of Jim Crow, with many people in the photo of that inauguration in full white robes of the KKK. Really.

I have a family link to all this.  It is fact that Lee himself opposed putting up any statues to himself. His official view was that war was over and people needed to move on. This was shown in two letters he wrote.  One was to a group who wanted to put a statue of him at Gettysburg. Lee said no.  The other was a letter to my relative Gen. Thomas Lafayette Rosser, who also was supporting a statue of him somewhere, and Lee said no, in that letter laying out this "move on" argument. Ironically Gen. Rosser is buried in Charlottesville off the same street, Market Street, where Lee's statue long sat. On Rosser's grave it is noted that he was a true follower of Lee.

Barkley Rosser 


Anonymous said...

Lee was right on that at least, perhaps a monument to Heather instead. said...

Her name is painted on a wall next to where she was killed on 4th Street there. said...

Given that Anonymous has linked to a Wikipedia entry on Thomas L. Rosser, I shall note there are some minor errors in it.

Rather than dig in to those I shall note some items that are not in there at all, with them sort of a mixed bag of complimentary and not so much so.

One not all that complimentary is that it does not bring out that he was outright fired by the Canadian Pacific Railway for inside dealing. It did not mention the town named after him in Manitoba. It mentioned another similar but lower key case, but in the case of Rosser, Manitoba, he basically decided that there would be a station at the location, then bought up the land around it, and made a lot of money when the station was built and the town was founded named for him. They got rid of him, but this is where he got the money to build the mansion on Rosser Lane in Charlottesville that is still known locally as "the Rosser mansion" although it has been used for student housing for many decades now, not too far from the UVa campus.

Then there is the matter that even though he had been this big Confederate, he befriended Theodore Roosevelt during the Spanish-American War. When TR became president in 1901, he appointed TLR to become postmaster in Charlottesville, which Rosser accepted. Accepting an appointment from this Progressive Republican led many of his old friends to have nothing to do with him.

Finally, he defended Custer at Little Big Horn, saying the whole campaign was due to "scalawags" in Washington who broke the treaties made with the Sioux Indians, whom he also admired. While he was working in Canada with the Canadian Pacific Railroad, the refugee Sioux, who fled after their pyrhhic victory over Custer, led by Chief Sitting Bull, showed up at one point where Rosser was working. They were starving. He gave them food. In return, Chief Sitting Bull gave him some artifacts in return, and I now own one of those, a beaded band, that I bought at an auction in the mid-1980s when the general's grandaughter, Elizabeth Rosser, was going into a nursing home, and all the family artifacts were sold off.