Webb’s Last Ditch Attempt to Save the Confederate Memorial at Arlington

The Confederate Memorial in Arlington.
(Arlington National Cemetery photo by Rachel Larue)

by Shaun Kenney

Former Virginia Democratic U.S. Senator Jim Webb is begging federal officials to save the last remaining Confederate memorial at Arlington National Cemetery in a forceful op-ed to The Wall Street Journal. Webb writes:

[President William] McKinley understood the Civil War as one who had lived it, having served four years in the 23rd Ohio Infantry, enlisting as a private and discharged in 1865 as a brevet major. He knew the steps to take to bring the country fully together again. As an initial signal, he selected three Civil War veterans to command the Cuba campaign. Two, William Rufus Shafter, given overall command of the Cuban operation, and H.W. Lawton, who led the Second Infantry Division, the first soldiers to land in the war, had received the Medal of Honor fighting for the Union. The other, “Fighting Joe” Wheeler, the legendary Confederate cavalry general, led the cavalry units in Cuba, after being elected to Congress in 1880 from Alabama and working hard to bring national reconciliation.

Four days after the Spanish-American war ended, McKinley proclaimed in Atlanta: “In the spirit of fraternity we should share with you in the care of the graves of Confederate soldiers.” In that call for national unity the Confederate Memorial was born. It was designed by internationally respected sculptor Moses Jacob Ezekiel, a Confederate veteran and the first Jewish graduate of the Virginia Military Institute, who asked to be buried at the memorial in Arlington National Cemetery. On one face of the memorial is the finest explanation of wartime service perhaps ever written, by a Confederate veteran who later became a Christian minister: “Not for fame or reward, not for place or for rank; not lured by ambition or goaded by necessity; but in simple obedience to duty as they understood it; these men suffered all, sacrificed all, dared all, and died.”

Webb — an historian in his own right and the author of Born Fighting — explains briefly how the modern hagiography surrounding the Army of the Potomac fails to address the foundational interests of those who fought during the war:

The larger and ultimate question reaches further into America’s atrophied understanding of the Civil War itself. What was it that Union Army veteran McKinley understood about the Confederate soldiers who opposed his infantry units on the battlefield that eludes today’s monument smashers and ad hominem destroyers of historical reputations?

McKinley’s fellow soldiers understood that during the Civil War, four slave states remained in the Union—Maryland, Delaware, Missouri and Kentucky—and none of them were required to give up slavery during the entire war. And that in every major battle of the Civil War, slave owners in the Union Army fought against non-slave-owners in the Confederate Army. They understood that President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation did not free the slaves in those states or in the areas of the South that had already been conquered. The proclamation freed only slaves in the areas taken after it was issued. And in the eyes of a Confederate soldier, if Lincoln had not freed slaves in the union, why should the soldier be vilified for supposedly fighting on behalf of slavery?”

As if to reinforce the point, Webb invokes the memory of none other than the great African-American historian, John Hope Franklin:

Many soldiers in the North, and many more in the South, would have understood what John Hope Franklin (1915-2009), America’s most esteemed black historian, pointed out: In 1860 only 5% of whites in the South owned slaves, and less than 25% of whites benefited economically from slavery. An estimated 258,000 Confederate soldiers died in the war, about a third of all those who fought for the South. Few owned slaves. So why did they fight?

The soldier who wrote the inscription on the Confederate Memorial knew. And so did President McKinley and most veterans who have fought in America’s wars.

Webb concludes with a powerful example of national reconciliation in Vietnam, where after a bitter two-decade civil war, the Vietnamese struggled with their own reconciliation.  By way of example, Webb took a delegation to visit Arlington and showed them how Americans — after bitter conflict — effected their own reconciliation.

The Biden administration has ordered the removal of the Confederate memorial at Arlington by the end of 2023.

Shaun Kenney is the editor of The Republican Standard, former chairman of the Board of Supervisors for Fluvanna County, and a former executive director of the Republican Party of Virginia.

Republished with permission from The Republican Standard.

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39 responses to “Webb’s Last Ditch Attempt to Save the Confederate Memorial at Arlington”

  1. nuff said….. but will it be heard?

    1. James Kiser Avatar
      James Kiser

      Nope the thought police are in charge, waiting for the remains of the rebs to be dug and dumped somewhere.

  2. Matt Adams Avatar
    Matt Adams

    “The Biden administration has ordered the removal of the Confederate memorial at Arlington by the end of 2023.”

    Thus illustrating what everyone has said would happen. Now you’ve moved onto Cemeteries, next thing you know Battlefields will be off limits too.

    I guess it’s time we start the plans to dig up Section 16 and relocate it to some mass unmarked grave.

    1. Lefty665 Avatar

      Or just the battlefields where the wrong side won.

      1. Matt Adams Avatar
        Matt Adams

        Well when the last 3 out of 5 POTUS’s were draft dodgers for a singular war (one wasn’t old enough at least W joined the Guard), they don’t have much respect for those doing the dying.

        1. Lefty665 Avatar

          We don’t mistake Duhbya for someone actually showing up and serving. His enlistment was more notable for no shows. Wonder how demented old Joe avoided the draft? Couldn’t pass the test maybe?

          Before Clinton we’re back to WWII vets, where service was a major qualification for office. Poppy Bush got himself shot down in the Pacific, Reagan spent the war making propaganda films, Dole was a real wounded veteran. Only Carter and Eisenhower were career vets.

          1. Matt Adams Avatar
            Matt Adams

            True enough, but at least he didn’t run off to England to avoid service. So I’d say he’s only a half a fortunate son. POTUS Biden received 5 students draft deferments U of Del for Undergrad and Syracuse for Law school and a medical exemption (1-Y) for asthma as a teenager.

            Humm I seem to recall him touting his prowess on the football field, that would negate that there asthma thing.

            Which ironically enough is one more deferment than Trump, albeit Trump was also the 1-Y for his famous bone spurs.

          2. Lefty665 Avatar

            1-Y was an effective dodge. We can see the effects of demented old Joe’s asthma even today with his whispers during speeches.

  3. James Wyatt Whitehead Avatar
    James Wyatt Whitehead

    It is my hope that Moses Ezkiel’s masterpiece can find a new home at New Market. But it will probably be dismantled and put in storage. Hopefully with a bit more dignity than the fate of Richmond’s monuments. I suppose the Robert E. Lee Memorial (aka Arlington House) is next on the target package. This old school spiritual sung by both sides and in the black church may prove to be the final epitaph to this sad, sad story.

  4. William O'Keefe Avatar
    William O’Keefe

    A compelling case for leaving the monument where it is but it is very doubtful whether anyone will reverse the decision that has already been made, especially with 2024 being an election year.

    1. Matt Adams Avatar
      Matt Adams

      Unfortunately correct, no matter the cost. The BRC stated is would only cost $21 million to rename installations, now that price is currently over $39 million.

  5. That’s one monument I think should stay where it is.

  6. f/k/a_tmtfairfax Avatar

    Is Slow Joe going to have the memorial plaque at the Princeton Battlefield State Park that honors the Unknown American and British soldiers who died fighting the Battle of Princeton removed?

    Also, somewhere in Maryland, there is a memorial to the Hessian soldiers who fought for the British during the Revolution. That ought to go too.

    There’s a big difference between memorials in city parks and boulevards and those in cemeteries and battlefields. But when you start out with a lower-level intellect and also suffer from dementia, those differences may not be understood.

  7. DJRippert Avatar

    The real lesson for today is why the vast majority of Confederate soldiers (poor boys who never owned a slave and never believed they would ever own a slave) fought to the death for slavery.

    They were deceived by the southern elites, aka the plantation elite, in Virginia – the descendants of Pocahontas.

    They were told the North was waging a war of oppression, a battle against states’ rights. They were told that the North attacked the South for no reason other than a wicked desire to dominate.

    Most of the poor souls who died in the muddy fields of Antietam and elsewhere were literate – they could read and write. But it didn’t matter. The propaganda machine of the plantation elite only fed them what the machine wanted them to read.

    They would be heroes. The war would bring glory and honor to the South. In short order the South would win and a new country would be formed.

    Instead, the poor working men of the Confederacy were maimed, mutilated and left to die.

    The Confederate statues ought to say:

    “Here lie the remains of those who trusted the well connected, the slave owners, the plantation elite. They died for nothing.

    Never trust the politicians. Never trust the elite.”

    1. Nancy Naive Avatar
      Nancy Naive


      There’s one or two of these sprinkled about in the South… but damned few.

    2. James Wyatt Whitehead Avatar
      James Wyatt Whitehead

      The average Virginian fought because THEY came down here. See Lincoln’s call for 75,000 volunteers. Careful when calling out Pocahontas. There are over 30,000 descendants. You might actually be one of them.

      1. Nancy Naive Avatar
        Nancy Naive

        And only a handful of direct descendants of Thomas Jefferson…

        1. James Wyatt Whitehead Avatar
          James Wyatt Whitehead

          TJ is one who can make the claim. Pretty thin though. When you go back more than 2 or 3 generations you are just hound dog kin.

    3. Stephen Haner Avatar
      Stephen Haner

      Hardly the only war where that was true, DJ. Probably every American war except WW2 and perhaps the salvation of S. Korea? We hardly had a major stake in WW1 and the whole 19th Century Manifest Destiny thing was really ignoble. The Indian Wars?

      Reading your comment my mind went to the railyard scene in Gone With The Wind. That made your point well.

      1. We had a pretty significant stake in the War of 1812. Sure, it enabled that ‘ignoble’ Manifest Destiny thing, but it got the British out of our hair once and for all, albeit via Treaty, rather than victory on the field of battle.

        1. Lefty665 Avatar

          That unpleasantness in the 1770s was significant too, although the Brits did not manage to burn Washington in that one.

          1. Matt Adams Avatar
            Matt Adams

            Those Brits didn’t have the assistance of the overly polite Canadians the first go around.

    4. how_it_works Avatar

      “They were told the North was waging a war of oppression, a battle against states’ rights. They were told that the North attacked the South for no reason other than a wicked desire to dominate.”

      There are still people who believe that to this day.

  8. Nancy Naive Avatar
    Nancy Naive

    Last ditch? Promise?

  9. Stephen Haner Avatar
    Stephen Haner

    Waving the bloody shirt won elections 150 years ago and 100 years ago and everything old is new again. We’re back to waving the bloody shirt again. I remember when the liars said they’d leave the battlefield and cemetery memorials alone. Some of those lies appeared in these comment strings. But it keeps working obviously so they’ll keep pandering to a subset of voters by doing it.

    1. They also said they wouldn’t go after the founders of our country, but the rumblings have already begun.

      1. Lefty665 Avatar

        Hell, my high school removed George Mason’s name because he owned slaves. Author of the Virginia Declaration of Rights, and father of the Revolution in that he kept the young hot heads focused on fighting the British instead of each other, pshaw trivial. The rumblings have more than begun.

        1. You are correct. The actual canceling efforts have clearly begun.

          I think perhaps “rumblings” was a poor choice of words on my part.

          1. Lefty665 Avatar

            Nah that was a good choice, I’m just grumpy at my misbegotten home town.

          2. Lefty665 Avatar

            Nah, that was a good choice. I’m just grumpy at my home town.

  10. Mike Allen Avatar
    Mike Allen

    Crusade against white people. Not just Confederate monuments, but statues of Washington, Jefferson, Theo. Roosevelt, Christopher Columbus. All coming down. White people becoming a minority in our own country… is a good thing?

    1. What the heck did Theodore Roosevelt do wrong?

      1. Nancy Naive Avatar
        Nancy Naive

        Killed him a bear when he was only three…

        Oh wait, that was somebody else.

      2. Matt Adams Avatar
        Matt Adams

        He liked guns and hunting, probably.

        Edit: I was wrong, he was a “racist”.

        “The statue itself communicates a racial hierarchy that the Museum and members of the public have long found disturbing,” the museum wrote in its June request. This is conveyed in the statue’s composition: the white man, Roosevelt, is placed in the center on horseback while the other two men are behind him, walking.”


        1. And national parks

        2. Cavalry vs. Infantry?

          1. Matt Adams Avatar
            Matt Adams

            Or even Officer vs Enlisted in the Civil War on the Union side, eke gads.

            I would think the fact that FPOTUS Roosevelt was the OG progressive, it rather much lost of these new fangled ones.

        3. This is conveyed in the statue’s composition: the white man, Roosevelt, is placed in the center on horseback, while the other two men are behind him, walking.”

          It is a monument to Theodore Roosevelt. If it was a monument to the other two guys I’m sure they would have been front & center, and on horseback.

          1. Matt Adams Avatar
            Matt Adams

            Hey, no one ever said there was logic behind this blanket removal.

            This monument in Arlington is a prime example. It’s in a very specific section of the cemetery that you have to seek out to find. So you’re seeking out a reason to be offended. Clearly, they’ve never been to any Federal Cemetery that exists because of the Civil War, as the Union and Confederates are both buried in them. Merely fighting in the War provided the right to be buried in that ground.

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