By Michael Ford, Alexandria (File photo)
To the editor:
I see that city council has decided to request the state government approve the relocation of the Confederate war statue at the corner of Prince and South Washington streets, which I think is a bad idea.
The soldier carries no rifle or pistol, nor proud banner; his hat is removed. He has an expression of regret and loss, a perfect symbol of the Confederate cause. I have Confederate soldiers in my own family tree, as well as Union troops. One such Confederate, who never owned slaves, was a farmer and left behind a diary, in which he wrote:
“Arrived home from this bloody ruthless and unjust war, July 18 with a very sad heart with the thought of leaving many dear friends behind me, never again to return. With what I have seen [I] have become so disgusted that I wish to admonish my friends and relatives to stop — when the war cry is sounded by the newspapers and few of the big boys of the land, consider well the merit of the cry and never engage in war with the least shadow of doubt in your minds.”
This statement of his well matches the expression of the Confederate soldier who stands at the intersection of Prince and Washington. The diary goes on:
“Again [there] might be angels in the shape of a woman condensed to taunt you and ridicule you for not going to war; have the moral courage to say that I will never engage in such an unholy thing.
“Stick to it even if you have to leave your own land to evade it and you will be amply rewarded. In this war just ended I have known many who did not want to enlist or volunteer but were influenced by the illegitimate influences, and now their bones are bleaching far from home and friends, their graves erased, not even a board to mark the lonely spot.
“Now many of these same persons who influenced them into the war are now condemn- ing those poor unfortunate creatures and branding them hot headed rebels. This is the pay you get for not saying, ‘No.’”
The statue is not a glorification of the Confederate cause, but rather a rebuke of it. The soldier stands with the echoes of regret and loss. His visage is one of anguish and grief.
City council will do what it wants, regardless of time, history or the desires of the people, but I would like to see it stay, as a reminder of the cost of war. I understand renaming Jefferson Davis Highway, since Davis was unrepentant and never sought redemption, but to take the Appomattox statue down is different. It is a statue not to the glory or war, but to the reproach of it.