The surge in the movement to remove Confederate monuments has been prominent lately in the news, but not everyone believes they should be taken down.
“The monuments are symbols of Southern culture,” said Danny Francis, lieutenant commander of the Sons of Confederate Veterans’ Brigadier Gen. Barnard E. Bee Camp No. 1575. “The people like the governors that want to take the monuments down, they’re saying that they’re bad and they were put up to intimidate Black people, but that’s not true. The monuments were erected by the (United) Daughters of the Confederacy after the war for the generals that fought bravely in the battles and so forth. Basically, the generals like Robert E. Lee and Nathan Bedford Forrest were fighting against an invading enemy. They were our heroes.”
The Barnard E. Bee Camp organizes the Battle of Aiken, an annual living history event. Francis is the chairman of the Battle of Aiken, and he said he has served as the Barnard E. Bee Camp’s commander nine times “over the past 20 years.”
The Aiken Standard also talked to another former commander of the Barnard E. Bee Camp, Pete Peters, who is spokesman for the camp and the Battle of Aiken.
“Many of our members and myself feel like history should not be erased with the destruction of monuments,” Peters said. “The recent threats to and assaults on George Washington, Theodore Roosevelt, Andrew Jackson, Abraham Lincoln, Gen. (Ulysses) Grant, Christopher Columbus, World War II and Civil War monuments is quite disturbing. All aspects of history are being attacked.”
Erasing history is a bad thing, Peters said, because “you know the old saying, you should study history so you don’t repeat it. And then other people would say about history that you have to know where you came from to know where you’re going as a culture.”
Like Francis, Peters discussed why Confederate monuments were erected after the Civil War.
“When they were put up, mainly by the United Daughters of the Confederacy and the Confederate Memorial Association, it was from 1870 to 1920 primarily,” he said. “One way of looking at these things is that so many people died on distant battlefields and their bodies are in unknown graves, so to them (monument builders), these were the tombstones of their loved ones that participated in the war. So, a lot of those who are historically minded would think that you wouldn’t want to take down somebody’s tombstone.”
Another issue that Peters believes is relevant to the Confederate monument issue is the reason for the Civil War.
“The are a lot of arguments and debate as to what caused the war,” he said. “The Sons of Confederate Veterans fundamentally believe that the war was not specifically started to emancipate the slaves. We believe the war was over tariffs, and that’s why the South seceded. Roughly, the South through the tariff system paid 80% of the taxes of the United States, and 80% of the expenditures of the United States government was for internal improvements in the United States in the North like the Erie Canal.
“From a military aspect,” he continued, “if secession had been allowed by the Union, there would not have been a war. But when they invaded the Southern states, the local population had to raise their military and defend their homes. So for that reason, specifically, that they were fighting to defend their states, is why we honor them and why Congress actually declared they were American veterans.”