Somewhere in my library I have a well-researched history book on happenings in Louisiana concerning racial violence during the Reconstruction era. You’ll have to pardon my laziness for not digging it out for reference. (see update below for reference) It tells the story of a siege and purge on a dominantly black town perpetrated by a Southern white militia that accused the inhabitance of menacing them. Not only were the perpetrators never brought to justice for their brutality, but a monument to them that still stands today was erected in the town square with their version of events scrawled across it, an injustice that left me shocked and tearfully speechless. My sympathies toward the removal of such monuments that were inappropriate from the day of erection then is not any wonder; we should not take countenance with lies, grave injustice, and the near undoing of everything the Northerners who died in the Civil War sacrificed to achieve.

My library is packed with history books on mostly antebellum US history through the turn of the 20th century. For those that I have on the Civil War, which I believe represent about a third of the total, I have been very particular in my choices, passing up the most plentiful ones on the military history of the war for those that concern the political history of it instead, because I am more interested in why a particular event happened as opposed to how. Most all of the books I have on that topic generally point to difficulties that resulted in the Civil War as arrogantly malign in nature, from the politically accepted murdering of abolitionists with the military, to theft of national resources and the spread of injuriously misleading information, none of which are actually taught in the public educational system. It is impossible for an average person to know the REAL story behind the war, and thus the persistent lies behind it, without outside investment and a personal drive to discover as much of the truth as possible 153 years later.

It may be that despite my investment, I am still no better informed than before. But in my opinion, the removal of monuments to figures of the Confederacy is not erasing or revision of history, but rather the erection of them was.

Jefferson Davis, the president of the Confederacy, for example, was not a hero. He was a former US senator and political opportunist who, prior to the war, ran unsuccessfully for the presidency, and was never legitimately elected by the Southern populace. His administration was, more or less, equivalent to a dictatorship, and at the end of the war, Davis and his cohorts loaded up the contents of the confederation’s treasury on a train headed for Florida. He was captured alone by the North in a secluded wooded area dressed as a woman during his attempted escape. As far as I am aware, the contents of his gold train were never recovered, against a backdrop of waste and abject poverty in the region as a result of the war that was hastily provoked and years of economic mismanagement.

It is thus questionable to me why anyone, including white southerners, would want to magnify this rather despicable legacy of self-interest by erecting statues of Davis in public squares, and attaching his name to streets, schools, and other public buildings, given his tyrannical leadership and the hardship and ruin wrought for which, even to his death, he never provided a mea culpa. And the ruin inflicted on the region, of course, is entirely a side note to the issue of slavery itself.

[Update] I found the book! The Day Freedom Died by Charles Lane