Larry Yates' campaign to rename Winchester's Jubal Early Drive after Union Major Gen. Robert Milroy (Letters, March 26, Northern Virginia Daily) so disparages the old Confederacy that even my Yankee Civil War reenactment friends will be astounded; anyone note the disrespectful reference to the "short-lived so-called 'Confederate Army'"?
To be sure, neither general's personality justified attaching his name to much of anything. Early was an unreconstructed racist to boot, whose hard views accorded with those of his contemporaries, Lincoln included. Milroy was an abolitionist in the mould of John Brown. However, in the rush to re-christen the roadway, are there not other considerations?
For example: comparisons of military accomplishment show Milroy the loser. Early wins whether in Mexico, in Florida against the Seminoles, or with the Army of Northern Virginia; certainly as victor over Milroy at the Second Battle of Winchester! A "demented and frantic battlefield general," Milroy is chiefly remembered for debacles.
More to the point, Milroy's six-month occupation of Winchester was a succession of cruelties, punctuated with looting and pillaging in Berryville, Front Royal and Strasburg. His Winchester performance even transformed local Unionists into Confederates! Winchester ladies compared him to "Beast" Butler in New Orleans. As he wrote his wife: "both males and females tremble when they come into my presence... I feel a strong disposition to play the tyrant among these traitors."
When Early threw Milroy out of Winchester, one chronicler observed that "the citizens seemed perfectly wild with joy... ." When Milroy returned in 1868, he was again thrown out.
I am amazed that anyone should seek to fasten Gen. Milroy once more upon the people of Winchester. If I shared Mr. Yates' hostile fixation upon Gen. Early and the "lost cause" ethos, and were also happy to embellish Winchester's old enemies, and disparage Gen. Early and the Confederacy by applying modern morality to those who lived 150 years ago, I would counsel Mr. Yates to just forget Milroy. Rather, go for real military quality, find a better northern general with valley service! How about the "Gen. Philip H. Sheridan Drive?"
Richard W. Hoover, Front Royal,
Member, Sons of Confederate Veterans