Richard Hoover: We need to cherish our history

Richard W. Hoover

Growing up in the North, I believed that everything Confederate and southern was just as American as everything Union and northern. I knew, for example, that those who actually fought the Civil War, long afterwards, had treated their old enemies with respect. As a boy, I read of reconciliation at veterans’ reunions and of the South’s patriotic outpouring in the Spanish American War, a southern outpouring of love for America which continues today, much of it manifested by volunteering for military service. I was aware how northerners and southerners read and respected each other’s history, and I embraced it all.

In other words, we have a patriotic background here to be cherished, a history of sectional reconciliation that would make any nation feel strong and proud. In this sense, the possible removal of a Confederate flag from the Columbia State House grounds, and such removals yet to come, are acts of undoing. Worse, they turn the care of our national past over to a new breed, whether white or black, whose marks are political expediency, ethnic primacies, disrespect and terrible ignorance.

An example: Wednesday night on CNN, South Carolina Sixth District Congressman James Clyburn aimed disparaging epithets at Confederate flag defenders and attacked them for duplicity; the Confederate battle flag presently flying on the grounds of the State House, he argued, was that of the Army of Northern Virginia. As such, it was clearly not a standard under which South Carolinians had fought and ought to come down!

The congressman, who appears as disrespectful as he is crushingly ignorant of his state’s history, should have known that South Carolinians formed a prominent part of General Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia and had served long under its flag. In fact, I count roughly 20 South Carolina units at Gettysburg, whether of regimental or brigade size, whether infantry, artillery or cavalry. Had Clyburn not heard of South Carolina’s Wade Hampton (Jeb Stuart’s successor as Lee’s commander of cavalry) or of Joseph B. Kershaw (also Army of Northern Virginia), one of the six Confederate generals from proud Camden?

How appalling it would be if even the most hide-bound conservative congressman from South Carolina had never heard of Charleston’s Grimke sisters or of Denmark Vesey! Could there be much cultural and political reconciliation with such an ignoramus? Or, with the likes of Clyburn?

And a finer point where Clyburn is wrong again: ironically, the flag on the State House grounds is not patterned after the Army of Northern Virginia battle flag, as he had it, but after something much closer to his home, i.e. the pattern of the Charleston Depot flag, with its broad white border and enlarged stars nestling in the four corners of the St. Andrew’s Cross!

Other CNN guests last night spoke of the need to get rid of additional divisive symbols, intimating that the elimination the Confederate flag would be just for openers. One wonders what’s next; Richmond’s Monument Avenue, soldier monuments on court house lawns, the renaming of streets, parks, high schools and universities? In fact, what could be more divisive, say, in Virginia or South Carolina than the realization of such visions?

Clyburn and company have little to offer on the flag issue — only their feelings and emotions. These offerings are no substitute for the historical facts and truths about which they know little but, nevertheless, are happy to obliterate.

Richard Hoover, a retired Foreign Service officer, resides in southern Warren County. He is also a Lord Fairfax Soil & Water Conservation District candidate in the fall election.