Some generals in the Confederate States Army have significant space in objective military histories.

Among the most extensively documented is Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson.

This military history is on display at National Park battlefields, the Virginia Museum of the Civil War in New Market, highway markers, books in our public libraries, and elsewhere.

The incontrovertible truth is that the proximate cause of secession and the ultimate strategic goal of the Confederacy in severing 11 states from the Union, was so that the slavery of African Americans could remain legal within their borders.

Prominence in military history in a war against our nation, to perpetuate slavery, is in no way deserving of a place of public honor, as in the naming of a school, meant to inspire our students in their academic, athletic, and artistic pursuits and preparation to achieve economic success and become informed and engaged citizens.

In addition to having Richmond operate as the capital of the Confederacy, Virginia was the leader among states in “Massive Resistance” to the Supreme Court’s “Brown v. Board of Education” decision of 1954, which declared that racially segregated public schools were unconstitutional.

In naming a new high school for Stonewall Jackson in 1959, Shenandoah County was a piece of this shameful policy. Our county’s schools were not fully integrated until 1964.

Prince William County is the location of the battlefield upon which Jackson was first called “Stonewall,” and is where the school board in June 2020 (during the height of the pandemic) renamed two schools that had been burdened with Jackson’s name.

The high school was renamed Unity Reed High School, to honor the “...legacy of Arthur Walter Reed Jr., long-time security assistant at Stonewall Jackson High School, ... who was beloved by students and staff.”

Stonewall Jackson Middle School was renamed Unity Braxton Middle School “[T]o honor the legacies of Celestine Braxton and Carroll Braxton. Celestine was a Prince William County Public Schools educator for 33 years [including] while Virginia schools were still racially segregated…

“Carroll Braxton was a Master Gunnery Sergeant in the U.S. Marine Corps. and a Congressional Gold Medal Recipient and one of 20,000 African-American Marines from 1942 to 1949. He trained at a segregated facility for basic training and served honorably in World War II and the Korean War, even serving as a combat instructor before retiring in 1980.”

Also joining the nationwide, ongoing, racial reckoning and reconciliation is the Virginia Military Institute (VMI), Jackson’s academic home from 1851 until 1861. On Dec. 7, 2020, VMI relocated a huge statue of General Jackson from its campus to the Virginia Museum of the Civil War.

The decision to retire Confederate generals’ names from our public schools, and to replace them with Mountain View High, and Honey Run Elementary, was made in 2020-2021, in concert with scores of school districts throughout Virginia and hundreds across the nation, as actions to further racial reconciliation and equity. It was an educationally, civically, and morally proper decision.

It should be affirmed.

Atwood has been a resident of Maurertown since 1978. Both while working full-time and after retiring from a 40-year federal civil service career, and 25 years of concurrent Naval Reserve service. He has been active in numerous local government and community volunteer organizations.

(3) comments

Valleynative

Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson was a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy who, when commissioned as an officer in the U.S. Army, took an oath to protect and defend the United States. Instead, he violated that oath and chose to fight against the United States and tear the country apart. Not only did he fight against his country, but he fought to defend the indefensible: slavery. References to other people in our history who owned slaves is a sordid comparison to fighting to preserve the institution of slavery which Jackson did. Madison, Muhlenberg and others fought for the foundations of our country and freedom. As Ulysses Grant said, the participants in the Civil War fought against the worst cause in history, slavery.

Jackson violated his oath to the US. As Ty Seidule, Professor Emeritus of History at West Point stated in his book, Robert E Lee and Me, an oath taken cannot be rescinded. I realize that oaths may not be important to those who excuse the actions of Trump and Michael Flynn. etc.

JPoplar

Dennis, while awaiting your feedback i thought occured to me while reading your Reader Commentary of June 2020 that there is a misconception that somehow Jackson betrayed his oath to the United States by waging war against that nation in defense of the institution of slavery. That is not correct as Jackson resigned from the US Army before he teaching at VMI so he was not under an oath, hence how could he break an obligation to an oath ? Just as you and I were both on active duty whne we retired are no longer obligated to the oath we took upon enlistment or commissioning.

In addtion, Jackson's motivation was that he was fighting for his home state of VA vice the instiution of slavery. In April 1861, after Virginia seceded from the Union and as the American Civil War broke out, Jackson was ordered by the Governor of Virginia to report with the VMI cadet corps to Richmond and await further orders. Slavery although reprehensible was not illegal and states had the right to succeed from the Union so i believe your argument is somewaht flawed. Best, Ros

JPoplar

Dennis, a thought provoking commentary -- well done !

So what exactly is the litmus test to justfy the action ? Our Founding Fathers and notable locals such as Peter Muhelenburg and James Madison owned enslaved peoples yet we pay homage to them by naming schools in their honor. Should we not change the name of JMU etc. etc. ?

Please help me understand the logic of gving them a free pass and why they are not excluded. Best, Ros

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