Was the Confederate Flag(s) that adorned the Lee Chapel as offensive as the South Carolina Flag?
With all the turmoil over the Confederate Flag in South Carolina (which I make an argument for its removal) I think it is important to look at what happened recently at Washington and Lee University. Here political correctness stripped the General’s Memorial of his Army’s flags in the banal service of political correctness.
What is the brand of Washington and Lee University? Does it have anything to do with the Confederate Flag?
This is a tough call. Is it history or racism? I do not know how a University that is named after General Robert E Lee can walk away from his battle flag. I realize that symbols carry great power and can excite great emotions. To my thinking, the lee Chapel is a museum of sorts. A place where the General’s remains lie so it should come to no one’s surprise that a few of the battle flags surround his memorial.
Here we were faced with a choice — Should the university try to downplay the history of its roots or the deep feelings of its current students? I believe that there are two valid sides to this argument, but history has been written.
The University was misguided
If the University needs to distance themselves from Robert. E Lee then they should consider removing his name from the school itself and not just the Confederate Flag. His name was, after all, added after the Confederate General’s death to what was then Washington College. It is a slippery slope here. George Washington held slaves too.
Sadly, from my point of view the University bowed to the pressure of its politically correct students and decided to remove the Confederate flag. This is a tragedy in my mind. Not just for historians but for the University itself. Washington and Lee has no idea what its brand is all about.
If you are interested in what the fuss was all about, take a look. What you see in the Lee Chapel is a statue of Lee recalling in the battlefield (no it is not a statue of Lee after death) designed by Edward Valentine. On each side you will see a few of the Confederate Battle Flags.
Directly below this recumbent statue, in a crypt, General lee is buried along with his wife Mary Anna Randolph Custis (great-granddaughter of Martha Washington) and his father Light Horse Harry Lee, his mother and Lee’s seven children. Traveler, his famous horse was reentered and buried outside the entrance to the General’s office.
It is not as if the Chapel was festooned with flags or sat atop a seat of government (like the South Carolina Capitol). This is a solemn place and a memorial to an American (lee was granted his citizenship by President Gerald Ford in 1975. It is worth a read here to understand the circumstances of his amnesty.