Statues and Monuments Brigadier General Montgomery C. Meigs is an American hero. He never achieved a great victory, nor did he even lead men into battle for that matter.  Although he spent most of his career constructing forts, he was an army engineer, whose main job was to clothe, feed and transport Union troops during the Civil War, but more importantly, he was a grieving father. His son, John Rodgers Meigs, who graduated first in his class at West Point, was an army engineer just like his father.  According to everyone who knew him he was a young man you wanted for a son. On a rainy day in early October, 1864, John and his assistants were mapping the area around Harrisonburg, Virginia. As they were riding back to General Philip Sheridan’s headquarters, they came across three men in blue rain ponchos, which along with the hard rain, made it impossible to see what uniform lay underneath. Believing them to be Union soldiers as they were more than a mile-and-a-half behind Northern lines, young Meigs rode up to them. They were Confederate scouts. In the chaos that followed, John Meigs was killed. His father was informed that his son was shot in the back as he cried, “Don’t shoot me!”   The President of the United States and hundreds of other dignitaries attended the young man’s funeral. His grave depicts the bronze statue of an angel-faced boy in his engineer uniform lying in the mud; with the imprints of Confederate cavalrymen’s horse’s hooves surrounding the body. His death destroyed his father. Montgomery C. Meigs would never see his oldest child get married or have children and grandchildren. The book was closed. The candle was blown out. His son would always remain 22-years-old. The Brigadier General’s job at that time was to find resting places around Washington D.C. for the thousands of soldiers that did not make it home. The cemetery filled up. I am sure Meigs saw his son’s face in every lifeless young man he came across. I cannot imagine the sorrow and rage that must have filled him. A grieving father burying other grieving fathers’ children. He buried so many young men that there were worries they were going to run out of space. Confederate General Robert E. Lee had a beautiful estate just outside of Washington, which he had abandoned just prior to the Civil War, when he had accepted a commission to lead the Army of Virginia. It was his family’s pride and joy, the “spot,” “our dear home.” Onetime friends, Meigs grew to hate Lee and what he felt his former friend had done to this country. A few months after the government had seized the estate for unpaid taxes, Meigs decided to use the estate’s cemetery to bury dead soldiers.  Even before his son’s death, the Brigadier General began interning bodies here and there on the grounds. At some point, Meigs wanted to make sure that the Lees would never get to enjoy their little piece of paradise again. For the rest of his life, Robert E. Lee felt a little bit of the loss other fathers felt. Meigs ordered the fallen in his care to be buried in the Lee’s garden and next to the family home. Even after the peace was signed the Lees were never able to return to that spot of earth that seemed like heaven to them. They never were able to return home again. You might know it better as Arlington National Cemetery. Meigs made sure Lee never forgot what he had done. We have forgotten. Montgomery C. Meigs’ monument to his child showed the horrors of war. Let’s be perfectly clear, the South committed treason. The very definition of treason is to pick up arms against your nation. The South declared war against their brothers, not the other way around. Even though revisionist historians have tried to pollute the water, the “Noble Cause” they fought for was slavery. When it comes down to brass tacks, if you could have removed slavery from the picture, there would have been no war. I completely understand. No one wants to admit that your father, grandfather, uncle, or son died to keep another group of people in chains, to deny a group of people their basic rights as children of God. We all want to believe our ancestors died for a good cause. It is a gut punch to have to admit that someone you loved died for no good reason. So, you smear the picture a little bit. You invent a past and myths that never were. It is easy to see why you would build glorious statues to generals and put them on pedestals for everyone to admire as your father and grandfathers who had suffered through so much were dying of old age. You are not a defeated people, but rather have a reason to be proud, a noble cause. Who is uplifted by a statue of a young man trampled by horses in the mud? Where is the pride? Where is the hubris? War is not a video game. When it is divorced from its violence, statues, flags, and roads named after dead generals become mere idols. They are not amoral. No statue ever is. They silently communicate a message, especially to people whose ancestors these men were willing to fight and die for to continue to keep in brutal servitude.  This is our proudest moment. You are not one of us. Never forget that. Statues and monuments are not mosquitos trapped in amber. They represent ideals and attitudes that change over time. There is no slippery slope from Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee, and Stonewall Jackson to George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. They might have owned slaves, but they gave us the idea of “all men are created equal,” even if they did not completely understand its impact and meaning, that ultimately rid this nation of slavery. Women and homosexuals heard this message and said, “We are included too.” This is why we build statues and monuments to them and honor them, not because they owned slaves, but because they gave us an ideal we argue, march, and die for, and everyday try to more fully understand. So much blood was shed fighting for this ideal; whether it is on a battlefield, Abraham Lincoln, a young boy named Emmett Till, five little girls in a Birmingham church, three civil rights workers outside of Philadelphia, Mississippi, Dr. King, Matthew Shepard or a young woman named Heather Heyes. The list of names could fill several telephone books, too many forgotten, too much strange fruit dangling from trees. These are the people monuments and statues should be built to. Here is what frightens me. The alt right, skinheads, and Nazis have promised more protests. These are people who carry guns, lots and lots of guns.  They feel emboldened, filled with hate and rage. At some point, there is going to be pushing and shoving, a flash of a muzzle, and a whole lot of people are going to get hurt and a whole bunch of people’s children are not going to return home, more sons and daughters trampled into the mud. Maybe then we won’t forget.  
Statues and Monuments Brigadier General Montgomery C. Meigs is an American hero. He never achieved a great victory, nor did he even lead men into battle for that matter.  Although he spent most of his career constructing forts, he was an army engineer, whose main job was to clothe, feed and transport Union troops during the Civil War, but more importantly, he was a grieving father. His son, John Rodgers Meigs, who graduated first in his class at West Point, was an army engineer just like his father.  According to everyone who knew him he was a young man you wanted for a son. On a rainy day in early October, 1864, John and his assistants were mapping the area around Harrisonburg, Virginia. As they were riding back to General Philip Sheridan’s headquarters, they came across three men in blue rain ponchos, which along with the hard rain, made it impossible to see what uniform lay underneath. Believing them to be Union soldiers as they were more than a mile-and-a-half behind Northern lines, young Meigs rode up to them. They were Confederate scouts. In the chaos that followed, John Meigs was killed. His father was informed that his son was shot in the back as he cried, “Don’t shoot me!”   The President of the United States and hundreds of other dignitaries attended the young man’s funeral. His grave depicts the bronze statue of an angel-faced boy in his engineer uniform lying in the mud; with the imprints of Confederate cavalrymen’s horse’s hooves surrounding the body. His death destroyed his father. Montgomery C. Meigs would never see his oldest child get married or have children and grandchildren. The book was closed. The candle was blown out. His son would always remain 22-years-old. The Brigadier General’s job at that time was to find resting places around Washington D.C. for the thousands of soldiers that did not make it home. The cemetery filled up. I am sure Meigs saw his son’s face in every lifeless young man he came across. I cannot imagine the sorrow and rage that must have filled him. A grieving father burying other grieving fathers’ children. He buried so many young men that there were worries they were going to run out of space. Confederate General Robert E. Lee had a beautiful estate just outside of Washington, which he had abandoned just prior to the Civil War, when he had accepted a commission to lead the Army of Virginia. It was his family’s pride and joy, the “spot,” “our dear home.” Onetime friends, Meigs grew to hate Lee and what he felt his former friend had done to this country. A few months after the government had seized the estate for unpaid taxes, Meigs decided to use the estate’s cemetery to bury dead soldiers.  Even before his son’s death, the Brigadier General began interning bodies here and there on the grounds. At some point, Meigs wanted to make sure that the Lees would never get to enjoy their little piece of paradise again. For the rest of his life, Robert E. Lee felt a little bit of the loss other fathers felt. Meigs ordered the fallen in his care to be buried in the Lee’s garden and next to the family home. Even after the peace was signed the Lees were never able to return to that spot of earth that seemed like heaven to them. They never were able to return home again. You might know it better as Arlington National Cemetery. Meigs made sure Lee never forgot what he had done. We have forgotten. Montgomery C. Meigs’ monument to his child showed the horrors of war. Let’s be perfectly clear, the South committed treason. The very definition of treason is to pick up arms against your nation. The South declared war against their brothers, not the other way around. Even though revisionist historians have tried to pollute the water, the “Noble Cause” they fought for was slavery. When it comes down to brass tacks, if you could have removed slavery from the picture, there would have been no war. I completely understand. No one wants to admit that your father, grandfather, uncle, or son died to keep another group of people in chains, to deny a group of people their basic rights as children of God. We all want to believe our ancestors died for a good cause. It is a gut punch to have to admit that someone you loved died for no good reason. So, you smear the picture a little bit. You invent a past and myths that never were. It is easy to see why you would build glorious statues to generals and put them on pedestals for everyone to admire as your father and grandfathers who had suffered through so much were dying of old age. You are not a defeated people, but rather have a reason to be proud, a noble cause. Who is uplifted by a statue of a young man trampled by horses in the mud? Where is the pride? Where is the hubris? War is not a video game. When it is divorced from its violence, statues, flags, and roads named after dead generals become mere idols. They are not amoral. No statue ever is. They silently communicate a message, especially to people whose ancestors these men were willing to fight and die for to continue to keep in brutal servitude.  This is our proudest moment. You are not one of us. Never forget that. Statues and monuments are not mosquitos trapped in amber. They represent ideals and attitudes that change over time. There is no slippery slope from Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee, and Stonewall Jackson to George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. They might have owned slaves, but they gave us the idea of “all men are created equal,” even if they did not completely understand its impact and meaning, that ultimately rid this nation of slavery. Women and homosexuals heard this message and said, “We are included too.” This is why we build statues and monuments to them and honor them, not because they owned slaves, but because they gave us an ideal we argue, march, and die for, and everyday try to more fully understand. So much blood was shed fighting for this ideal; whether it is on a battlefield, Abraham Lincoln, a young boy named Emmett Till, five little girls in a Birmingham church, three civil rights workers outside of Philadelphia, Mississippi, Dr. King, Matthew Shepard or a young woman named Heather Heyes. The list of names could fill several telephone books, too many forgotten, too much strange fruit dangling from trees. These are the people monuments and statues should be built to. Here is what frightens me. The alt right, skinheads, and Nazis have promised more protests. These are people who carry guns, lots and lots of guns.  They feel emboldened, filled with hate and rage. At some point, there is going to be pushing and shoving, a flash of a muzzle, and a whole lot of people are going to get hurt and a whole bunch of people’s children are not going to return home, more sons and daughters trampled into the mud. Maybe then we won’t forget.