Letter: Move statue and let old sores heal
I have resided in Alamance County since 2003. My several times over great uncle Capt. Benjamin Merrell of the Regulators and of the Battle of Alamance was executed by Governor Tryon in 1771 for being rebellious over an issue he thought important enough to give the ultimate sacrifice. He was on the wrong side of history that day.
While history is full of winners and losers, they all were people with homes and families, hopes and dreams. I am not in favor of desecrating the Confederate statue at the Historic Courthouse in Alamance County, but it is time to honor appropriately and in the right setting the sentiment of remembering those Alamance County citizens while acknowledging the placement of it at a public building is hurtful to some residents in our community.
Gen. Robert E. Lee's quoted comments from an article in The South Atlantic Quarterly dated January 1911 written by Philip Alexander Bruce, an American historian and author of a book on General Lee, clearly expresses his opinion on Civil War memorials and monuments.
Upon being invited to a meeting to establish the battlefield of Gettysburg as a Civil War commemorative site, General Lee declined with the following statement: "I think it wisest not to keep open the sores of war but to follow the example of those nations who endeavored to obliterate the marks of civil strife and to commit to oblivion the feelings it engendered."
This was not a one-time sentiment he expressed. Immediately after the war in a letter dated September 7, 1865, he wrote: "The War being at an end, the Southern States having laid down their arms and the question at issue between them and the Northern States having been decided, I believe it to be the duty of everyone to unite in the restoration of the country and the reestablishment of peace and harmony."
From a copy of The Alamance Gleaner dated May 28, 1914, in which the dedication ceremony speeches for the statue were printed, there is an introductory speech to the main speaker, Major London, by Colonel Long who opens with the following statement: "It is well for us now and then to turn aside from the duties of daily life, and together celebrate some great event in which we all have a common interest: to recall the achievements of the great and good of our own race and blood, and speak some word, perform some act, or direct some memorial which will keep fresh in our memories services, sacrifices, and events that ought not to be forgotten."
The purpose of the statue is clearly stated as celebrating a particular race.
In the presentation, Mrs. E.C. Murray, president of the Graham Chapter UDC, said: "May this monument stand as an object lesson to future generations..."
If moved to a more appropriate setting, this monument could serve to be a remembrance of those who gave the ultimate sacrifice for what they believed to be right at the time.
Today, many citizens of Alamance County now look to their elected officials to include all citizens of Alamance County as being in their care and bound to in civic duty. As General Lee wisely counseled, it is better to let the wounds heal rather than to keep open sores, and it is the duty of all to re-establish peace and harmony.
Andrea Chase, Alamance County