Special to the Mirror by Charles Landis
In the center of a small town in North Carolina is a monument to the Granville Grays, a company of Confederate soldiers from Granville County who fought for the Confederacy in the Civil War. My grandfather (1833-1892) was the captain and they engaged in many battles throughout the War.
He was a very prosperous merchant and, like most in the South, did not own a plantation or slaves. Being of Mennonite heritage, like Quakers, he did not believe in slavery or war. Like General Robert E. Lee, he did not want secession and would only fight for the Confederacy if invaded. He died before I was born but my grandmother, born in 1852, lived until 1947. While a child of 10-12 years of age, I can recall her belief the War was considered an invasion. The needless destruction of property of innocent civilians, including her home, by the Union Army, she could never forget or forgive. Aunts, who were born in the 1880s, lived until the 1980’s, were lifelong Democrats, and could never forgive or forget the Union invasion or what the Republicans did during Reconstruction.
The monument honoring these Confederate soldiers honors their bravery and sacrifice against invaders, not in defense of slavery. And so, I believe, is the reason for other Confederate monuments such as in Parksley and Eastville. Would anyone expect a monument to General Sherman in Georgia?
The accomplishments of Abel Upshur as Secretary of the Navy and Secretary of State, I argue, make him the most important person in Eastern Shore history. He was also Virginia’s architect of nullification and secession. Should his portrait hanging in the hallway of Ker Place be burned and, as well, his writings on meaning of the Constitution, which were required reading for a generation of law students at University of Virginia and William and Mary?
Henry Wise is considered by historians as the most important political figure in Virginia in quarter century leading up to the Civil War and he precipitated Virginia’s secession. Should his exhibit at Kerr Place be taken down?
The Revolutionary War hero, John Cropper, spent forty years and much of his wealth in the cause of independence. He left George Washington on the battlefield to return to the Eastern Shore to defend against the British pillaging property and setting slaves free. Should his exhibit at Ker Place also be destroyed because of his defense of slavery?
Charles A. Landis