— Some say there IS NO problem—others say: think again.

On Thursday, October 26, the Jefferson County Commission confirmed a September vote that denied a request to remove a plaque from the front of the county courthouse honoring residents who fought for the Confederacy in the Civil War.

The plaque reads: 1861-1865 In honor and memory of the Confederate soldiers of Jefferson County, who served in the War Between the States. Erected by the Leetown Chapter #231 United Daughters of the Confederacy. Erected May 25, 1986.

The request to remove the plaque was initially brought to the Commission by four local African-American women. The plaque was installed in 1986 when the United Daughters of the Confederacy chapter in Leetown (WV) received permission from a county official to place it to the left of the front door of the courthouse.

The request, delivered in August, asked the Commission to “quietly remove the plaque because it intimidates African-Americans”—also indicating that it serves as a reminder that thousands of slaves were sold on the steps in front of the courthouse. The Commission voted unanimously in September to keep the plaque where it is. In October, however, the vote was 3-2 in favor of keeping it—with the second meeting receiving much more attention and involvement, at a time when, nationally, the issue of Confederate monuments has become a source of intense debate.

As it stands, the plaque will stay for the foreseeable future. The story was covered extensively by local media, and even The Washington Post—in a piece aptly titled: “A Confederate Plaque Remains, and so Does Controversy.” In that piece, Charles Town Mayor Scott Rogers indicated that he believed the marker should be taken down, stating: “We should memorialize our history and never forget the past while being inclusive of all sides of the debate.”

As a monthly, The Observer can’t always “report” the news, but we can offer examinations of topics in our own unique way that matter to the community. In this case, we offered the public a chance to comment on this issue via our social media feed. As you can imagine, it got a little rowdy.

What we have here are simply the comments (not all of them in their entirety) that we received—in an effort to represent the differing viewpoints within the community and perhaps give rise to a sharing of perspective(s) at a time when political sides are about as divided and unwilling to listen as they’ve ever been in America. (Not all locations were provided.)

To see some of the larger, more comprehensive, pieces in their entirety, check out our POLITICS link beneath the NEWS tab on this site.

— — — — —

I think the plaque is not historic, being put up in 1980s. The secessionists were violating the law of the United States and dishonoring the Union and the flag. The compromise to move it to the cemetery and replace it with one honoring all servicemen makes perfect sense. – Harpers Ferry

— — — — —

My opinion is that the plaque should go. Elsewhere. Anywhere besides a building that purports to uphold justice—blind justice. The plaque is not blind. It supports a side. The side that supported racism and slavery. The side that lost. The County Commission’s “referendum” suggests that they will stand up to racism, etc., and not allow any monuments around the county to be moved, relocated, or removed. Period. I believe that the three white, male commissioners need to EVOLVE! – Shepherdstown 

— — — — —

In its November 2 meeting, the Jefferson County Commission passed by a 3-2 margin a resolution to “Protect all existing historical monuments, memorials, and markers erected in the county.” The resolution obviously was inspired by the recent debate about the plaque.

By some reports, the resolution was authored by the West Virginia Liberty Political Action Committee (WV Liberty PAC), a conservative group that features an illustration of a semiautomatic weapon against an American flag backdrop on its website. An examination of the verbiage of the resolution reveals that it is fraught with propaganda devices and logical fallacies.

A Jefferson County resident correctly pointed out at the November 2 meeting that the resolution carries no legal authority whatsoever. The Commission reluctantly agreed that it amounts to only a “position statement.” … This document provides no basis or reason for the plaque to remain at its present location … it is a weakly written attempt to rally support through buzzwords, false premises, and manipulative verbal imagery. This resolution means nothing at all. – Charles Town

— — — — —

Seems that people have to be told what offends them. Up until now, crickets. Accept the past and embrace the future … “get over it” would cover all bases … put on your big boy (girl) pants and move on. If we taught people how to think, and not what to think, we’d have far fewer problems in this country. – Harpers Ferry

— — — — —

This plaque is NOT historic, and it is not appropriate on a public building. If you want to keep it, put it in a museum that details when and why these Confederate plaques appeared across the country. And be sure to tell the TRUE history! – Hagerstown

— — — — —

Oh my gosh … they really can’t move on.  – Shepherdstown

— — — — —

Even in Virginia, only 36% of voters said that statues on government property should be removed (NBC News exit polls). A small echo chamber means nothing. Leave our national anthem and Constitution alone, too.
– Charles Town

— — — — —

The plaque is in itself not a bit historic. But the idea behind the plaque is to honor and provide a tribute to those men who fought for the Confederacy. THE PLAQUE STAYS! – Summit Point

— — — — —

In reference to Confederate monuments, writing in 1869, General Robert E. Lee stated it would be wiser “not to keep open the sores of war, but to follow the examples of those nations who endeavored to obliterate the marks of civil strife.” Monuments and plaques to the Civil War would be like Germany erecting monuments to Hitler, Goebbels, or the Nazis as a whole.

These (Confederates) were a collection of, predominately, men who decided to go against the UNITED States. They determined that the ownership of other humans was right and proper. They were willing to, and did, put their lives on the line to perpetuate this heinous tradition.

The Confederates LOST the war; losers should not be given the honor of flags, monuments, or plaques on government property. The United States does not fly the Union Jack over any federal buildings. Mexico does not fly the Spanish flag. Victors of wars do not fly the losers’ flags or erect monuments to their enemy.

All references to the Civil War belong in our museums, as they are in our history books. I realize the memorialization of Civil War veterans is important to the descendants of these veterans, but this can be accomplished in a less aggressive manner by placing these memorials in places that are not part of government property or in blatant public places. – Charles Town

— — — — —

This plaque was given to the city by a private organization, not by representatives of the citizens. There is no reason for it to be installed on public property, especially since WV was a Union state whose obligation was to soldiers who fought and died for the Union. Confederate soldiers who were pawns in the Civil War died with honor for what they thought was right, but a plaque honoring them does not belong here in Jefferson County, except, as others have said, in a museum where it represents the history of the time. There is a great museum in Charles Town where it can be displayed along with other Civil War historical items. – Harpers Ferry

— — — — —

Maybe actually delve into the history of Jefferson County. By doing so, you might find that, on a whole, it was by far Confederate, with 1,600-plus in its ranks—as for the Union side, it states just a handful. It was so unremarkable, that rolls are not even listed.

This plaque is not something that can hurt anyone. It cannot fly off the wall and hurt you. It was put up in memory of the 1,600-plus men who fought and either survived or were killed in action. Each one of those men were pardoned by the Federal Government. Go to the Charles Town Public Library, or online, and look up: “A History of Jefferson County West Virginia 1719-1940” authored by Millard Kessler Bushong. You can find out all sorts of things, like which families had slaves, and how funny it is today that their heirs are decrying a Confederate plaque. – Kearneysville

— — — — — —

How sad and incredulous that our elected officials seek not the whole truth about any controversy that comes before them, but settle, as revealed in this case, for the convenient and time-worn myth of a glorified and sanitized “War Between the States” that has simmered in the South for 100 years—now coming to a furious boil as conflict has caused irrefutable facts to surface for all to finally face.

Our sense of truth, freedom, and justice is eroded moment by moment, generation after generation, changing the American landscape, when history is misrepresented by the presence of monuments, plaques, and flags displayed without historical context. This is a disservice to all who served in the Civil War, all enslaved people who suffered and died in chains, and all Americans. – Shepherdstown

— — — — —

I moved to Shepherdstown in 1984. I was all for the plaque staying at the courthouse. I was all over social media about keeping it there. Then I went to the County Commission to support keeping it there. My seat got taken—then walks in Sammi Brown, and she offers me a seat by her. Sammi got up to speak. She had three minutes, went a little passed her three minutes, and a certain commissioner yelled at her and threatened to have bailiffs remove her. He changed his mind. Very disrespectful. Sitting next to her as she cried, I went and grabbed her tissues. The pain and tears she was going through was enough to change my mind and say put the plaque in a museum.

— — — — —

Your newly adopted resolution, which condemns hate and also protects historic markers and symbols, is a gesture that allows inaction. I am glad you oppose racism and violence; however, I would like to see that backed by action. I have no doubt that all five of you want a more unified and peaceful community, but we disagree on how to achieve that unity. I am writing to remind you that no progress was ever made by simply talking about it. Let’s DO the right thing.

In the words of W.E.B. Du Bois, “Children learn more from what you are than what you teach.” Shouldn’t the story of Charles Town and Jefferson County be one of continuing to make progress away from racism? Moving or replacing the plaque, especially—as noted by Sammi Brown—by bringing together the Daughters of the Confederacy and the NAACP, would send a positive message by example. Let us be leaders, not simply readers, of history.

Jefferson County Courthouse, Charles Town, WV. — Photo ©Observer

— — — — —

That plaque reminds me to be thankful for the war and both sides. If not for Virginia leaving the Union, my people high in the Allegheny mountains of what is now Almost-Heaven West Virginia would still be marked as dirty Commonwealth white trash. That plaque helped free more than blacks; it freed many whites from the clutches of the Commonwealth. I am very thankful for that plaque. – Harpers Ferry

— — — — —

Erasing history doesn’t undo its injustices, and deprives everyone of an opportunity to learn from it. Those who seek to tear down statues and remove plaques aren’t righting a wrong or correcting an injustice. They are simply too emotionally immature to deal with things or ideas they don’t like.

— — — — — 

The Confederation was established by 11 Southern slave states that seceded from the Union: South Carolina, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Texas, Arkansas, North Carolina, Virginia, and Tennessee. Kentucky and Missouri were both claimed by the Confederacy, but never officially declared secession. West Virginia was not one of these states.

You can find our history all around us. We fought against the Confederacy, even though we admittedly had West Virginians fight on both sides of the war. Our Civil War is well documented right here in Jefferson County. Plaques and markers take you through the Civil War. They mention all soldiers.

So my question(s) to all of you are: Why would we have a plaque honoring Confederate soldiers, when West Virginia was not even one of the original Confederate states? Why would a compromise not be a good solution (a plaque that can be moved and have a perfect home in a new location)? No one has asked for it to be destroyed. – Charles Town

— — — — —

Hasn’t been a problem for 31 years and it isn’t a problem now. It’s an excuse. It’s actually rather pathetic. Protesters hold signs that say, “Time to move on, get the plaque gone,” but in reality, they’re the ones who can’t move on. It’s ridiculous. – Charles Town

— — — — —

I get personal responsibility. I get taking control of your own feelings. However, this argument doesn’t hold up in a situation of racism. It is really insulting to tell someone that they can get past racism just by being in a better mindset.  – Jefferson County

 — — — — — 

The controversial plaque honoring Confederate soldiers on the courthouse in Charles Town should be removed not just because it is offensive to black citizens, but to all citizens, regardless of color, who see this plaque as an attempt to pretend that the Confederacy was a noble lost cause instead of an act of treason on the part of the leaders of the Confederacy.

A plaque that said something like, “In honor of those soldiers who lost their lives, North and South, during the Civil War,” would be a remembrance of war dead without taking sides.

For the United States to look forward rather than backwards, it is important for us to carefully examine and re-examine our history for its lessons. The Confederate states lost the war—a war fought to preserve slavery. Slavery was simply the single most important investment in the slave states. And it represented a culture and a society built on human bondage.

The leaders of the Confederacy went to war to protect a colossal business investment and way of life. The value of slaves as property and as laborers was going up dramatically in the 1850s. Slavery was profitable and getting more so dramatically. In 1860, the value of slaves was $3 billion. This value represents more cash than existed in all the banks in the United States at the time.

Any monument, plaque, or statue to Confederate soldiers and their leaders that occupies public land or government buildings should be removed, not all at once, but after deliberation and an understanding of the truths we can find in history. We should strive to seek truth and fairness, and not perpetuate myths about lost causes.  What is done on private property or in museums dedicated to understanding this conflict is another matter altogether. — Ray Smock, Martinsburg

— — — — —

I don’t have a problem with the ladies’ opinion of the plaque, BUT I do have a problem with their ethics. They used the American Legion and its letterhead to promote their complaint, which the American Legion denounced and refused to sanction in any way (fact). “Rumor,” I’m told: the Legion post they are from only allows African-Americans. Why isn’t any of this being reported by the media? – Harpers Ferry

— — — — —

Why is this such an incredibly divisive issue? Why can we not accept at face value when a person of color says that an action of a white person or group makes them feel unwelcome in their own community? To be honest, a few years back, I probably would not have given much thought to this plaque unless someone had engaged me in a conversation about it, so the plaque supporters have that point on me. However, I see things differently now. I only hope that others can be open as well, and reflect on the various sides of this issue instead of simply resorting to name calling, or rolling their eyes, or thinking that people like me have nothing better to do with our time.

Related Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.