Last week, activists destroyed the Charlottesville, Virginia Robert E. Lee monument in secret. They said it was to prevent violence, but not their own.

The Washington Post attended the event and documented the final moments for Lee’s face. The iconoclasts fashioned it into a “death mask” and then melted it down, creating a haunting image captured by the Post’s photographer. You could almost see Lee weeping. At the very least, the molten metal bleeding through the cracks in his face highlighted what looked like despondence, a weary expression of sorrow and defeat, not defiance.

That was the postwar Lee, so eloquently captured by all who met him in the years after the war and beautifully presented in verse by Donald Davidson. Lee had been worn down by the war and burdened with despair. He was lost in the mountains.

One University of Virginia “Black Lives Matter” activist who witnessed the event called it an execution. This is what the iconoclasts wanted from the beginning. Lee and Jefferson Davis survived to old age and were never tried for treason. They avoided the noose, but Lee could not avoid the flames.

That was the point. Lee and those who supported him had to be publicly humiliated. This was vengeance.

The group responsible for this illegal act of destruction–and it was illegal as they had promised the monument would be preserved in accordance with State law–insisted that the metal will be turned into an “inclusive” monument with an ironic title, “Swords into Plowshares”.

Ironic because Southerners had already sheathed their swords for peace and hammered them into plowshares. The monuments were the full expression of that movement.

It was called “reconciliation.”  As the Richmond Times-Dispatch recounted in May 1924 after the Charlottesville Lee Monument was unveiled:

A note common to all the addresses, amounting almost to a keynote, was the realization of the fortunate fact that the sections are becoming free of the rancor produced by the Civil War. To the efforts of General Robert E. Lee ‘more than to those of any other leader North or South,’ said President Smith of Washington and Lee, ‘the country owes the obligation in a single generation of sectional bitterness after the close of the War Between the States [emphasis added].'”

The Lee Monument represented healing to those who commissioned, designed, and erected it in the early twentieth century, right around the fiftieth anniversary of the War. The same could be said for the dozens of Union monuments built during the same period. Veterans from both sides of the conflict often attended dedication ceremonies. Our current iconoclasts could learn something from men who flung actual lead at one another and then shake hands across the political and social divide while honoring one another with monuments and praise.

Just a few years earlier, another monument dedicated in Virginia expressly used the Biblical verse, “They have beat their swords into plough-shares and their spears into pruning hooks”, to describe the intent of the memorial.

That monument, designed by Jewish sculptor Moses Ezekiel and dedicated by both William Howard Taft and Woodrow Wilson, offered a real inclusive arrangement of figures, including black Southern women and men, while concurrently highlighting a laurel wreath of peace. As President Taft, a Northerner, said at the dedication of the cornerstone in 1912:

“It fell to my official lot, with universal popular approval, to issue the order which made it possible to erect, in the National Cemetery of Arlington, the beautiful monument to the heroic dead of the South that you founded today. The event in itself speaks volumes as to the oblivion of sectionalism. It gives me not only great pleasure and great honor, but it gives me the greatest satisfaction as a lover of my country, to be present, as President of the United States, and pronounce upon this occasion the benediction of all true Americans.”

The tone of the iconoclast does not resemble anything of this original “plowshare” movement. Healing takes a backseat to retribution. The cheers, jeers, vandalism, destruction, and violence highlights their commitment to revolution, not reconciliation. There is no room for dissent in their petty, distorted, ideological world.

The modern activist iconoclast has nothing in common with the real “inclusive” reconciliationists, men who understood peace and healing. Like the French Jacobins who dedicated their lives to tearing down the ancien regime only to realize that the new order demanded their blood as well, their proposed “inclusive public art” may one day be deemed divisive and replaceable. It would be fitting for it to be melted down and destroyed, even if the ghost of Robert E. Lee lives on in the metal.

Perhaps it is best that Lee astride Traveller cannot witness the degradation of American society any longer. The University of Virginia, Jefferson’s university designed to protect Southern men from the “dark Federalist mills of the North”, has been bulldozed by the very mentality he wished to avoid. Lee, a man universally recognized by generations of Americans as the model of the Christian gentlemen, offered a silent rebuke to their insecure world.

He, like Jefferson, Washington, Madison, and Henry, was Old Virginia, a Virginia that now barely exists.

But if Americans really believed in “inclusion” and “reconciliation”, the effort to destroy these monuments, like the “Naming Commission’s” planned demolition of the Arlington Confederate Monument, would be passionately resisted.

Perhaps the iconoclasts have overplayed their hand. Lee is gone, but when even Elon Musk recognizes that the iconoclasts are seeking “extinction” over “inclusion”, the tide may in fact turn. It is always darkest before the dawn.

Brion McClanahan

Brion McClanahan is the author or co-author of six books, How Alexander Hamilton Screwed Up America (Regnery History, 2017), 9 Presidents Who Screwed Up America and Four Who Tried to Save Her (Regnery History, 2016), The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Founding Fathers, (Regnery, 2009), The Founding Fathers Guide to the Constitution (Regnery History, 2012), Forgotten Conservatives in American History (Pelican, 2012), and The Politically Incorrect Guide to Real American Heroes, (Regnery, 2012). He received a B.A. in History from Salisbury University in 1997 and an M.A. in History from the University of South Carolina in 1999. He finished his Ph.D. in History at the University of South Carolina in 2006, and had the privilege of being Clyde Wilson’s last doctoral student. He lives in Alabama with his wife and three daughters.


  • Earl Starbuck says:

    Elon Musk is already being raked over the coals. Here’s hoping he sticks to his guns. I know not what the fate of the rest of the Empire will be, but I trust God will see the southland free.

    • Matt C. says:

      I understand the wish in the last sentence. I grew up in the north, but have lived in Virginia over 40 years now since I left there. Thanks to the Kennedy twins for their work, and the writer’s here; I think “The South Was Right, ” and “…Jefferson Davis…” Read Foote’s 3 volumes, read Thomas’s bio of Lee, read Robertson’s bio of Jackson. Traveled a lot to see many of the battlefields. Nothing more than many here have done, I’m sure. So, I too have been very displeased regarding what has been done to these memorials. Fort Monroe is not far from me. You know what has been done there. The great memorial in Tappahannock has been removed within the last two years. It was Southerners who helped me become a Bible believer; A wonderful family. Another post here said America is focusing too much attention on Israel. Probably so, but though I understand and can relate to that last sentence, “…see the Southland free,” it really is Israel and that region that’s going to be God’s focus, in a big way. When that times comes. Could be soon. Just yesterday, I heard a preacher, from Alabama too, talk about a time when Bible believing teacher was asked how he knew the Bible was divine. The Bible teacher replied, “I’ll tell you how I know, and with just one word: Israel.” Then, there’s another man; Mr. Scofield was a Southern soldier. I think some in the South have some beefs against him, but his work in helping many understand the Bible has been invaluable. Particularly, one of his comments for Ephesians, chapter three.

  • William Quinton Platt III says:

    General Lee is still fighting from the furnace. He cost them $100,000 and after all the graft is paid to the trash designers, everyone will still remember it as the statue of the General. We all know Arlington’s not the “national” memorial…it’s the Lee family cemetery.

    • Gordon says:

      I may be wrong but don’t believe Lees are buried there. Desecration of Mrs. Lee’s property began soon after the War, about the same times federals were stealing Washington mementos from the walls, floors and attic of the mansion – but before federals burned another Washington/Custis/Lee property, the White House plantation east of Richmond, as they fled in front of General Lee’s army in June ’62.

      The Supreme Court ruled after the War the U.S. government had illegally possessed Arlington. Since it was ruined, Gen’l and Mrs. Lee’s children were paid a couple hundred thousand for it. I don’t care what happens to the place. They can burn it down, they have plenty of practice at it.

      You’re right, anyhow. General Lee is going to live forever.

      • William Quinton Platt III says:

        Even Wikipedia does a good job describing the attempt to cheat the Lees of the ownership and use of their property. I have not been able to find how many kia were buried in Arlington during the war but they had 9 months of war to provide bodies for the cemetery…and our marksmen were still supplied up until the last few weeks. It’s just another example of the yankee way.

        God bless Robert E. Lee.

    • ANDY EARLY says:

      $980,000 to remove, over $90,000 to cut up, melt down cost unknown, and tens of thousands of dollars in lawyer feed to keep the monument away from a museum or a battlefield. And the Attorney General and Governor sit on their donkeys and do nothing!

  • David LeBeau says:

    Excellent work Professor McClanahan!

    It’s a sad time in the United States when the American Jacobins, the Progressive Left, want to melt down our monuments and then want to send your kids off to war. And you are too happy to oblige.

  • Kenneth Robbins says:

    What i did not read in this little essay was indignation, anger, or a call for action. How much insult, humiliation must we endure before we Southerners take action. We make stupid remarks about a war we lost 150 plus years ago. Where are our so called Christian preachers. Where are our Congressmen and senators, Where are Southern governors ??? They are too busy with Israel, to worry about us.

    • Paul Yarbrough says:

      They are ALL trying to rope the golden calf.
      “Onward Christian soldiers, marching to the bank…”

    • David LeBeau says:

      If you haven’t done so already, then I recommend that you read “Secession of the Heart” by John Devanny, published here. In that essay, you will find the answer to your question of where are all of the Southern politicians, clergy, et cetera.

      • Paul Yarbrough says:

        Thank you for the reference. I had not previously read it. My point was just as Dr. Devanny stated: Great article.

        “The ‘Good Southerner’s’ duplicity lay in his unfaithfulness. He cares not a whit about the half-truths and detractions hurled at his ancestors, or for the distortion of history. There is money to be made, foreign industry to attract, basketball tournaments to host, bowl games to sponsor.”
        From: “Secession of the Heart.”

        • David LeBeau says:

          Mr. Yarbrough,

          You’re welcome!

          By the way, that’s a great quote you shared from “Secession of the Heart.” It’s one of my favorite pieces published at the Abbeville Institute.

      • Kenneth Robbins says:

        I read the essay by John Devanny and he did not tell me anything more than his distain for puritans , for whom he blames for all the ills of the world. Pure rubbish. Devanny and many catholic writers seem to have a complete hatred of Puritans (Calvinism). I do believe that the Southern Armies were much more Puritan (Calvinist), than the Union Army, which from my readings were mostly reprobate. I do believe that I could write an entire essay about that war and not say one nasty thing about Catholics!

        • David LeBeau says:

          Mr. Robbins,

          You asked, “where are our so called preachers, where are our congressmen and senators, where are Southern governors???” John Devanny tells you where they are in “Secession of the Heart.” Mr. Yarbrough posted an important piece of that essay which answered your question.

          With all due respect, I would say much of the Southern army was Anglicans (Baptist & Presbyterian) and a few Catholics from my home state of Louisiana.

          God bless!

  • Billy P says:

    General Robert E. Lee more than earned his place in history and we were left with an example in Lee that every American – especially males – should emulate. The monument these idiots destroyed were for us, not him. All southern monuments they have destroyed were put there for the right reasons, but one needs a functioning brain to realize it.
    This country isn’t a fit place for a man like Lee anymore (or any of our other noble southern leaders) and it doesn’t want those of us who honor Lee or our Confederate ancestors either.
    Lincoln’s empire is failing rapidly – I hate that the south has to be part of it or even associated with it.
    The godless people the union promotes at every turn only know and praise immorality, cowardice, destruction and violence. They create nothing! A bleak future and widespread poverty are all they can produce.
    The fools that melted the statue are the most emotional, low IQ, weak minded, pathetic among us- they had their little moment, and they are now forgotten, free to slither back in their miserable holes.
    General Lee will continue to be revered and remembered as long as we do not forget him and pass along our true history to our kids and anyone who will listen.
    God bless General Lee and God save the south.

  • Gordon says:

    “You could almost see Lee weeping”

    NO! NO! NO! Lee is Not weeping!

    Robert E. Lee did not cry. Even in defeat and with the sadness and waining strength of his last years in Lexington he never cried about his fortunes. He used his responsibility to his family, his veterans and Washington College to continue practicing duty to himself and God. General Lee realized the devastation wrought but never regretted his actions and remained resolute in defending his army and cause to the end. It’s certain that he additionally felt justification in hindsight with the manner of the prosecution of the war and its aftermath.

    The monument to General Lee had been desecrated and destroyed and there’s probably more to come. The images sting but they don’t affect the truth of Lee and the South for anybody who pursues it. It’s up to us – it’s our duty – to finally confront the offenses and further intent of “those people” and push back. We can start by erecting statues. A place to start is LEE-JACKSON MEMORIAL PARK near Lexington, Va. immediately next to I-81.

  • Wendi Berman says:

    The news of this fresh destruction escaped me until now. It comes on the heels of imploring an English documentarian to visit Moses Ezekiel’s exquisite monument to the Confederate dead…before it’s too late.

  • Cody Davis says:

    I hope this gives Southerners the opportunity to stop desperately holding onto the delusion that peace and reconciliation with evil are possible. The time for peace and reconciliation is long dead. It has been dead since the 60’s. So if Lee represents reconciliation, then I’m glad his statue is gone. If Lee represents the Old Virginia, then I’m glad his statue is gone. I would much rather have Davis, who represents vindication, and the New Virginia. Lee surrendered, Davis didn’t. I’m proud to live in a time when the vindication can begin.

    • Gordon says:

      If it hadn’t been for Lee, Davis may have been captured by in 1862. The Confederate army was doing nothing but retreating when Lee took over. A siege of Richmond would’ve ended the way they always end. The question never asked is why Davis didn’t put Lee in command at the beginning. Winfield Scott knew. Abraham Lincoln knew.

      It’s not to demean the effort from other theaters but the only protracted success the CSA saw was with Lee. The CSA armies were worn out, used up, defeated by spring, 1865.

      Lee may have saved Davis’ bacon by testifying at grand jury in ’69. In the attempt to show Davis was responsible for the War they tried to get Lee to say he did what Davis directed. Lee responded, “I am responsible for what I did, and cannot now recall any important movement I made which I would not have made had I acted entirely on my own responsibility”.

      • Cody Davis says:

        I respect Lee as a Southern hero; my criticism is directed at what I view to be Southerners’ excessive devotion to Lee, and corresponding inadequate appreciation for Davis.

        Lee didn’t believe in the right of secession, Davis did:

        From Lee, on secession, 1861: “Mr. Blair, I look upon secession as anarchy. If I owned the four
        millions of slaves in the South, I would sacrifice them all to the Union; but how can I draw my
        sword upon Virginia, my native State?”

        From Davis, on secession, 1861: “Secession belongs to a different class of remedies. It is to be
        justified upon the basis that the States are sovereign. There was a time when none denied it. I
        hope the time may come again when a better comprehension of the theory of our Government,
        and the inalienable rights of the people of the States, will prevent any one from denying that
        each State is a sovereign, and thus may reclaim the grants which it has made to any agent

        I go into more detail on this topic in an article on my Substack here:

        • Gordon says:

          There is no argument from me about Jefferson Davis. His picture is on the wall. “DONT’T BLAME ME, I VOTED FOR JEFF DAVIS!”. I doubt there was anyone else who could have done the job. He essentially got the job by acclamation.

          As troubled by secession as RE Lee was there was no ambiguity once he left Arlington. His command at the Seven Days campaign leaves no doubt about his commitment to the cause. He held feelings ranging from respect to contempt for various Federal officers but there is evidence of something like hate for northern politicians and editors, etc. Frequent wartime references by Lee to “the country” were to the CSA, his country.

          Both men acquitted themselves from secession until the end of their lives in their way. While unsuccessful, the upstart country was extraordinarily accomplished. Against the resolve of a powerful opponent, separated only by a river, the South never was going to have benefit of second chances. I think they have been vindicated from the beginning – or the end – and General Lee is only the object of devotion for many with casual knowledge.

          Now it’s our fight, per Stephen D. Lee, 1906: To you, Sons of Confederate Veterans, we will commit the vindication of the cause for which we fight.

          (I will see your substack.)

    • ignatiusjreilly says:

      Well, yall gonna lose in the 21st century just like ya lost in the 19th century. just sayin’….

      • Cody Davis says:

        Cope. They have to cheat in elections because they are so scared of Trump, as mild as he is. Imagine if someone not so gentle and disorganized was running. Or imagine if Southerners began ramping up their State Defense Forces just like DeSantis is beginning to do in Florida. The world is watching and they hate the US and it’s greedy leaders; billions of people are on our side.

      • THT says:

        The USA will lose to itself in the 21st. Don’t be surprised.

  • mark brown says:

    It is time to make our Plowshares into Swords and water the Tree of Liberty with the blood of these tyrrants.

  • Joyce says:

    Lee thought that the departure of the states of the deeper South had been hasty. Virginia seceded when Lincoln ignored the Constitution, the 10th Amemdment, and began his invasion of the Confederacy. Inherent in Lee’s declaration that he could not “draw his sword upon” Virginia is his sad acceptance of dissolution as a last resort.

    • Gordon says:

      That’s right. For a hundred and fifty years RE Lee’s anguish at dissolution of the Union has been misunderstood as indecision about his course, for which there was none. The decision was made at birth.

      Lee is treated as an exception. I’ve been researching Confederate ancestors across a handful of prominent families and the near unanimity within every family of loyalty to Virginia is remarkable. I bet the sentiment in all the Southern states was the same. It was a popular war.

  • Jeff Paulk says:

    Sent to Swords into Plowshares:

    Swords into Plowshares, 29 Oct., 2023

    It baffles the human mind how ignorant of history and full of hate you people are at demanding the needless destruction of a statue of General Robert E. Lee. You have swallowed the 150+ year old lie that Lincoln’s illegal war was fought over slavery, and seem to go along with the idea that the South invented that institution. You obviously have no idea that Robert E. Lee was opposed to slavery, opposed to secession, and freed the slaves inherited from his father-in-law’s estate. No Confederate fought to keep slavery, and no Yankee fought to end it. Lee fought to defend his home state from invasion. (Waging war upon another state is treason, as defined in the Constitution. Since Lincoln did not recognize secession, he was waging war upon other states and committed treason.)

    The New England Yankee slave traders are who brought the slaves here from Africa, where they were already enslaved by their own people. They were transported on ships, in horrid conditions, that flew the U.S. flag, not the Confederate flag. There were slave states in the Union with more than 429,000 slaves in them at the time of the war. West Virginia was admitted into the Union as a slave state during the war. Lincoln supported the Corwin Amendment which would have forever made it illegal to abolish slavery, if the South would just ratify it.

    The slave narratives, compiled by Northern journalists during the Great Depression, tell a far different story of Southern slavery than does history, the media, and Hollywood. The vast majority of Southern slaves were well treated. They were considered extended family in most cases. They were far better off than the poor whites in the South, and had a longer life expectancy than free blacks in the North. They were well fed, clothed, housed, and had the best medical care available at the time. They could grow small patches of produce and sell it. They were even allowed to hire themselves out for wages locally. It was far from the land of “whips and chains” as has been indoctrinated into most people.

    These Confederate monuments, which you seem to loathe so much, are a tribute to the Confederate soldiers (black, white, Indian, Mexican, Irish, Jew, and others) who defended their homes and families from an illegal invasion of murderers, looters, arsonists, and rapists. Lincoln invaded to continue the collection of excessive tariffs the South was paying into the federal revenues. “But, his Emancipation Proclamation freed the slaves”, you say. No, it freed not one solitary soul. It was a war measure to cause a slave uprising in the South, which did not happen, and to keep England and France from coming to the aid of the Confederacy by pretending the war was a moral campaign to end slavery.

    Slavery was a dying institution and many in the South were already freeing their slaves. Most real historians agree that slavery would not have lasted another 20 years. But Lincoln, who supported the Corwin Amendment, was willing to keep slavery forever enshrined in the Constitution if the South would just return to the Union and ratify it. And most people think he was a great man and really cared about the black race. He was a tyrant who cared nothing for any race but his own.

    This cultural genocide of all things Southern and Confederate just divides our country further, and you are fueling this engine of hate with your destructive actions. You need to learn the truth about our history and stop the hate.


    Jeff Paulk

    • Billy P says:

      Excellent! Truth- well done!

    • William Quinton Platt III says:

      Jeff, great work. Absolutely, the main point of your discussion should read, WE WILL NOT PRETEND SLAVERY WAS EVIL. For if we do, we lose EVERY TIME since our enemies have no qualms about adding another lie to the stack. WE WILL NOT DISHONOR OUR ANCESTORS for just as they participated in this legal business venture, so did the African Kings, the European Monarchies, the Royal Navy, the lenders of various religious persuasions, the northern shipyards, the Yankee institutions of higher learning…and as we all know, THERE WAS ONLY ONE CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT IN THE HISTORY OF THE uNITED STATES THAT DISENFRANCHISED CITIZENS BASED ON RACE (enslaved them, you might say) AND THAT WAS THE 14TH which was passed under military occupation and forced upon the States.

      The Corwin Amendment could not bring the Cotton States back into the union, though that may have been another reason for its passage. It was passed to protect slavery in the States that remained in the union. None of the Cotton States had representatives in the United States at the time of its passage. It was a “divide and conquer” method used by all empires. IF THE COTTON STATES HAD REMAINED IN THE UNION, THERE WOULD HAVE BEEN AN OVERWHELMING PASSAGE OF THE AMENDMENT IF THE northern STATES VOTED AS THEY HAD VOTED WITHOUT THE COTTON STATES PRESENT. But therein lies the rub…YOU CAN’T TRUST A YANKEE…CONTRACTS MEAN NOTHING TO THEM.

      If you have researched this point to clarity, I’d like to discuss here. There were MANY moving parts at that time, much as this time we are experiencing today and just as the War wasn’t over “slavery” but over COMPETING ECONOMIC POWERS for obvious reasons (5 Slave States in the union, the Corwin, tariffs, FAILURE OF THE north TO FOLLOW THE CONSTITUTION except for the part about “the House gets to pass tax law”, etc.) the continuation of the empire onto the global scene has created a similar multi-front war.

      I sent a similar piece to the re-naming commission; the challenge was to officially “rename” the WBTS as “The War Between the Free States and the Slave States” because if you’re going to lie and count on ignorant people to fall for them, you gotta lie BIG. I am sure if given the chance, they will attempt to do so…but they have the internet and HISTORY against them…so keep striking blows for truth just as you have here.

  • Dixie says:

    Be careful when ripping off scabs. those who don’t know their history are doomed to repeat it.

  • well…
    If people remove all of the old values, just what is left to value? I can tell you all.


    In a real sense, I feel, it is these liberals who help build the idea that money is the only real value in life. Even the very poor have to spend a LOT of time dwelling on money as they do not have enough to live properly on.

    Destroy them monuments. Value systems that monuments represent, only repress people. Better yet, convince Southerners to become liberal and then also embrace the idea that money is all there is to life. Tell us all that every river now is so polluted that no one should ever fish again. Convince us all that vegan food is the only diet that is good and that if you weigh a bit over the normal BMI number your health insurance premium will triple
    Then have everyone, at 25 years old, take satin and other drugs to control blood pressure and cholesterol.

    Soon, we all may have to rent everything, you will own nothing.
    Soon, you will not even own yourself.
    the Collective will own you.

    They tried this once! They built a tower to climb to something other than God. God was not Pleased! He had the builder begin to speak in different languages.
    We are building another Tower of Babel. Placing, as well, the Golden Calf statue at its base.

    The mills of God grind slowly, but exceedingly fine and well: a day may come where there must be a Reckoning!


  • Baron says:

    They’re goal is to wipe out Europe (US and Canada are European). They have to eradicate all history of resistance and spirit so no one will ever rise against them ever again. Start easy with the funny-mustache boogeyman. Then creep back into the rest of our history and declare it all racist and destroy it. The confederacy had nothing to do with 1930s Germany, yet countless people associate the two.

    Look at the Germans. They were the most powerful European nation until the wanton destruction and mass murder of their people by the US, Britain, France, and the USSR. Now they have no fight in them. They’ll all be speaking turkish in a couple of generations.

    (side note: does anyone remember the Black Horror on the Rhine?)

    The French are being slaughtered on their own soil and not doing anything to solve the issue. A fentanyl OD caused a real insurrection in the US (government building attacked, burned, and sieged). But after the Bataclan massacre, the French did nothing.

    We’re done as a people; all cowards with no principles to act as a cultural foundation.

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