A Confederate General’s Great-great-great-granddaughter Speaks Out

I was eight years old, curled up on the naugahyde sofa in my grandmother’s basement, when I found my great-grandmother’s copy of Gone with the Wind, the commemorative movie edition.   I read it literally to pieces and I can recite the entire first paragraph by heart.
gone with the wind cover
In grade school I was taught that the Civil War, to my surprise at the time, was NOT inspired primarily by the desire to continue to enslave African-Americans, but by an argument over States’ Rights.

My great-great-great-grandfather was a Confederate brigadier general, and I was raised on family legends of his valor.

Col. James Hagan
My ggggrandfather Confederate General James D. Hagan, who was born in Ireland.

Up until my house burned down, I owned a small Confederate battle flag, which at one time I displayed along with the flags of the United States, Scotland, and Ireland, a small tribute to my ethnic heritage as I understood it at the time.
This is where I come from.  I am proud to be a Southerner.  In my blog bio, I describe myself first of all as “Catholic and Southern.”  That’s at the core of who I am.

Like many Southerners, particularly those with ancestors who served in the Confederate army, I feel an attachment to statues like the one in Charlottesville.  But the character of those who rallied on Saturday in protest prove that its removal is necessary.  This confederacy of dunces would have been denounced by General Lee, who was not even in favor of secession, and by James Hagan, who was repatriated and worked for the U.S. government for the fifteen years prior to his death.

Emily on the General's Grave
My oldest child, Emily, at the grave of her great-great-great-great-grandfather, General James D. Hagan

As his descendant, I disavow and repudiate the Unite the Right protesters and anyone who shares their hateful beliefs in the strongest of terms, and I call upon all descendants of Confederate soldiers to join me in condemning them.  They don’t represent the South and we don’t need these modern-day Carpetbaggers to tell us how best to preserve our heritage.

We do no honor to the memory of the Confederate dead by supporting disgusting displays of racism.  I do not judge my ancestors as harshly as some might– they were the product of a different time.  But that time is long past.  If you feel that Robert E. Lee deserves to be honored and remembered for valiantly fighting for what he believed in–his home state of Virginia–then do what he asked after the fighting ended: “Remember, we are all one country now. Dismiss from your mind all sectional feeling, and bring [your children] up to be Americans.

18 thoughts on “A Confederate General’s Great-great-great-granddaughter Speaks Out

  1. Leslie, this is so so great. As a Virginian, I originally didn’t like the idea of removing the statue from the park, but given its identity as a rallying ground for white supremacists and neo-nazis, I see the necessity now! I’m sure he would support the removal, as well.

      1. Ken Weir

        The comments seen here are enlightening and informative and fortunately free of the overly negative and ugly comments that have no place in these discussions. While I can see a case being made for removal of some monuments, the removal of those that are integral to an important historical narrative, such as the Lee statue at Gettysburg, while leaving those of Meade or other Union generals is an affront to serious historical study.

        1. Battlefield monuments are definitely a separate issue. The only Confederate monument in Knoxville is a good example. It was erected at the site of a battle to commemorate those who died that day and very few people have called for its removal.

  2. UP

    Great post. I do not agree that the statues need to go. We need them as reminders of the past and to show us that good men can be wrong. I too am a descendant of a Confederate soldier, albeit a private who was inducted on a bounty so a rich man wouldn’t have to fight. As always, your post adds perspective and induces thought.
    I was born in the only home Stonewall Jackson ever owned and my Great- Grandfather was one of Jackson’s 38th Virginia soldiers.
    Reared on the Bible and the history of Virginia but educated in the north, I still consider myself southern.
    Lee, Jackson and your ancestor and mine would have been outraged at the behavior of the fools who invaded Charlottesville this weekend.
    Again, great post.

    1. Thanks so much, Paul. I love hearing about your family’s rich history. And I’ve gone back and forth on the statue thing–the mayor of New Orlean’s piece is what finally swayed me. But I’m not one of those melt-them-down or sledgehammer them folks. I think there is still a place for them, and that it should be where they can still be seen for the reasons you state.

  3. My 2nd great grandfather joined the Confederate Army in 1865 at 14 (lied about his age), and was taken as a POW shortly thereafter. As a native Californian I rarely mention this because people immediately assume my family owned slaves (poor tenant farmers according to my research). I agree with your take that most Confederate soldiers would have been appalled by the events this weekend.

    1. Mine DID own slaves–he was a planter before the war, and I actually have a picture of his wife with the family’s mammy, Cornelia. It is definitely a strange thing to know about an ancestor.

  4. Ken Weir

    I too have several Confederate ancestors who fought in the War Between the States, as an old teacher of mine called the conflict, and am appalled by the lack of understanding from so many about that time. History is history and we should never attempt to hide or destroy the tangible artifacts or subsequent items created to memorialize that time. There was valor on both sides; there was dishonor on both sides.The over-riding theme should be to learn from these events so that our future can be better.

  5. coarol

    As a native Virginian, I thank you for this post! It certainly rings true with me. I, too, have read Gone With the Wind a number of times. My copy, found in my grandmother’s attic, is written like the Bible–two columns to each page.

  6. pwcamy

    What a great quote by Lee I had not heard ( “Remember, we are all one country now. Dismiss from your mind all sectional feeling, and bring [your children] up to be Americans.”). As a northerner and a mother of a biracial son, I do cringe when I see a Confederate flag . . . but, my lovely neighbors across the street have one hung up in their backyard and I can see it from my front step. I just feel like they represent states fighting for their right to enslave people. I know that not everyone agrees with me… but I love the notion and the wisdom that we are all Americans, and that is definitely something to be proud of <3

    1. Kimberly

      Iam the great great Granddaughter of Jhon Peter Shaffer Battle of York Twon My Heart Brakes over this. My Faimly Fought To give Freedom From the British

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