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Robertson: 'History is what it is and not what we wish it to be'

Robertson: 'History is what it is and not what we wish it to be'

Confederate monument dedication draws a crowd of 500

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Robertson: 'History is what it is and not what we wish it to be'

Staff Photos by Morris Stephenson: Confederate soldiers set the tone for the dedication ceremony Saturday of the new Confederate monument on the lawn of the Franklin County County Courthouse.

Confederate soldiers marching up South Main Street set the tone for the dedication ceremony Saturday of the new Confederate monument on the lawn of the Franklin County County Courthouse.

The original monument, dedicated in 1910, was destroyed by a pickup truck in 2007. The new replica went into place in June.

A crowd of about 500 people gathered on both sides of South Main Street and East Court Street, filling chairs on the courthouse lawn and spilling onto the sidewalks.

The crowd listened to featured speaker Dr. James I. (Bud) Robertson, a distinguished Civil War professor at Virginia Tech.

Robertson, along with Dr. Frances Amos and Circuit Court Judge W.N. Alexander II spoke from the decorated balcony on the second floor of the courthouse.

Retired judge and former state Senator Bill Hopkins, whose father as a young boy won an essay contest and the prize of 25 cents during a fundraising effort for the original monument, also spoke from his wheelchair in front of the courthouse entrance.

Robertson spoke of how two major things came as a result of the Civil War -- the elimination of slavery and most importantly, the establishment of a union. "Union" is the single most important word that describes the war, he said. "It's the single threat that now binds us all."

"History is what it is and not what we wish it to be," he said. Both sides fought for their homes, their families and their ways of life, he added.

Robertson noted the war was a "national tragedy" as Americans fought Americans, with "700,000 plus who all died ugly deaths."

"We can love history, which most do, or hate history, which some do. But it is history, and we can all learn from it," he concluded.

Amos traced the history of the monument, telling of Miss Essie Smith, a local librarian and historian who led efforts to get a statue erected. The original monument cost $1,800.

He noted that of the 2,500 Franklin County men who fought in the war, some 300 did not return. The statue honors those men, Amos said.

Amos also pointed out that in 1862, 300 freed slaves participated in the South's war efforts. "History is what it is, and our liberties should not be taken lightly."

Hopkins recalled his father was a speaker for the dedication of the Booker T. Washington National Monument.

Hopkins also recalled attending a Confederate memorial event in the 1930s when a Rocky Mount band of 12 members played for three hours. He said six or seven Confederate veterans, including Capt. Hale, were there, all sitting in chairs.

"I think there is no way we could have avoided the Civil War, but we are a greater nation because of it," he concluded.

Rodger Doss brought tears to the eyes of a number of people when he played "Shenandoah" on a harmonica, while standing on the balcony above the crowd.

Gerald Via, president of the Jubal A. Early Preservation Trust, gave a roll call of the Franklin County companies who fought in the war.

Alter the monument was unveiled by members of the Daughters of the Confederacy, Jubal Early Chapter, Annette E. Wetzel, registrar general of the UDC, and Madeline Eckerman placed a wreath in front of the statue.

The Fincastle Rifles Camp 1326 of the Sons of the Confederacy, commanded by Red Barbour, fired a volley of three shots into the air as the color guard stood at attention.

The playing of "Taps" by Jeff McGuire of the Franklin County High School Marching Eagle Band and the retiring of colors, concluded the hour-long event.

Also, Rev. Larry Holland gave the invocation; Charles Santrock, a veteran of two wars, led the pledge to the flag; Dolores Smith, past Virginia president of the UDC, led the pledge to the Virginia flag; and John Holland, a descendant of Franklin County Confederate Soldiers, led the salute to the Confederate flag.

The Flora N. Morris Memorial Civil War Exhibit, which was closed during the ceremony, attracted a steady crowd from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

A large number of people also visited the encampment at The Grove, which was often visited by Capt. Jubal Early. His law office remains on the property.

The encampment was hosted by the 1st Stuart Horse Artillery, with Capt. Earl Jueck and the 60th Infantry, Company K, commanded by Doug Camper. A cannon demonstration was held following the ceremony.

Linda Stanley with the Franklin County Historical Society Museum said she was pleased with the way the event turned out.

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