Slaves were once sold on the steps of the old Loudoun County courthouse in downtown Leesburg, which bore stocks and whipping posts. Although 150 years have passed, the courthouse retains a symbol of its Civil War days: a statue of a Confederate soldier, rifle at the ready, facing west.
As the national debate over Confederate symbols on public property continues to gain steam since the June 17 slayings at a historic African American church in Charleston, S.C., dozens of people gathered at the courthouse Saturday morning calling for a change locally: They want a memorial that would also honor the lives of slaves and Union soldiers.
“Our history’s not being told from the standpoint of what really occurred,” said Phillip E. Thompson, president of the Loudoun NAACP, which organized the rally. “We think we’re sending the wrong message about Loudoun County and who we really are.”
Residents and officials from across the county and the region came to the “remembrance rally,” including Leesburg Mayor Kristen C. Umstattd and Scott K. York, chairman of the county’s Board of Supervisors. It also drew a handful of counterprotesters, who displayed Confederate flags on another side of the courthouse during the event.
Thompson urged local officials to approve a memorial that would “balance” the history represented at the courthouse. “Black history matters,” he said, to applause. Some waved signs that said “Black lives matter” and “Honor the lives stolen here.”
I am somewhat curious why Leesburg was chosen for the site of this non-controversy. The courthouse wasn’t built until the 1890’s. Leesburg is NOT named for Robert E. Lee or his family. There are confederate statues all over Virginia. There is strong Civil War history here according to Wikipedia:
Early in the American Civil War Leesburg was the site of the Battle of Balls Bluff, a resounding Confederate victory. The battlefield is marked by one of America’s smallest national cemeteries. The town frequently changed hands over the course of the war as both armies traversed the area during the Maryland and Gettysburg campaigns. The Battle of Mile Hill was fought just north of the town prior to its occupation by Robert E. Lee in September 1862. Leesburg also served as a base of operations for Col. John S. Mosby and his partisan Raiders, for whom the Loudoun County High School mascot is named (the Raiders). Some people consider the local courthouse among the few courthouses in Virginia not burned during the Civil War (1861–1865); in fact, it was not built until 1894.
It sounds to me like there are undertones of “I want a fight” on this one. It doesn’t have to be. Those interested in a memorial to union soldiers and slaves can start a fund and commission a statue or plague. The Civil War is over. We shouldn’t really have to refight it over statue issues. My concern is and will continue to be, where will this new interest go? How long before someone starts clamoring to change the name of the high school or the name of the town, for that matter?
Virginia is ripe for controversy since it received more Civil War damage than any other state in the old Confederacy.