Open Forum: That defense of Milroy

Posted: March 7, 2013

I must respond to Larry Yates’ letter of Feb. 20 and his subsequent response (March 1) to Charles Bachman’s reply to it. While I could laugh off the first letter as the misguided opinion of one person, his demeaning response to Mr. Bachman demanded that I weigh in.

Ben Ritter’s letter of March 5 covered the historical inaccuracies of Mr. Yates’ opinions about Gen. Jubal Early and Gen. Robert Milroy better than I could. I will say, in the words of noted historian James Robertson: “Honest and outspoken, honorable and uncompromising, Jubal A. Early epitomized much that was the Southern Confederacy. His self-reliance, courage, sagacity, and devotion to the cause brought confidence then just as it inspires reverence now.”

Gen. Early had his faults and his views on race relations would not be appropriate in 21st-century America, but his was a different time and his views represented mainstream thinking of the majority of Americans. Early may well have defended the status quo that included slavery, but that was part of the U.S. Constitution and he did, above all, believe in the rule of law.

As for the Jim Crow system of oppression in the post-war South, I would disagree that it was the result of Gen. Early’s writings. This was more a backlash to the odious Yankee occupation of Southern states known as Reconstruction. When state governments were appointed by the U.S. Army, when citizens were not allowed to vote or run for office, and when states were required to apply for readmission to the United States when they lost a war over their right to leave that Union, what do you expect? Unprepared and uneducated former slaves were appointed to government offices simply to insult and denigrate those who dared to disagree with the government. This occupation was a shameful miscalculation by the U.S. government and ultimately hurt those it purported to help.

Mr. Yates also takes great pains to belittle Mr. Bachman for re-enacting American history. I am not personally a re-enactor, but I do believe that those who practice this hobby bring history to life for others and honor our long-ago ancestors. It’s funny that Mr. Yates berates Mr. Bachman while he recently dressed up as his beloved “Spoons” Milroy in a sadly inaccurate costume to celebrate the anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation.

Mr. Yates goes on to insult the Confederate States of America as an imaginary country. Tell those 300,000 Yankees who lay stiff in Southern soil that they were fighting an imaginary country. You insult the honor of these men as well.

I think you’ll find a large number of people in Winchester and the rest of the South who wish to remember and honor the brave and selfless acts of Gen. Jubal Early and countless unknown Confederate soldiers. These were men who fought and gave their all to defend their homes from a Federal juggernaut unconcerned about the U.S. Constitution or that rule of law.

And I think you’ll find these same people also honor and respect most of the Union soldiers who answered their country’s call, right or wrong, for they largely acted bravely and honorably. It’s just that Gen. Robert Milroy wasn’t one of them. We’ll keep our Jubal Early Drive, thank you very much, Larry.

David S. Clarke, a resident of Berryville, is commander of Turner Ashby Camp No. 1567, Sons of Confederate Veterans.