A Union Veteran's view of the Confederate Monument at Arlington
General Washington Gardner, the Commander-in-Chief of the GAR spoke at the dedication of the Confederate monument in Arlington National Cemetery.
The Naming Commission, in Part III, of its report called for its destruction. It also gave an inaccurate analysis of the statue, claiming it stood for slavery. As documented previously, the monument stood for peace and reunion. Union veterans at the time saw it the same way, as documented by this dedication speech.
"It seems fitting that here in this place and on these grounds, once the home of Robert E. Lee, there should rest the remains of some of the gallant men who followed that great soldier even unto death. It is fitting here, in sight of the Nation's Capital, and in this vast burial plot consecrated to American valor that some of our fellow-countrymen, the representatives of once hostile armies whose unsurpassed bravery is now a common heritage and pride, should rest in undisturbed slumber, and that the place of final sepulture should be under the supervision and care of the National Government.
The presence of the Chief Magistrate of the Nation, Members of his Cabinet, and of others high in the councils of the Government with that of representatives from every section of the country, participating in these dedicatory exercises serve to illustrate anew that the sectional bitterness and hate long preceding and which culminated in the great war no longer find a place in the hearts nor expression upon the lips of our countrymen.
Monuments of whatever enduring material are the visible expression of appreciation, of gratitude, or of affection. A monumentless people is either a people without a history or else a people without a heart.
This memorial structure speaks the language of peace and good-will. It says to all who come hither and read the superscription that the swords and bayonets that once gleamed along the battle's fiery front have been 'beaten into plowshares and pruning hooks.' It declares through the symbolical wreath of unfading laurel held in outstretched hand above the sleeping dead that the spirit of heroic devotion and lofty self-sacrifice which they manifested is held in grateful and affectionate memory.
There is room in the hearts of the people of all the land for cherished recollections of the valorous dead and, at the same time, for the most unfaltering love and loyalty and devotion to the Union of all the States. Without the existence of the former we should be disposed to doubt the sincerity or stead- fastness of the latter.
In the perspective of the receding years, the war looms in increasing proportions along the national horizon. Its great and beneficent results now everywhere recognized are gradually settling into the abiding convictions of all intelligent men. For full eighty years the system of government founded by our fathers was regarded by many as an experiment. Doubting patriots at home and unfriendly critics abroad fore- told the coming certain dissolution of the Union. With much show of reason they declared our government rested upon an insecure foundation. The recognized fundamental weakness was a constant menace to the permanency of the superstructure. Prior to the war, the existence of this weakness had with portentous threatenings repeatedly manifested itself both in the North and the South. In the light of the past the war for the preservation of the Union and for the settlement by the arbitrament of arms of the great constitutional question involved seemed inevitable. In that stupendous conflict neither side will ever have to apologize for the sincerity or the devotion of its adherents.
When the battle clouds lifted and the light of peace shone in ; when the people had again become settled in their wonted avocations and dispassionately surveyed the results, it was found that the menace which had so long disturbed the tranquility of the people and threatened the existence of the Union had been forever removed. It was found that the fundamental issues involved had been irrevocably settled and that the foundation stones upon which the Republic rested had been cemented anew by the shed blood of our countrymen from the North and from the South. Now, we are indeed "an indestructible Union of indestructible States." We are in very truth, "a government of the people, by the people, and for the people," resting on an enduring foundation. As the fast vanishing lines of the surviving Federal and Confederate soldiers marching side by side in peace and amity enter the twilight in the fading afterglow of life's long day, soon to be forever lost to mortal sight, of one thing we may rest assured, and that is, that whenever and wherever in future the battle line is drawn, there will be found the sons of these heroic lathers and of their scarcely less heroic mothers, standing side by side, shoulder to shoulder, in defense of the Union and for the perpetuity of the government founded by our fathers.
The contemplation of a glorious past stirs the blood in an hour like this, while the thought of a limitless future with all its possibilities, its hopes and fears, beckons our countrymen to the discharge of every duty and fidelity to every trust in peace even as the fathers were vigilant and faithful in war."