The Bartlett Hall Art Massacre at West Point
Updated: Oct 13, 2022
The United States History Panels by Laura Gardin Fraser in 1965 may be one of the most remarkable pieces of art for any lover of American history. Three remarkable panels are placed at the entry of Bartlett Hall at the Military Academy to tell the incredible story of the nation, including its political conflicts, industrial evolution and the progress of knowledge. The three panels are titled: "A Goodly Heritage of the Host of Nations," "One Nation, Under God, Indivisible," God Grant New Knowledge be Tempered by Wisdom." The Naming Commission is fully aware that the artist, a Northerner, was telling the story of America through this incredible triptych.
After looking through the 100s of people, images and representations in the piece, the Commission states in Part II (page 10) "Two of the panels specifically commemorate people who voluntarily served in the Confederacy: Lee, Stuart, Jackson and Brooke."
One of the panels that includes Lee, Stuart & Jackson isn't about honoring them at all! There is a key to all of the images that can be seen here. Included in the document is a clear explanation regarding the image stating that it is about unity: Abraham Lincoln stands between Northern & Southern generals, with the railroad below that connects the nation together. This cannot be "modified" without destroying the artwork and the artist's message. There are many stories floating around the internet about these three panels but there are virtually no articles that challenge the outrageous assertions by The Naming Commission. Everyone took the report at face value, assuming these representatives would be honest.
Just like the rest of the report, there is an assumption that these men served voluntarily. If any individual has a case against that charge, it is Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson. His story is a perfect example of why The Naming Commission is trying to avoid establishing a definition of voluntary service. At the time of the Virginia Convention's secession vote, Jackson was serving at the Virginia Military Institute, subject to the military regulations of the state. When the Governor called him and his cadets into service, he had no choice but to follow orders. As I covered previously with Lee, the state made a military alliance with the Confederate States of America, which Virginia could not formerly join until its act of secession became valid with a vote by its people on May 23rd, 1861. At what point did Jackson's service become voluntary?
J.E.B Stuart resigned from the U.S. Military on May 3rd and soon joined the Virginia Infantry; this was after the legal military alliance with the Confederate States of America, though prior to the secession of the state's validity in the eyes of Virginia and its citizens. These are the matters the Naming Commission must resolve before cancelling any of these men. In the case of Fraser's triptych, J.E.B Stuart is not honored, but is part of a story of unity.
Just to be clear for those that do not have time to look through the 100+ images, the triptych is telling the story of the nation. There are images of:
Samuel Gompers (labor leader)
William Lloyd Garrison (abolitionist)
Custer's Last Stand
John C. Calhoun
Do all of these individuals and topics match or can they tell a story of the country if arranged in a logical manner? The Naming Commission gives so little detail in its report that you are unable to reach your own conclusion. The public cannot walk away from the report without feeling that the commission is afraid you will know too much information and pushback against its ridiculous recommendations.
Lastly, the report only calls out two panels, the unity panel previously discussed and one regarding Naval Officer John M. Brooke who is represented for his work on the CSS Virginia. The Naming Commission was careful to avoid pointing out to the public that Lee, Jackson & Stuart will still be represented on a third panel for their service in the Mexican War. For all practicality, destroying art, erasing history & advocating disunion will still leave 3 out of 4 of these men "honored" at Bartlett Hall.
Tell the Department of Defense and Congress that you will not accept these recommendations.