The resistance of former Confederates to Reconstruction, Scott insisted, “overshadows all [their] brilliant victories on the field of battle.” It entitled them to the “lasting gratitude of the civilized world,” which, he suggested, was increasingly beginning to see the “race question” in the same way that former Confederates did.
As proof, he pointed to an article by Charles Francis Adams Jr. in The Century Magazine. Reflecting on a recent trip to Africa, Adams, a descendant of the presidents and a Union veteran, unleashed a racist screed that included a mea culpa for Yankee mishandling of Reconstruction:
Even now we not infrequently hear the successor to the abolitionist and humanitarian of the ante-civil-war period,—the “Uncle Tom” period,—announce that the difference between the White Man and the Black Man is much less considerable than is ordinarily supposed, and that the only real obstacle in the negro’s way is that—“He has never been given a chance!”—For myself, after visiting the black man in his own house, I come back with a decided impression that this is the sheerest of delusions, due to pure ignorance of rudimentary facts; yet we built upon it in reconstruction days as upon a foundation stone,—a self-evident truth!
Seeing such views articulated by a Boston Brahmin and broadcast in the pages of a national publication gave Scott cheer. “Mark my prediction,” he intoned, Confederates’ efforts to “preserve Anglo Saxon civilization” during Reconstruction—“this one act alone”—would ultimately ensure that “the Confederate soldier will be reverenced by the north as it is already loved by all the people of the south.”
What, in the end, was this a monument to? What did the people unveiling this monument think it stood for?
In Scott’s estimation, Confederate soldiers’ greatest achievement came not during the Civil War, but during Reconstruction, when they ensured, through force of arms, that black people would remain subjugated.
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The monument he dedicated, then, was a tribute not to a defeated people, but to a victorious one. There had been not one war but two: a hot war that lasted from 1861 to 1865 and resulted in the Confederacy’s defeat, and a cold war that followed, during which white southerners waged an informal but nevertheless systematic campaign of violence and intimidation against black southerners to ensure that the Confederacy’s defeat would not also mean the end of white supremacy. Confederate soldiers may have lost the former, but they had won the latter.
We have been told repeatedly that these monuments were the products of grief. But in reality, as Scott made clear, they were a celebration. On that day in May 1906, he could stand atop the dais confident that he and the assembled crowd still enjoyed the Herrenvolk democracy that the Confederate defeat and Reconstruction had, for a time, threatened to overturn. It was a day of jubilee. Scott did not want to reflect upon what had been lost, but rather, what had been won. And any black person in Mississippi who walked in the shadow of that monument would know that Scott was right.
* This article previously misstated that several buildings on the University of Mississippi campus are dedicated to the University Greys.