top of page
  • Writer's pictureMichael McAuliff

Here Are The 11 Confederates Honored With Statues In The Capitol

Nancy Pelosi wants to remove 11 Confederate statues from the Capitol, requesting that in a letter this week to the Joint Committee on the Library of Congress, which oversees such things.

It's the second time she's called for it, and it got a ton of attention in the context of the protests against police brutality and racism.

So, who are we talking about, here? Who are the men who fought and led an insurrection against the United States, and then ended up memorialized in the capital of the nation they tried to defeat?

First on the list is Jefferson Davis. He's the very well-known president of the Confederacy.

Second is Robert E. Lee, the Confederate general. Lee is revered still by many as a brilliant tactician and someone who did not actually believe in slavery. But that take on him is undeserved, based on his own writings and treatment of his own slaves. "The blacks are immeasurably better off here than in Africa, morally, socially & physically. The painful discipline they are undergoing, is necessary for their instruction as a race," Lee wrote, for instance, in a letter reprinted in an Atlantic article debunking Lee revisionism.

Then there's Alexander Hamilton Stephens, the vice president of the Confederacy.

He delivered the infamous speech that said the cornerstone of the Confederacy was the "great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery, subordination to the superior race, is his natural and normal condition."

He was a congressman from Georgia at the start of the Civil War, and not many years after the end of it, he was reelected to Congress, in 1873, and went on to become governor of Georgia.

Note the inscription on his pedestal: "I am afraid of nothing on the earth, above the earth, beneath the earth, except to do wrong."

Most of the other statues of confederates were officers of the rebellion.

Wade Hampton, was a South Carolina plantation owner. He sold his cotton to Europe to buy weapons for the South, he raised troops, and fought all over, including at Gettysburg and the first Battle of Bull Run. He rose to the rank of lieutenant general, and after the war became a vocal opponent of Reconstruction, and a Redeemer, folks who wanted to restore white supremacy and the old power of plantation owners.

He won election as governor in 1876, thanks in part to a violent campaign of voter suppression targeting black people. He later won election to the U.S. Senate.

James Zachariah George was one of the signers of Mississippi's secession papers. He became a Confederate colonel, and was captured twice, spending two years in prison. He eventually became chief justice of the Mississippi Supreme Court, then was elected as a U.S. senator -- a post he held for 16 years.

Edmund Kirby Smith, of Florida, quit the United States Army to join the Confederacy. He was severely injured at Manassas, but wound up a general and was commander of the last major Confederate force to surrender. He briefly fled the United States to avoid treason charges, but returned to become a businessman and educator. Florida has voted to remove his statue, and replace it with civil rights activist Mary McLeod Bethune.

Joseph Wheeler, of Alabama, also quit the United States Army to sign up with the Confederates. Robert E. Lee thought he was one of his best cavalry officers, ad he advanced to the rank of general. Wheeler got into into politics in 1880 as a Bourbon Democrat, or a Redeemer. He held a seat in Congress for nearly 20 years. He managed to get named a general again in the United States Army to go fight in the Spanish American war.

Zebulon Vance also was a backer of the Union, but mainly because he thought the South would lose. He formed his own unit in the Confederate army, and rose in the ranks until getting elected wartime governor of North Carolina. He also was a Redeemer, and after the war, he was eventually reelected governor, then elected to the U.S. Senate.

Uriah Milton Rose was the chancellor of the Court of Chancery (judge) of Pulaski County, Arkansas. He had opposed secession, also on the grounds that the South would lose. But he swore loyalty to the Confederacy to stay a judge, and refused to swear loyalty to the Union. We went on to advise presidents, to help found the American Bar Association, and was its president in 1901.

Edward Douglass White, of Louisiana, quit college at Georgetown to enlist in the South's war effort. He lasted in it until 1863 when was released from service after nearly starving and getting ill in the siege of Port Hudson.

He would go on to be appointed to the U.S. Senate, then the Supreme Court. President Taft named him chief justice of the high court in 1910.

John Kenna, of West Virginia, joined the Confederate Army in Missouri when he was just 16 years old, and served about a year before he got injured.

He went on to become a congressman, then a U.S. senator before dying suddenly at the age of 45.

The Davis, Stephens and Vance photos are by Michael McAuliff. Others are from the Architect of the Capitol Flickr feed. Information sources are linked in the text.


bottom of page