By Melanie Batley
The U.S. Army War College is considering the possible removal of portraits depicting Confederate generals, including Robert E. Lee and “Stonewall” Jackson, after an official questioned why the school honors those who fought against the United States.
The issue arose as the college conducts an inventory of all its paintings and photographs, with plans to re-hang them in historical themes to chronicle the military’s history, The Washington Times reported Tuesday.
“This person was struck by the fact we have quite a few Confederate images,” college spokeswoman Carol Kerr, told the Times. “[Lee] was certainly not good for the nation. This is the guy we faced on the battlefield whose entire purpose in life was to destroy the nation as it was then conceived . . . This is all part of an informed discussion.”
Army Maj. Gen. Tony Cucolo, the commandment of the college, said that inaccurate rumors were spread about the removal of the portraits because a faculty member took them down as part of the inventory process. He nonetheless confirmed that changes would be made.
“There will be change: over the years very fine artwork has been hung with care — but [with] little rationale or overall purpose,” he said Wednesday in a statement on the school’s website.
“I will . . . approach our historical narrative with keen awareness and adherence to the seriousness of several things: accurate capture of U.S. military history, good, bad and ugly; a Soldier’s life of selfless service to our Nation; and our collective solemn oath to defend the Constitution of the United States (not a person or a symbol, but a body of ideals). Those are the things I will be looking to reinforce with any changes to the artwork.”
Two portraits of Lee are on display at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., and his portrait is also on the walls of other military institutions and government buildings, according to the Times.
The Army War College was established in 1901 in Carlisle, Pa. for the study of lessons in warfare, and the institution has been the making of future field generals. It graduates more than 300 U.S. officers, foreign students, and civilians in two classes each year, according to the Times.
Lee led the Army of Northern Virginia for the Confederate States of America during the Civil War. Six months after surrendering to Gen. Ulysses S. Grant, Lee swore allegiance to the Constitution and to the Union.
In 1975, Congress enacted a joint resolution reinstating Lee’s U.S. citizenship, stating, “This entire nation has long recognized the outstanding virtues of courage, patriotism and selfless devotion to duty of General R.E. Lee.”
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