In his drive to remove the bust of A.P. Stewart from the courthouse grounds, Warren Mackey is guilty of several historical errors. He accuses Stewart - and all Confederate soldiers - of treason and asks, "How many countries can we be loyal to?" The answer, of course, is just one at a time.
Stewart and many other Southerners opposed secession, and some opposed slavery. However, when Tennessee joined the other Southern states and democratically voted to leave the Union and join the Confederacy, Stewart remained loyal to his state and the new nation despite his personal opinions, and fought bravely and honorably for his new country. He was loyal to the one country he lived in and was a citizen of every day of his life, whether that was the USA or the CSA. To compare his courageous and honorable behavior to a soldier who deserts his comrades on the battlefield is offensive and dishonest, and Mr. Mackey should be ashamed.
Mr. Mackey calls on us to "honor Americans who have fought and defended this country," but that is exactly what Stewart and other Southern soldiers did, because "this country" was the Confederate States of America at the time of the fighting. Tennessee and Hamilton Country were part of the Confederacy, by a democratic vote of the state's citizens. Stewart and other Confederate soldiers weren't fighting some guerrilla war against the duly elected government of their land, they were fighting for the duly elected government of their land. It is completely unfair to blame those soldiers for the decisions made by the democratically elected civilian leadership of their states. I thought our nation learned not to blame soldiers for the decisions of their civilian leaders after Vietnam, but perhaps we have forgotten that lesson.
Mr. Mackey's ally, Betsy Darken, asks, "Can we become a more harmonious community?" I hope so, but removing Stewart's bust is not a step in that direction. The bust is there because of Stewart's work to reunite the country after the War - because of his work to make us a more harmonious community. It was commissioned and paid for by the United Daughters of the Confederacy, to honor Stewart for his work to establish the Chickamauga & Chattanooga National Military Park and service as its first superintendent.
It isn't the bust of A.P. Stewart, a Tennessee veteran who was wounded in battle and then worked to reunite postwar America, that is divisive - it is Mackey and Darken and their crusade to remove that bust that is divisive. I urge them, the Hamilton County commission, and all of us to heed the words spoken by Mayor Ochs when our Military Park was dedicated in 1895:
"...amity and reconciliation have erected in granite and in bronze the record of a country's heroes, a country now eternally and indivisibly reunited, a country proud alike of her sons, remembering that whether they died for that cause that was lost or fell for the cause that was won, they were all Americans, their deeds added brighter luster to American arms, and their achievements exalted American valor."