Virginia Flagger, Susan Frise Hathaway
Twenty years after Gen. Robert E. Lee rode into Appomattox and surrendered his tattered army, ending the War Between the States, a memorial chapel was built in Richmond in memory of the 260,000 Confederate soldiers who died during the conflict.. The Pelham Chapel – Confederate War Memorial is designated a National Historic Landmark by the U.S., and has been granted the status of Confederate Monument by the Commonwealth of Virginia. The organ in the chapel was donated by a group of Union veterans from Lynn, Mass. One of the contributors to the soldiers' home that surrounded the chapel was Gen. Ulysses S. Grant. And a Union private from Massachusetts donated his annual pension to support the home.
A pair of Confederate flags had flown over the Confederate Memorial Chapel in Richmond since 1887. Those two flags did not trouble the Union soldiers who donated the organ to the chapel; nor did they trouble Ulysses S. Grant. They were placed there by Confederate Veterans, to memorialize the Confederate dead, and honor the living. Fast forward 150 years…on the eve of the Sesquicentennial Commemoration of the War Between the States, June 1st, 2010, these two Confederate Battle Flags were forcibly removed from the Memorial by a restriction in the lease renewal, at the insistence of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. This is in direct violation of Virginia law, which clearly states: “it shall be unlawful for the authorities of the locality, or any other person or persons, to disturb or interfere with any monuments or memorials so erected, or to prevent its citizens from taking proper measures and exercising proper means for the protection, preservation and care of same. For purposes of this section, "disturb or interfere with" includes removal of, damaging or defacing monuments or memorials, or, in the case of the War Between the States, the placement of Union markings or monuments on previously designated Confederate memorials or the placement of Confederate markings or monuments on previously designated Union memorials.” (§ 15.2-1812) As citizens of Virginia and descendants of Confederate soldiers who gallantly answered Virginia’s call to defend her, we demand that the VMFA remove these blatantly prejudicial restrictions and allow the Confederate Battle Flags to once again fly on the Confederate War Memorial.
Susan Frise Hathaway