In a move that will surely fuel controversy in Richmond and beyond, Virginia’s Governor Bob McDonnell has issued a proclamation declaring April Confederate History Month in Virginia. While this is not something new to the Commonwealth, it had been absent from the state since 2002 when Governor Warner did away with the tradition. The previous governor, Tim Kaine, chose not revive it during his term as well.
A firestorm of criticism has been launched by Democrats who decry the fact that the proclamation glosses over Civil War history by making no mention of slavery or the slave trade in Virginia.
Governor McDonnell focused on the tremendous history in the Commonwealth where more battles were fought than in any other state. He also sees it as a boon for tourism as sites all over the country prepare for the 150th anniversary of the Civil War.
The full text of the proclamation is below.
Confederate History Month
WHEREAS, April is the month in which the people of Virginia joined the Confederate States of America in a four year war between the states for independence that concluded at Appomattox Courthouse; and
WHEREAS, Virginia has long recognized her Confederate history, the numerous civil war battlefields that mark every region of the state, the leaders and individuals in the Army, Navy and at home who fought for their homes and communities and Commonwealth in a time very different than ours today; and
WHEREAS, it is important for all Virginians to reflect upon our Commonwealth’s shared history, to understand the sacrifices of the Confederate leaders, soldiers and citizens during the period of the Civil War, and to recognize how our history has led to our present; and
WHEREAS, Confederate historical sites such as the White House of the Confederacy are open for people to visit in Richmond today, and
WHEREAS, all Virginians can appreciate the fact that when ultimately overwhelmed by the insurmountable numbers and resources of the Union Army, the surviving, imprisoned and injured Confederate soldiers gave their word and allegiance to the United States of America, and returned to their homes and families to rebuild their communities in peace, following the instruction of General Robert E. Lee of Virginia, who wrote that, “…all should unite in honest efforts to obliterate the effects of war and to restore the blessings of peace.”; and
WHEREAS, this defining chapter in Virginia’s history should not be forgotten, but instead should be studied, understood and remembered by all Virginians, both in the context of the time in which it took place, but also in the context of the time in which we live, and this study and remembrance takes on particular importance as the Commonwealth prepares to welcome the nation and the world to visit Virginia for the Sesquicentennial Anniversary of the Civil War, a four-year period in which the exploration of our history can benefit all;
NOW, THEREFORE, I, Robert McDonnell, do hereby recognize April 2010 as CONFEDERATE HISTORY MONTH in our COMMONWEALTH OF VIRGINIA, and I call this observance to the attention of all our citizens.