Historians respond to John F. Kelly’s Civil War remarks: ‘Strange,’ ‘sad,’ ‘wrong’

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tags: Civil War, Robert E Lee, John Kelly



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White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly was the guest for the premiere of Laura Ingraham’s new show on Fox News Monday night. During the interview, he outlined a view of the history of the Civil War that historians described as “strange,” “highly provocative,” “dangerous” and “kind of depressing.”

Kelly was asked about the decision of a church in Alexandria to remove plaques honoring George Washington and Robert E. Lee.

“I would tell you that Robert E. Lee was an honorable man,” Kelly said. “He was a man that gave up his country to fight for his state, which 150 years ago was more important than country. It was always loyalty to state first back in those days. Now it’s different today. But the lack of an ability to compromise led to the Civil War, and men and women of good faith on both sides made their stand where their conscience had them make their stand.”

“That statement could have been given by [former Confederate general] Jubal Early in 1880,” said Stephanie McCurry, professor of history at Columbia University and author of “Confederate Reckoning: Politics and Power in the Civil War South.”

“What’s so strange about this statement is how closely it tracks or resembles the view of the Civil War that the South had finally got the nation to embrace by the early 20th century,” she said. “It’s the Jim Crow version of the causes of the Civil War. I mean, it tracks all of the major talking points of this pro-Confederate view of the Civil War.”





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