The “Slavery Was So Long Ago” Crowd Just Held a Eulogy for a Treasonous Civil War General
I’m not talking about the Queen. Been there, done that. I’m also not talking about Justin Roiland’s career, although that died more recently. The person I’m talking about is no one you’ve ever heard of. Why? Because he died, like, 200 years ago and just barely made it as a footnote in your U.S. History textbook. I’m talking about the Confederate general A.P. Hill, who fought for slavery, sedition, and the south—certainly no one you need to worry about mourning. He didn’t leave behind any children or grieving relatives; those people are all long dead, too. Everyone who buried him is now dead and buried themselves.
And yet his funeral just happened. Again.
Whatever do you mean?
Yep. And it wasn’t the first time this man was dug up. A.P. Hill had been buried three times over the 19th Century. Just when you think people had forgotten about him, they dug him up and moved him again. His ghost is probably pretty pissed about it.
And it’s still not over. Hill’s bones were dug up AGAIN in the 21st century after the city of Richmond decided to tear down Confederate monuments in response to the murder of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter movement. Hill’s own statue was taken down in December, and his bones beneath it were exhumed. The remains were taken to his hometown of Culpepper, Virginia
… where mourners had gathered to pay their respects.
Sooooo … I’m not really sure what “respects” are owed to this guy, considering his legacy is one of disrespect toward America as a nation and basic human decency. After all, he was one of the guys who had a hand in un-uniting the United States and driving the country into its bloodiest, deadliest war to date. Over 600,000 Americans died in the fighting, almost 150,000 more than those who lost their lives in World War II.
But the citizens of Culpepper are only worried about one of those deaths, and by God, they pulled out all the small town stops for the funeral. Hill’s coffin was draped in an old Virginia flag and brought in by a mule-drawn carriage. Hundreds of soldiers stood in attendance. A Civil War re-enactor who plays A.P. Hill came all the way down from New York city, where he was born, to speak a few words at the funeral, apparently forgetting that New York was a part of the north when the war was fought. The man told the somber crowd that Hill was regarded as “Lee’s forgotten general,” and maybe there’s a good reason for that?
Apparently the people of Culpepper remember though, and to honor his memory, they fired off three rounds from a spit-shine-polished cannon named “Jeb.” I’m not even making this up. There were even women dressed in Scarlett O’Hara-style mourning attire, and each had probably baked so thick a casserole for the wake that anyone who ate it would, with God as their witness, never go hungry again. After laying flowers on the casket while wearing Confederate flag attire, I wouldn’t be surprised if many a mint julep was emptied onto the casket while mourners tearfully uttered “my stars” and “I do declare.”
So why should we care?
You know, I thought the same thing for a moment. Why should we care that 600 people in a middle-of-nowhere town held a funeral for a nameless dead man? Half of those people are probably old and batty, half have probably never left Culpepper, and 100% of them of are people that you don’t want to meet. The outrage here isn’t that a bunch of ignorant people showed up in stovepipe hats, camo jackets, and Confederate flag t-shirts to mourn a man who’s been dead for over a century. The outrage here is that while this old racist’s bones have been painstakingly dug up and removed over the centuries and then returned home, there are thousands of dead Native Americans whose remains were looted from sacred burial sites by archaeologists and left to molder in museums. And is anyone making an effort to return those people home? I don’t see it.
Native American remains have been harvested by the government and private citizens alike for centuries. In fact, military officials throughout the years have taken many of these bones from the sites of massacres. The remains of over 110,000 Native Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Native Alaskans are currently being held at universities, over 15 times more than the number of soldiers who died in battle at Gettysburg. Federal law demands that the remains of these people be returned to the descendants or tribal nations, but this hasn’t happened yet. Many institutions are either ignoring or actively resisting the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act of 1990, and continue to hold onto the remains. According to Arizona State University professor James Riding In, who is Pawnee, these remains were “never ceded or relinquished … they were stolen.”
10 institutions hold over half of all Native American remains. Ironically, two of them are arms of the U.S. government itself. The Department of the Interior has the ninth largest collection of these remains, while the Tennessee Valley Authority has the eighth. The other institutions are mainly either old and prestigious universities who looted the remains after the government evicted Native Americans from their ancestral lands, or state-run collections that took the remains from earthen burial mounds.
According to a spokesperson from the Department of the Interior, these institutions are not required to make an attempt to repatriate the remains unless a tribe or Native Hawaiian organization submits a formal request. Many institutions cited attempt to use other loopholes within the law in order to hang on to the remains, and the final decision as to whether certain remains are culturally related to a particular tribe falls to the university, and not the tribes themselves. Considering that there are thousands and thousands of Native Americans whose remains are unremembered and unburied, melodramatic mourning of a long dead Confederate traitor is truly a travesty.
(featured image: Bill Tompkins, Getty Images)
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