I am writing as a proud 1966 graduate of Robert E. Lee High School. I am also a descendant on both sides of my family of men who fought in the Confederate Army, and I am the great-grandson of a man who owned slaves in Tennessee. I am for good or ill imbued with the Confederate “heritage’ that so many people today advance as the justification for retaining statues and names from that era.
Among the memorabilia left to my family by my great-grandfather is a handwritten document on a scrap of paper. It says “William Trout enlisted in the Confederate Army in 1862 and bequeaths to his children the proud consciousness of having served faithfully in the ranks of the South’s defenders.” He served in Andrew Jackson Jr.’s artillery brigade at Fort Morgan, Mobile Bay, Alabama, and was taken prisoner after the Battle of Mobile Bay. He spent the remainder of the war in a prison camp in Elmira, New York, from where he walked back to Tennessee after being released at war’s end. He is not recorded as a war hero anywhere, but like many others, he endured fear and hardship as he performed what he perceived to be his duty.