It seems that the well-intentioned plan of the legislature to develop a Veterans Hall of Fame has become enmeshed in controversy. The controversy has centered around two areas - the inclusion of the sitting governor as a nominee for induction and the inclusion of six former Confederates, all of whom also served as governor of this state, among the list of possible inductees.


It seems that the well-intentioned plan of the legislature to develop a Veterans Hall of Fame has become enmeshed in controversy. The controversy has centered around two areas - the inclusion of the sitting governor as a nominee for induction and the inclusion of six former Confederates, all of whom also served as governor of this state, among the list of possible inductees.



The first controversy has been settled as Governor Scott has asked that his name be withdrawn from consideration. This is good since it is bad form for the sitting governor, or any official currently holding a high state office, to be considered for this recognition. The second controversy, the banishing of consideration of any former Confederate to be included among the honorees, makes no sense. Yes, I know there are some people afflicted with such a severe case of Confederataphobia that even a mere mention of the "C" word sends them into a debilitating fit of apoplexy. These individuals also seem to have the irritating belief that their feelings should always trump those of anyone else. They also tend to be historically ignorant. Allow me to explain.



Public Law 83-425, enacted in 1958 during the Eisenhower Administration, recognizes Confederate veterans as American veterans and grants to all Confederate vets the same rights and privileges granted to all American vets. This includes providing headstones/footstones for the graves of Confederate veterans at no cost just as with all American veterans. This completely negates the false claim by the Confederate-haters that all Confederates were "traitors.



During the Spanish-American War, some 30-odd years after the War Between the States ended, four former Confederate generals (Fitzhugh Lee, Joe Wheeler, Tom Rosser and Matt Butler) and one Confederate colonel (William Oates) served as generals in the U.S. Army. It is highly unlikely that the U.S. government would have approved the promotion to the rank of general officer of any individual even suspected of being a "traitor.



It is also unlikely that the U.S. military and government would approve the naming of major U.S. military installations for "traitors. Interestingly, the largest military installation in this country, Fort Hood, is named for a Confederate general - John Bell Hood. Likewise, Fort Benning is named for Confederate general Henry Benning; Fort Bragg is named for Confederate general Braxton Bragg; Fort Polk is named for Confederate general Leonidas Polk; Fort Gordon is named for Confederate general John B. Gordon and the list goes on and on. By the way, there is no Fort Benedict Arnold anywhere in this country.



Undoubtedly, then, Confederates certainly should be eligible for inclusion on the list of veterans who either performed admirably during military service or made significant contributions outside the military. Considering these criteria, however, causes me some confusion regarding the Confederates who were initially under consideration for the Hall. In my opinion there were two glaring omissions.



Florida's greatest Confederate hero was General Edmund Kirby Smith, who was one of only two native-born Floridians to attain the rank of general officer in the Confederate Army. In fact, he was one of only eight (out of 425) Confederate generals to reach the rank of full general (4-star equivalent). He commanded one of the three armies of the Confederacy (the Army of Trans-Mississippi) and, as such, was equal in rank to General Robert E. Lee. After the war he returned to the field of education and served as a university president and mathematics professor until his death.



Another omission was Colonel (later General) David Lang, an outstanding military leader who commanded the Florida Brigade at Gettysburg. His greatest contribution to the state, however, was after the war. David Lang was appointed adjutant general of the Florida Militia by Governor Edward Aylesworth Perry and, in this capacity, he oversaw, and was greatly responsible for, the evolvement of the militia into the great organization known today as the Florida National Guard. In fact, David Lang is regarded as the "Father of the Florida National Guard.



These two along with General (later Governor) Edward Aylesworth Perry (whose name is already under consideration as an honoree) are the three former Confederates who absolutely must, without doubt, be included in the Veterans Hall of Fame. This is not to say that other Confederates should not be considered but, merely, that these three are the best of the field. Certainly, former Confederates such as two-term governor William Bloxham, governors Francis Fleming and Henry Mitchell, and educator, judge and missionary James Hamilton Wentworth also deserve serious consideration.



In closing, let me say that if the always-complaining people and the various chattering classes of Confederate-haters are successful in having all Confederates dropped from consideration for the Hall, then it is time that the State of Florida establish a Confederate museum so that the true story can be told.



Bob Hurst is lieutenant commander and public information officer for the Florida division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans.