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Friday, January 16, 2015

Only in Virginia

Today is a holiday, but there’s no need to check your calendars to see if you missed it because it’s only celebrated in one U.S. state.

It's Lee–Jackson Day, which is celebrated solely in Virginia to mark the birthdays of Virginia natives Robert E. Lee and Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson, who served as Confederate generals in the Civil WarLee led military and naval forces during the Civil War until he surrendered to General Ulysses Grant in 1865, marking the war's end. Jackson's greatest victory was when he led his troops around the Union right flank at Chancellorsville to route the 11th Corps and mortally wounded, died eight days later on May 10, 1863.

The original holiday created in 1889 only celebrated Lee's birthday; in 1904, Jackson's name was added. In 1983, the holiday oddly was merged with a new federal holiday to celebrate the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. And, in Virginia only, from 1984-2000, it was Lee-Jackson-King Day. The merge was reversed after a debate on whether celebrating the lives of Confederate generals and a civil rights leader was inconsistent. 

Yes, it does seem odd that it took so long to figure that out. But, then some areas of the South have never adjusted to fact that their side lost the Civil War.

The two holidays are celebrated separatelyLee–Jackson Day is observed on the Friday before Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, which is January 19 this year; it's always the third Monday in January. Virginia state offices are closed for both holidays, yet many schools and businesses remain open.

Virginia is not alone in having a state holiday for anyone associated with the unsuccessful Southern rebellion. The birthday of Confederate President Jefferson Davis is marked as a state holiday in Mississippi. (Davis was born in Kentucky, but raised in Mississippi.) 

When we first moved to Virginia 15 years ago, this unique observance was an oddity to us “northerners.” The day was memorable to us not for reasons noted herein, but because it was the day we closed on The Frog & Penguinn, our "new" home. And, it continues to be remembered solely for that reason. The concept of celebrating men whose legacy involved fighting on the side of a nation founded to expand human bondage seems very strange, even more so today.

15 comments:

diane b said...

That's interesting. I had a feeling that there was still a bit of animosity there.

Out on the prairie said...

Never heard of this one. I like that they figured out to separate MLK Day.SC has a Confederate flag over the capital.

Sandra said...

i am thinking there are to many holidays. i am from the old days of 6 holidays and that was plenty. maybe they should be called remembrance days. the odd thing is that now there are more Northerners down here in the South than Southern born.. seems they like it better. yes Diane there is a little bitterness still there.it will die with my generation

Lois Evensen said...

Very interesting history. Our son and family live in VA, but I've never heard this history about the holiday there before.

William Kendall said...

Very odd to mix Doctor King's day in with those two. The Civil War's an area of interest for me, and I do have a great deal of respect for Lee and Jackson- and Longstreet too, though some Southerners today still loath the man (one of my sisters-in-law counts him as a distant relative). While Jackson was alive, that trio of commanders was one of the most effective military teams in history. Unfortunately they chose to fight on the wrong side.

Terri B said...

I think your reason for celebrating that day is a great one- your house is gorgeous!

Emma Springfield said...

Both were great men. Lee was in fact a great strategist. Funding was probably the main reason he lost the war. The South just could not raise the funds that the North could to support their armed forces. Davis was perhaps not as strong a leader because he was trying to juggle too many things. But he was revered by the people.

DeniseinVA said...

It is lovely to see your home. Such a pretty place. I know all about Stonewall Jackson and have taken many photos of his statue at the Manassas Battlefield. Have a wonderful weekend!

Maureen @ Josephina Ballerina said...

Huh. My brother has lived in VA for 30 some years and has never mentioned it.

thecottagebythecranelaketwo said...

It is kind of strange that they thought it was a good idea to connect King with those two :-) :-) :-)

No holidays here until easter, is it early April this year?

Have a great day!
Christer.

Kathy said...

I have never heard of this. How strange. I guess it's a way to get around celebrating MLK. This northern lady has noticed each time I visit the south that the war has never really quite ended. They seem to like my money, but not my northern accent.

Rebecca said...

It does seem strange, doesn't it?

Montanagirl said...

I hadn't heard of this either. Always learn something when I visit your blog!

Anvilcloud said...

Lee's photo is much nicer -- which is all that I have to contribute. :(

Linda said...

Lost? What do you mean? Is the war over?

(Just kidding. I may live in Virginia but my parents were yankees.)

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