This distinction matters for several reasons. The first is that Confederate monuments were not symbols of the South’s defeat in war, but of its victory in peace. The prominent statue of Robert E. Lee in Richmond, Virginia was commissioned in 1876, just as the period known as Reconstruction was coming to a close. For a decade, the Republican federal government had sought to control and change Southern society. By 1877, those efforts were over and the South felt it had survived with its pride and power intact.
The federal government’s decision to restore power to the South had brutal, often horrific consequences. The era of Jim Crow laws was ushered in, erasing many of the gains blacks in the South made during Reconstruction. But this decision came with benefits for Northern states, which had grown tired of the effort and expense of occupying and controlling the South. It may have been a deal with the devil, but it was a deal that would shape the history of North and South for the next century.