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LETTER: Changing lake's name won't change Culpeper history
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LETTER: Changing lake's name won't change Culpeper history

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Lake Pelham Adventures June 2021 (copy)

Lake Pelham Adventures awaits customers at the dock on a late June morning, while clouds are reflected in the reservoir.

Poor John Pelham.

He’s had a rough time in Culpeper recently. A controversy erupted when the town council voted to rename a local lake named for the Confederate commander. But, there has been no follow-up on this impulse, and the matter has fallen in limbo.

Pelham was a light artillery officer in Robert E. Lee’s army. He was an effective killing machine responsible for the deaths of more United State Army soldiers than Osama bin Laden. In the mid 20th Century, long after the Civil War ended, the lake was named in his honor, in a town contest we know little about.

But does he deserve the honor ?

Pelham was killed on March 17, 1863 at Kelly’s Ford. His death here is his sole connection to the county. Hundreds of other soldiers were killed here during the war, but none are memorialized like him.

Pelham was educated at West Point at American taxpayers expense. Shortly before graduation he returned to Alabama to join the insurrection. So in addition to being a traitor, he was also an ingrate.

Striking Pelham’s name from the lake would not damage local history. Just visit the Culpeper museum or Culpeper library. They have vast stores of information on Virginia and local history.

Name changes are not unusual. Stevensburg Road which connects Stevensburg and Brandy Station was once called the Carolina Road. The town of Culpeper was once styled as Culpeper Court House during the Civil War.

We don’t honor Benedict Arnold, Tokyo Rose or Bobby Garwood in this country. Why honor Pelham?

Lawrence Giesting


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