Some 130 years ago members of my family were Maryland secessionists. My grandfather spent one hot summer in the Old Capitol Prison. A great-uncle served four long years in the Confederate cavalry.
On the wall of my childhood home hung a framed poem by Father Ryan, a Catholic chaplain in the Confederate army, which began something like this:
Furl that banner
For 'tis weary.
'Round its staff
It's hanging dreary.
Furl it! Fold it! It is best.
Most Americans are sentimental antiquarians, rather than historians. For Alabama officially to display a Confederate battle flag is like having English royalty affectionately calling their heir ''Bonnie Prince Charlie'' and crowning him Charles IV.
Antiquarians, at best, are meticulously accurate. Alabama should display the original flag of 1861, which has no ugly current connotation. My grandmother used to play a lively tune from her youthful days:
For southern rights hurraw!
Hurraw for the bonnie blue flag
Which bears a single star.
We are about to enter the 21st century. Montgomery County is an entirely different world from the time when Jubal Early passed through on his way to capture Washington. I witnessed the unveiling of the Confederate soldier in Rockville, and I wept for the thin gray line of heroes. I still weep! But why not place the statue in the Old Brick Court House -- both museum pieces? History is the record of continuity and change.
Those of us of British heritage have always been able to compromise after we were licked. Let's get on with it!
EDITH RAY SAUL Kensington