Editorial: We’ve Been There with the Talbot Boys Before but Haven’t Done Anything

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When the full impact was felt from the violence in Charlottesville that took place in front of a statue of a Confederate general last weekend, it is suspected that more than a few Talbot County citizens felt a certain degree of deja vu as the media once again put the spotlight on similar Civil War memorials commemorating those who served to defend the institution of slavery and state rights.

Two summers ago, Talbot County faced its own moral dilemma in discussing the fate of the Confederate soldier monument entitled “For The Talbot Boys” on the Courthouse lawn in downtown Easton. This came in the aftermath of the Charleston massacre, which motivated the local chapter of the NAACP to file an official complaint with the County requesting that the statue be removed.

That NAACP complaint led the Talbot County community into an intensive six-month conversation about racism and the history of the Eastern Shore and slavery. Several town hall meetings were arranged to discuss these issues, dozens of letters to local newspapers were published, and open hearings were hosted by Talbot County Council.

The Talbot Spy also felt the need to provide extensive coverage of this issue. Thinking it was consistent with our educational mission, and also seeing it as what educators called a “teachable moment,” we completed an eight part special series (re-published in today’s Spy) with historians, religious leaders, elected officials, and local citizens to provide context and commentary on what Talbot County needed to do in the face of this difficult moral dilemma. We also didn’t hesitate to offer our own opinion on the statute.

The outcome of this debate, as ratified by the Talbot County Council members, was to keep the Talbot Boys statue where it stands today. Their decision, represented by Council President Corey Pack remarks, talked about the legal and cultural reasons why monuments like the Talbot Boys should not be disturbed. While President Pack made it clear that more could be done to acknowledge the real history behind the statute, as well as the Union boys that also died in the conflict,  the Council did not see these solutions as part of their legislative responsibility but encouraged citizens to take on a leadership role to rectify these profound gaps.

But since that summer of 2015, it is sad to note that not one group or individual has stepped forward to ensure that the full story of Talbot County in the Civil War is honored. The Talbot Boys still sits on the Courthouse lawn without interpretation, without a balanced viewpoint, nor acknowledging the other four hundred young boys from Talbot County that fought for the Union and end slavery.

Perhaps the Charlottesville tragedy will spur our community to take action finally. But this time, let’s please finish the job.

 

 

 

Letters to Editor

  1. Tilghman McCabe Jr. says:

    It is sad that we have not heard anything from anyone regarding The Talbot Boys since the Council made its decision to leave the monument as is. In the two years since, one would hope that at least one proposal would have been made. In the Talbot Spy’s 2015 interview with Richard Potter, Easton chapter president of the NAACP, he expressed his desire to see more of a “complete” story of the Civil War represented to include Union soldiers. In his words, having The Talbot Boys be the only Civil War tribute was one-sided, especially since it represented Talbot county residents who served for the Confederacy. However, as those discussions and town meetings progressed, it became clear to many that what the NAACP and like-minded citizens really wanted was to just remove The Talbot Boys monument altogether. And since the decision was made, neither the Easton NAACP chapter or anyone else has proposed adding or changing anything. Now in 2017, with nothing said or done, this gives the appearance that simply removing the monument really was the one and only goal.

    The tragic altercations in Charlottesville, VA last week may spark the county to re-visit The Talbot Boys and the Council’s 2015 decision. And if so, I hope that the local NAACP will offer constructive suggestions of what they’d like to see happen, and what assistance they can be in any future regard. I also hope that the Talbot County leaders will not simply remove the monument (in the dark of night) without full discussion that includes input from residents and others native to Talbot County.

    • Dirck Bartlett says:

      Members of the County Council are also disappointed that there has not been much forward movement on a Union Statue. The NAACP did not take up the matter and has relied on other groups to work on the effort. I think we can all agree that the whole Civil War story is not being told, based on the monuments we have on the Courthouse Lawn. We all agreed to this when we met with the NAACP two years ago.

      I do not anticipate having to remove the Talbot Boys statue and I do not think the community needs to hash this out all over again. I believe, however that the Frederick Douglass Statue was a significant achievement and I do think we all pulled together to provide the community with a suitable statue to commemorate Talbot County’s most famous citizen.

  2. Shari Wilcoxon says:

    Absolutely ridiculous what is going on in our country today. Erasing history accomplishes what? If you believe Robert E. Lee statues or monuments and any other Confederate statues should come down, should we then remove all George Washington statues and monuments, and all Thomas Jefferson statues and monuments? They both owned slaves, and by the way, Lee released his slaves LONG before the War between the States. Then what? Rename everything with “Washington” or “Lee” or any other leader not liked? And then what? Exactly HOW does that make life in the US any better? And how does eradicating history help anyone learn?
    Here are a few well knows slave owners….are they next?
    Muhammad (founder of Islam)
    George Washington
    Thomas Jefferson
    James Madison
    James Monroe
    Andrew Jackson
    Martin Van Buren
    William Henry Harrison
    John Tyler
    James K. Polk
    Zachary Taylor
    Andrew Johnson
    Ulysses S. Grant
    William and Clark
    Henry Clay
    Christopher Columbus
    Benjamin Franklin
    Alexander Hamilton
    John Hancock
    Patrick Henry
    Sam Houston
    John Jay
    Marquis de Lafayette (Frenchman who fought for us in the Revolutionary War)
    John Marshall
    Ferdinand Magellan

    • Carol Voyles says:

      These historic figures owned slaves when ownership was an acceptable practice, and did not defend the Confederacy or challenge our efforts to move in the direction of freedom and equality.

    • Ezra Finkin says:

      So sorry, but I have to disagree. Monuments to people are erected to honor their single accomplishment or to participate in a historical event. Confederate statues are established to honor the subject’s participation in the defense of slavery. What other contribution would a monument to Robert E Lee, Stonewall Jackson or the Talbot Boys honor?

      While George Washington and Thomas Jefferson owned slaves, monuments erected in their name are done to honor their single accomplishment in founding the Republic and not to honor their slave holding. Honoring confederate soldiers for the fact that they were confederate soldiers is not in keeping with a modern society and only serves to remind us that there are those still living who believe that cause of secession in defense of slavery are worthwhile causes to defend.

      I would hope that 152 years after the conclusion of the civil war, as a country, county, and community we have moved on from debating the merits of armed secession in defense of slavery. The statues should be removed if we all believe that armed rebellion in defense of slavery is a cause not worth defending. Talbot county has a very rich history in the establishment of our Republic, and a monument to these important players in the founding of our nation may offer a replacement. If the intent of the statue is to honor southern culture and the contribution the South has made to our shared cultural experience, I propose a statue of either Harper Lee, William Faulkner, and Truman Capote. I am sure others can contribute to this list as their number and accomplishments are long.

  3. Carol Voyles says:

    Yes, here we go again. The reason we hear cited most frequently to keep Confederate memorials is that they are part of our history; and the reasons to remove them most frequently cited are that they offend many of our citizens and that there is legal precedent suggesting that displaying Confederate symbols on government property implies endorsement.

    Getting into erecting explanatory and/or partner displays could be a solution, but considering existing Supreme Court rulings, simply relocating these memorials to appropriate private settings would seem the obvious solution. No one has stepped forward, but why would they, as long as the statue is not moving?

    People on both sides feel strongly, and the situation does not seem to be going away. And while this statue is part of our history, the fact that these statues were generally erected by wealthier former slaveholders as part of a period of reconciliation is also part of our history. That was the right thing to do then, but it’s also easy to understand that we might not want what can so easily be interpreted as inappropriate government endorsement to become part of our history moving forward.

    We might hope to find a respectful and appropriate location for our historic Talbot Boys statue, one that reflects both our history and mindfulness regarding respect for our fellow citizens and changing times.

  4. Dominic "Mickey" Terrone says:

    Weeks ago before the Charlottesville event, I re-proposed my idea in a Star Democrat guest column that I originally stated at one of the public meetings in 2016. I suggested leaving the monument in place because I believe it is a tribute to those who served the Confederate cause, despite fighting against their state and country and, as Grant said, for one the worst causes for which men ever fought. The bronze statue of the Confederate flag and flag bearer is more of a tribute to the Confederacy that was placed atop the original memorial a year or so afterward in 1917 amid the height of Jim Crow racism. It should be removed to private property such as the Talbot County Historical Society or a local cemetery where some of the Confederate Talbot Boys may be buried.

    I cannot abide a similar memorial to Talbot County’s 400 or so Union soldiers standing beside the 84 inscribed names of the Confederate soldiers with the Confederate flag statue present. Thus, I propose the bronze statue be moved to private property and a US flag pole be placed directly between the Confederate and Union Talbot Boys.

    The events of Charlottesville and the ongoing reverberations from Charleston again call out for reasonable Confederate flag supporters to acknowledge that in addition to that flag serving as recognition of their Confederate ancestors, it remains undeniably the primary symbol of racism and white supremacy throughout this nation and beyond. That it has been hijacked by racists is unfortunate, but flag supporters have largely been complicit in this hijacking by not having protested it sufficiently or at least partially agreeing that America is still a white man’s country in a manner similar to their Confederate ancestors.

    Governor Hogan has also spoken out now on the subject with respect to the State House in Annapolis. Despite being set in bronze, the Talbot Boys statue on our County Court House grounds actually depicts the waving Confederate flag being born forward as if in battle. And for those concerned about erasing history, true history has been erased for the past century by Talbot County’s political leaders of the early 20th Century by willfully insulting those County residents who fought in support of this state and this Union. It is far beyond time to correct that insult as well as the century-old affront to this county’s African-American citizens for having to view that bronze statue on the Court House grounds as a tacit symbol of government authority 150+ years after Appomattox. There are many thousands of books, magazines, and photographs that ensure that the history of our Civil War will never be erased. The library has many books and the Internet has immeasurable opportunities to learn and discuss the Civil War.

    As for the slippery slope of removing all slaveholders’ statues (like Washington, Jefferson, etc), relax. Those Revolutionary War Founding Fathers risked everything to build this create and build this nation. The Confederacy sought to sunder it into two countries, one based upon slavery. I trust we all understand the difference.

    • Sarah K. Porter says:

      There are more than a dozen Civil War museums in the U.S. and probably even more battlefield parks that Civil War enthusiasts and others interested in this aspect of American history could see these statues in enlightening historical context– these would serve as good repositories for any and all monuments to one of the worst events in American history, including the Talbot Boys … who, by the way, would be just fine locally in a privately owned cemetery or garden but DO NOT BELONG on courthouse grounds where justice is supposed to be protected for all citizens.

      TAKE ACTION if you agree, sign the petition located at this link on Mike Pullen’s website : https://act.myngp.com/Forms/-1510315494117340416

  5. Laura Era says:

    I just hope that these statues all across America can be relocated to an appropriate place, a museum, a cemetery, or private memorial park of some kind. Please DO NOT DESTROY THEM as whether you agree with them or not, they are works of art and should not be destroyed.

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