Much of the apparent dedication to confederate ancestors is based upon Lost Cause mythology and outright delusions.
In Maryland, those misinterpretations are even more pronounced. On the Eastern Shore, those delusions are ever more pronounced. Confederate defensiveness seems to allow folks, whether they have confederate ancestors or not, to presume this area was a hotbed of secessionism and rebellion against the Union and President Lincoln.
These folks call immediate attention to the Baltimore Riot of April, 1861 as clear indication of Maryland’s secessionist dedication, were it not for the heavy hand of Abraham Lincoln (yet another fallacy). Yet, they seem utterly unaware of Baltimore’s refusal to follow up on secessionist action. They don’t seem to realize that for the entire duration of the war, that Baltimore served as a crucial Union hub for transportation, manufacturing, shipping and manpower. More than 45,000 white men served in the Union Army and Navy in addition to the thousands who went to work every day building locomotives, train cars, rails, bridging structures, thus allowing quick repair of damaged property.
They seem unaware that Eastern Shore farmers and slave holders supported these efforts by growing the food crops that fed Baltimore, by then, America’s 3rd largest city, before, during and after the war. The story of Talbot County is well detailed in Dickson Preston’s History of Talbot County. Clearly, this county resisted secession before the war despite the campaigning of the wealthy slave owners. The 85 confederate soldiers whose names appear on the Talbot Boys statue were dwarfed by the 400+ Talbot residents, many of whom were former slaves, who fought for the Union.
Maryland was never a likely candidate for confederate state status. When Alexander Stephens, the VP of the Confederacy made his infamous “Cornerstone “ speech in March, 1861, he named every slave state that he believed should join the Confederacy, including North Carolina, Virginia, Missouri, Kentucky, Arkansas and Tennessee. They all joined after Ft. Sumter. Stephens did not forget to mention Maryland. He well knew and understood that in a state where half the blacks lived free from slavery, that this was simply not the Confederate concept. In fact, he well knew Maryland was daily proving the confederate concept to be abased. The basic concept of negro slavery was that black people could not live in white society without daily supervision and control. When Stephens attended the Democratic Convention in Baltimore in 1861, he likely saw thousands of free blacks living and working as free people. It must have shaken the delusion under which he was living.
Confederate Marylanders’ “patriotism” was also suspect. In her memoir, Phoebe Yates Pember, a top nurse administrator at Chimborazo Hospital in Richmond, reported that her superiors instructed her not to allow bed space for Maryland soldiers as many were alleged to be wiling only to take clerk/admin jobs. While Pember herself disagreed, she acknowledged that Marylanders were usually wellborn, educated and very much aware of their rights.
Today, the Confederate battle flag still stands after a century of this same self-delusion. The unfurled banner celebrates the Confederacy of which Maryland and the Eastern Shore did not join, which most Marylanders fought against and which crossed into this state to kill Union troops, destroy Maryland railroads, steal Marylanders’ livestock and destroy Baltimore if they could.
If someone is trying to erase history and create a false illusion, flying a bronzed Confederate flag on the Court House grounds at Easton, Maryland is a good example. Post-civil war monuments to confederates and the Confederacy in Maryland do not present history. Erected after 1900, they celebrate the white supremacy concept that the Confederate battle flag was in the field to enforce. Appomattox ended slavery but it did not end the idea of white supremacy and racism.
The Lost Cause mythology has distorted and covered up the facts. It is our responsibility to acknowledge the realities of Jim Crow white supremacy and demonstrate that we will no longer accept the Lost Cause shams of Maryland and Eastern Shore history. The Talbot Boys statue has no place on the grounds of our Talbot County Courthouse, where equal rights and justice for all are presumed to be administered. It must be moved, in deference to civil rights in the 21st century and to civil war history.
The Talbot County Council has the duty to move it to a different site of public property.
The Spy last week reprinted a Op Ed piece I wrote in 2017 calling for the prompt removal of the Talbot Boys Statue from its place of honor in front of the Courthouse, its disassembly, and the repurposing of its components as one small part of in a mini-history park recounting 400 years of evolving relations between the races in Talbot County. I had suggested that history exhibit be built in the courthouse’s backyard, near West Street, far from the place of honor where it sits now—but indeed that meant the pedestal (the bronze piece too) would be physically on the Courthouse property.
Council President Pack, proposes to remove just the bronze statue but leave the granite pedestal right where it stands, prominently and in a place of honor where it has been over past 105 years. “The Talbot Boys, CSA.” So in both cases the pedestal remains on the Courthouse property.
Lest there be any confusion, I would like to disassociate myself from Mr. Pack’s terrible idea to leave the pedestal in place. Speaking for myself only, I urge in the strongest terms that the entire statue come down immediately. It is not the thing itself, it is the public honor our County continues to bestow on those people (who did, after all, fight against our nation) and that cause—some not even natives of Talbot. Can we not agree that here, in 2020, our County at long last will cease doing that? Remember, the Charter of Talbot County begins “We, the People of Talbot County….” and the Council has a duty to represent everyone.
(The common objection to removal is that it “denies our history.” I was an American Civilization major as an undergraduate, and have zero interest in “denying history” or any such thing. That is not the point at all, and it’s why I would like to see a history park exploring 400 years of our history; the drama of the Civil War is hardly the whole story, or most important. And that monument is not about the war anyway, but the resurgence of white domination via Jim Crow.)
It is with heavy heart that we are faced once again with the issue of removing the Talbot Boys Confederate Statue from the Courthouse lawn. This statute represents, for the African American, a constant reminder of continued racism and the inhumane method in which slaves were treated. This statue should remind all of us to not treat a human the way slaves were treated; it should not be memorialized on our Courthouse lawn or anywhere else as a matter of fact. This statute represents shame. It was erected in 1916. It’s time for the hatred and bigot symbolism to be removed from the lawn of the Courthouse. As long as it is there, it will continue to be a negative legacy connected to Talbot County and to the African American.
From now on, I will be directing my comments from the Talbot Boys Confederate Statute to that of the Monument.
Talbot County Council, you have the opportunity to do different from what you did before. At a time where racial tension is at it’s all-time highest, make the decision to further unity in our County. In 2015 you unanimously decided to leave the statute as is, shame on you! This statute was and continues to be a direct attack on the stability and the cohesiveness of our County.
Mr. Pack, you made a statement at the last County Council meeting that the Confederate soldiers were congressionally grandfathered as veterans in 1985. In my research, I found the United States Congress did not designate those who fought for the Confederacy as United States Veterans. What the Congress did do however, it gave the widows of the Confederate soldiers a pension benefit. It did not declare those soldiers as Veterans. Furthermore, you also stated that they are veterans. Was this a hint towards the pedestal or base remaining listing the names of the soldiers? And because you consider them as Veterans, that the pedestal or base should remain, is that your argument? Because they are not Veterans, it is my opinion that this gives even more credence or evidence that the entire Monument should be removed because they (Confederate soldiers) are not veterans. There is no reason or need to keep the Monument. It’s entire structure should be removed leaving no semblance of its presence ever being there on the Courthouse lawn where equality for all men is supposed to be represented.
Isn’t it ironic, that right across the lawn stands the statute of Frederick Douglass? The Douglass statute was erected in 2011; a proud moment for Talbot County to bring its native son home. Mr. Douglass believed in human development, human rights, women’s rights, and justice for all Americans particularly African Americans and minority groups. Unlike the Monument (The Talbot Boys Confederate Statute) whose only depiction was that of racism and racial intimidation. Talbot County Council, you have the opportunity to eradicate a wrong that’s been erected since 1916, it’s time!
It’s time Council, remove the entire Monument from the Courthouse lawn.
To the Talbot County Council: As you make the decision with regard to the removal of the entire Talbot Boys statue please keep in mind that you will become a governing body on the right side of history taking what is really only a first small step toward leveling the playing field of American life.
So go ahead and join the many placing in our country; towns, cities, states and private companies who are removing hateful, demeaning images knowing it’s way past time…
You will feel better for it! You will look back on this vote as doing the right thing! We will be proud to say “I’m from Talbot County MD!”
I want to add my voice to those urging you to support the removal of the Talbot Boys Statue (pedestal and all) from in front of the Talbot County Courthouse.
We have just celebrated Juneteenth, the holiday marking the freeing of the last enslaved people in America in Galveston Texas. Although that finally occurred in 1865, ending slavery did not end white supremacy or racism or the state-sanctioned oppression of Black Americans. In fact the Jim Crow laws of segregation and second class citizenship were still in place up to and beyond the Civil Rights movement of the 1960’s.
The Talbot Boys Statue was erected as part of the effort to suppress African American dreams of equality. The early twentieth century, long after the ending of slavery, was a time when monuments to the Confederacy were erected all over the country to celebrate and emphasize the continuation of white supremacy in America. It is time to remove this symbol of racism and oppression.
Sarah Vaughan Sayre
I support the efforts of Pete Lesher and others to have the entire statue removed – not destroyed – as it tells part of our history from the “Jim Crow” era. The only statue in front of the courthouse for 95 years until the Frederick Douglass statue was erected in 2011 over the initial opposition of the county council How many black residents of Talbot County approached the Court House over those years seeking impartial justice only to observe the Talbot Boys statue and consider what that meant for their chances once inside the court house.
I can recall going into the Court House 20-30 years ago to pay my room taxes at the finance office. When I asked about the statue of the soldier, the staff had decided to “act dumb” and offered no information about the history of the statue or its meaning. I thought that was odd at the time.
I can recall in the 1970’s when sailing over to St. Michaels from Annapolis, walking down the sidewalks in the central part of St. Michaels and noticing that the “blacks” would look down as we walked past each other to avoid eye contact. This struck me as odd as I had grown up in suburban Philadelphia with black students and superb athletes that I had gotten to know and never noticed any similar behavior. I attended Penn State in the early 1960’s with many black students – and never recall any of the “eye contact avoidance” that I would later experience in St. Michaels.
In 1984, my dad wanted to move to St. Michaels from Swarthmore, Pennsylvania to retire. We purchased the Parsonage (an elegant brick Victorian) that belonged to the Union United Methodist Church. We hired Ebby Dupont to restore and expand this historic building in 1985, and opened late that year as a 7 room B&B Inn. James “Sawdy” Thomas was the president of the Trustees for the church, and was delightful to work with as we provided needed funds from our purchase of the old Parsonage so they could build a new Parsonage next to their church on Fremont Avenue. In 1999, James “Sawdy” Thomas was instrumental in my purchase of the abandoned George Brooks House on the outskirts of town, which proved to have a very interesting history (see GeorgeBrooksHouse.com – Information, History). In 2000, the county council would designate this house as Historical with an HOZ overlay zone. The George Brooks House is the only residence of a black man in Talbot County with the HOZ designation, to my knowledge.
I share this information to provide some insight into how the “black” or African-American community has likely viewed us “white guys” over the years. Growing up white in a society that embraced our “whiteness” has limited many of us from understanding how oppressed many of the black people felt growing up in Talbot County, finding jobs, and dealing with their inferior “station in life”. Four hundred years – slavery, families torn apart by uncaring slave owners, many forms of repression (like preventing them from learning how to read or write), the Civil War, emancipation (and in Texas and other areas not learning they were free for over two years), the Jim Crow era, the KKK and lynchings (over 4,000 documented), the destruction of the vibrant black community in Tulsa in 1921 (over 300 men, women and children killed), and the civil rights struggle of the 1960’s and police brutality in recent years.
The recent protests over the killing of George Floyd and other black men and women at the hands of the police is just the most recent insult to the proposition stated by Thomas Jefferson in his own handwriting in 1776 ” We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal and endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” The Constitutional Congress meeting in Philadelphia adopted Jefferson’s language as the Preamble to the Declaration of Independence on July 4th, 1776.
Some will argue that Jefferson had over 120 slaves and did not intend to include his black slaves in the definition, but many others including freed black slaves would later interpret that it would apply to ALL MEN. It is interesting to consider that the framers of the Declaration of Independence in 1776 and later our Constitution would limit the full rights (including the right to vote) to just White MEN, not women, native American Indians, and especially the Black Slaves. So our progress toward “a more perfect Union” continues as the barriers to what Jefferson wrote 244 years ago will eventually disappear for all of our citizens. We march toward Freedom as the “American Experiment” continues during our life times. As Martin Luther King, Jr wrote in 1963 – “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy”. Let MLK’s advice guide every council member at this pivotal time in our history.
Remove the “Talbot Boys” Statue – the message it represents is an impediment to our evolution toward a “more perfect Union”. The message of that statue and many Confederate inspired monuments is not one of equal justice or fair treatment for descendants of slaves.
Our history – even the vile KKK, the 620,000 men killed in the Civil War, the struggles of the Confederacy and the “85 Talbot Boys that gave up their lives”, and how President Lincoln was able to preserve our country are all part of our legacy and important lessons learned along the way. So don’t destroy our monuments and historical sites – find a more appropriate setting to tell the story and remind us that all of our history (the Good and the Bad) is valuable in figuring out the “road ahead”.
YES – the statue of the “Talbot Boys” has to be removed from the front of the Court House!
I have lived most of my life oblivious to racism. Obvious racism was never directed at me because I’m white. I walked past statues and monuments and even confederate flags flying completely unaware of their meaning. To me they only reflected the history and mentality of the civil war and although I never believed that the civil war was only for state’s rights I believed it had ended slavery and therefore was a “successful” war thus the monuments to honor the results of the ending of slavery. Embarrassedly I didn’t think beyond that.
Racism can be as subtle as a dirty look or a snide comment or as in my case, seeing but not understanding the statues that I’ve walked past my whole life. I hope you’ll remove these silent racist monuments.