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Talbot Council Votes To Remove Confederate Monument

Monument 9-14.jpg
Courtesy Photo
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A crowd surrounds the Talbot Boys monument as the County Council votes to remove it.

The Talbot County Council voted Tuesday to remove the Talbot Boys Confederate monument from the courthouse lawn in Easton.

The 3-2 vote came after years of controversy and reversed an August 2020 vote that rejected moving the monument to Talbot County men who had served in the Confederate army.

Peter Lesher, the lone Democrat on the council, said the previous resolution died because it didn’t say anything about what would happen to the statue.

This time, however, Councilman Frank Divilio, who voted against the previous resolution, said he had found a place for the statue, Cross Keys Battlefield near Harrisonburg, Va., where the Talbot boys fought.

He said the American Battlefield Trust has agreed to accept the monument and to pay to move it.

“The Cross Keys Battlefield is the appropriate new home for the Talbot Boys where the monument will be cared for with respect and be part of a teaching history for generations to come,” he told the council.

Davilio said he would have preferred that the question of whether to move the monument be put to referendum in next year’s election.

But the issue has “divided our community for too long and has sidelined many other important things the County Council and county government need to address,” Davilio said. “We need to get the business of running the county back on track and move forward.” 

Under the Talbot County Council’s procedures, the resolution was considered an administrative measure that didn’t require a public hearing, which brought an objection from Laura Price, one of two members who voted against the move.

Earlier, she had withdrawn a resolution of her own that would have added a Union soldier to the monument, calling it a compromise solution, but saying it should receive a public hearing.

“But if this is going to be the solution that passes here, the people, all of the people deserve a proper public hearing whether it's technically necessary or not,” she argued.

Lesher, however, argued that they’ve been hearing from the public for more than a year.

“We’ve been hearing from the public on this more than we’ve heard from them on any other issue before or since,” he said. “And not by a little bit, but by an order of magnitude.”

The monument has a statue of a young man in Confederate uniform clutching a Confederate flag and the names of Confederate soldiers with a connection to Talbot County engraved on its base. It has been a bitter reminder of the old days, said Harriette Lowery, who moved away from Talbot when she was 14 and came back 35 years later to find not much had changed.

“We were always taught when I was younger, you never looked at a white person, you always kept your head down and just kept moving forward,” she recalled. “And things like that statue on the courthouse lawn speaks to that.”

Efforts to move the monument, dedicated in 1916, go back several years. The latest effort started shortly after the killing of George Floyd, by a white Minneapolis police officer.

Ridgely Ochs, of Move the Monument, a citizens group, says it was a grassroots thing that just kind of sprang up.

“I think all of us felt that we needed to do something to sort of right that wrong,” she explained. “And there was this very concrete thing on the courthouse lawn that we could get rid of. And that would be something real that we could do.” 

She called the monument a relic of the Jim Crow era that was a symbol of white supremacy meant to keep people in their place.

“It's the last Confederate monument on public property in Maryland. Maryland wasn't a confederate state,” she insisted. “And it's not clear why the statue to traitors should remain. There were more Union soldiers from Talbot County than there were Confederate soldiers, but we don't have a union monument.” 

In fact, some 300 Talbot County men, Black and white, fought in the Union Army during the Civil War.

Opponents of the resolution posted open letters to council members on the Save the Talbot Boys Facebook page, begging the council not to move the monument.

The monument “belongs here in Talbot,” read one. “Our history is one of our most sacred memories and we must never forget them.”

Jessica Taylor, also of Move the Monument, denied they were trying to erase history, but to “acknowledge and reckon with the fullness of history.”

“And we're also not trying to destroy the monument,” she said. “We're not saying take it down and throw it out. We are working to get it moved to a more appropriate location than the courthouse lawn.”

Reaction to the vote was swift on social media, with opponents calling council members who voted for the move “a disgrace” who had “desecrated the memory of brave, young soldiers.” One in favor of the move thanked Davilio for “having the courage to change your thinking.”

It’s unclear when the monument will be moved, but judging from the social media reaction it is unlikely the issue will die.

Correction: In his speech to the Talbot County Council, Councilman Frank Divilio erred in naming the organization that had agreed to accept the monument. It was the Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation, an independent organization committed to protecting battlefield land in that region of Virginia.