What is believed to be the only Confederate statue remaining on public grounds in Maryland will be removed after the Talbot County Council adopted an immediate resolution to move it from outside the courthouse to a private park in Virginia.
The bronze Talbot Boys Statue, stationed on the lawn outside the Eastern Shore courthouse, honors Talbot County residents who fought for the South during the Civil War, its chief figure a life-size young soldier clutching a Confederate flag.
Under the resolution, the statue will be moved from the Easton courthouse to the Cross Keys Battlefield, a private park in Harrisonburg, Virginia, “as soon as is practicable.” The statue will then be under the care of the Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation. No taxpayer money will be spent; instead the Mid-Shore Community Foundation, a charity group, will pay for all the costs associated with the statue’s removal.
The resolution passed 3-2, with Council President Chuck F. Callahan and Councilwoman Laura E. Price voting no.
“With talking with my constituents, with the exception of a handful of constituents, they want this statue removed,” Council Vice President Pete Lesher said. “Or they want us to move on to issues that help make their lives better.”
Lesher also said that relocating the statue “does not erase history,” but instead removing it in a respectful manner will give it “a better place and live out its days” where people can visit it if they choose.
The ACLU filed a federal lawsuit in May demanding the statue’s removal, calling it unconstitutional, and Maryland activists long have said that the statue should no longer stand outside the courthouse. Prior council resolutions to remove the monument failed, although a smaller Frederick Douglass statue was erected in front of the courthouse in 2011, according to the suit. More recently, singer and Easton native Maggie Rogers urged individuals last week to support the council’s resolution.
Kisha Petticolas, a Talbot County public defender named in the ACLU suit, cheered the council’s decision, but called herself “cautiously optimistic.”
“I am an African-American woman and the United States of America, in 2021. I’ve seen a lot. I’ve read a lot” she said. “And I know that these things don’t die quietly.”
She won’t truly be able to celebrate, she said, until the statue is removed, and she doesn’t need to walk past it to enter the courthouse.
“I’ve been practicing [law] in Talbot County since 2007,” she said. “And it’s hurtful. It’s been hurtful all that time.”
Talbot County attorney Patrick W. Thomas did not respond to questions about when the monument may be removed, or whether there has been talk of any legal challenges to the decision.
Petticolas called the new site for the monument reasonable.
“It makes sense to me that this would go to somewhere that their sole purpose is to educate on the Civil War,” she said. “It was our sentiment that it should not be on public property that the taxpayers pay for, and it most certainly should not be in the front of a courthouse, where people go to seek justice.”
The monument, which was dedicated in 1916, lists the names of Confederate soldiers from Talbot County. In 2015, the Talbot County Council announced it would not remove the statue, saying the federal government considered Confederate soldiers to be U.S. veterans.
Council members Price and Callahan objected to the resolution’s immediate passage and asked for it to go through a more traditional process, with two meetings and community input before a vote. Other council members rejected their argument, pointing to ongoing discussions in the community for years.
“Just because this monument is going to move, it doesn’t mean there aren’t some scars that aren’t going to go away,” Callahan said. “I feel like we are making the wrong mistake. If anything, it [the statue] should stay here.”
U.S. Sen. Chris Van Hollen, a Maryland Democrat, issued a statement Tuesday night praising the vote.
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“The judiciary has an obligation to deliver equal justice under the law. Yet, standing outside of the Talbot County Courthouse is a symbol that embodies the opposite: injustice and inequality,” he said. “The Talbot Boys Statue — which was erected over 50 years after the Civil War during the era of Jim Crow when the KKK and white supremacy were on the rise — glorifies soldiers who fought with the Confederacy to protect and preserve the evil institution of slavery.
“It’s past time we remove this stain on justice from the County Courthouse grounds, and I’m glad to see tonight’s vote to do that.”
The removal of the Talbot Boys statue comes as similar monuments have been taken down across Maryland and the United States.
At least 167 Confederate statues were removed across the country in 2020, including 71 in Virginia, most of them brought down following the murder of George Floyd, who was Black, by then-Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, who is white, a report by the Southern Poverty Law Center found. This month, a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee was removed in Richmond, Virginia, after a long fight.
Baltimore officials took down four Confederate monuments in the middle of the night about four years ago after a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. Eventually, a statue on the State House grounds in Annapolis of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Roger Taney, who wrote the infamous 1857 Dred Scott decision upholding slavery, was removed. Then, a plaque honoring a Confederate general on the Wicomico County courthouse grounds and a statue of Gen. Robert E. Lee at the U.S. Capitol came down.
Talbot County, founded in 1662, established early roots in shipping, tobacco and slavery. The “Talbot Boys” statue is not far from where an auction block for slave sales was hosted in front of the courthouse.
Baltimore Sun reporter Christine Condon contributed to this article.