Maryland’s last public Confederate monument, the “Talbot Boys Statue” outside the Talbot County courthouse in Easton, was removed on March 14. The move marked a resolution to two decades of contestation over the statue, which will now be moved to Cross Keys Battlefield in Harrisonburg, Virginia, where it will be stewarded by the Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation.
Standing at 13 feet in height at the courthouse lawn, the monument portrays a Confederate regiment from Talbot County that served in the Civil War. Erected in 1916, a single soldier totes a Confederate flag and peers into the distance wistfully. The granite base is inscribed with the names of 96 Confederate soldiers associated with the county in some way, with the front reading, “To the Talbot Boys / 1861-1865 / C.S.A.” Previously positioned prominently on the greens just outside the courts where local residents would have to get essential business taken care of, the statue was a visual reminder of the persistence of unequal justice and racism in the United States. It also occupied the very spot where a slave auction block once stood.
The county council voted to remove the monument in September after several failed attempts in 2015, 2016, and 2020. Subsequently, a nonpartisan coalition of local citizens came together under the banner of the Move the Monument Coalition to raise $82,000 for the relocation of the statue.
While Maryland was part of the Union in the Civil War, many of its counties were divided, including Talbot County. There, family members found themselves fighting each other in battle. Although three times as many fought for the Union as for the Confederacy in the county, a promised Union monument to accompany the Confederate one was never realized. As such, Talbot County is often misremembered as a Confederate bastion in the state. A statue of abolitionist Frederick Douglass, who was born just 12 miles away, does stand on the lawn, though it was only erected in 2011 after a long fight.
Put in place almost half a century after the end of the Civil War — when the sun was already setting on the era of Reconstruction and Confederate nostalgia was on the rise — the statue was spearheaded by Joseph Seth, a lawyer and eventual mayor of Easton. In his memoir, he expressed that enslaved people “lived under a paternal, kindly rule” on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, regurgitating sentimentally violent falsehoods about the antebellum South. The statue was therefore “erected at a time when Confederate statues were used as a means of racial intimidation,” a legal complaint filed by the Talbot County Branch of the NAACP against the county in May 2021 read.
A public information request late last year showed that almost 900 people had contacted the Talbot County council about the statue during a public comment period. Of that group, over 700 argued for its removal.
“Frederick Douglass finally has the lawn to himself,” tweeted Maryland resident Sandy Boyd, CEO of the nonprofit Seek Common Ground. “Congrats to all involved.”
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