The other day I got involved in a social media post where the author crowed about a survey where 5,000 respondents favored by a 60-40 margin the removal of the Talbot Boys statue in Easton. As I noted, I was surprised the margin was so close given the survey was conducted on the page belonging to Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot (a well left-of-center Democrat who is running for Governor in 2022.)
Being one of the 40 percent who believes we should add context rather than remove history, I was taken to task by the allies who seem to believe the Confederate flag is everywhere in rural America. I had written a long rebuttal to their points, but realized that I wanted to do a bit of research first and eventually decided to place it on my turf. For all I know, the statue may be on its way out since Republicans everywhere are caving to the mob, but regardless we have a lot of history to sort through.
According to this Washington Post article, the Talbot Boys statue was erected in 1916, “more than 50 years after the end of the Civil War.” (Bear in mind we didn’t get a federal memorial to World War II until 2004, almost 60 years after its conclusion.) Many decades later, in 2004, the County Council solicited the creation of another statue, this one of Frederick Douglass, who was also born in Talbot County. That statue, intended in part to “balance” the Talbot Boys statue, was finally placed in 2011. In that AP story, local Frederick Douglass Honor Society president Eric Lowery was quoted, “I think it shows how this community has changed from a time when black people weren’t allowed to even be on the courthouse lawn, and now we have a monument to a black man who was one of the most prominent figures of the 19th century.” I agree.
In reading the Post article, I also learned that one reason the statue was kept was a point I made independently: they believed its removal would be disrespectful to the families of those immortalized there. It was also suggested there be a memorial to those who fought and died for the Union cause, which I can support as well.
Here is what I was going to say on social media:
Is there not a saying that those who forget their history ate doomed to repeat it?
There are a number of people who apparently see it my way and either aren’t offended by the Talbot Boys statue or see it as a vital part of the county’s history. Wasn’t the Frederick Douglass statue added years later as “balance”? (Indeed, it was.)
Now I would be interested in the context as to why these men would travel to the CSA and fight for them. Maybe they were the sons of slaveholders who wanted to preserve their way of life. Or perhaps they were offended that the “Northern scum” of former state song lore were going to such lengths as to deny Maryland its self-determination. We don’t know and probably never will. What we do know is that our part of the state was regarded as a hotbed of Confederate support.
Someone is going to be angry whatever the outcome because I see passionate people on both sides. As I noted earlier (in the social media thread) I was surprised it was 60-40 – given the sponsor of the poll I suspect the true feelings are more like 50-50 since Peter Franchot is likely followed by more Ds than Rs. (Just my gut instinct.)
But to add context to how this is playing out, up in Wilmington they took down statues of Christopher Columbus and Caesar Rodney – neither of whom fought in the Civil War since they were long since dead – ostensibly for their “protection” and a “discussion” of their historic role. Unfortunately, ignorance of history is such that figures who had nothing to do with the Civil War are being targeted in this sad era.
I think, though, that in the world that we are presently living in all that taking the Talbot Boys statue down will accomplish is to transfer anger and bitterness from one small aggrieved group to a larger group. Perhaps we should add a plaque someplace on or near the Talbot Boys, which reads something like this:
“On this site sits a divisive relic of history erected in 1916. The ‘Talbot Boys’ statue commemorates men who took up arms against their nation.
Only God knows the reason those who President Lincoln called ‘rebellious citizens’ would do these acts, ones which most would agree were treasonous. Yet these were our brothers, our ancestors, and it is only to honor their memories in a spirit of forgiveness for their trespasses that we permit this statue to remain.
This reminder of our division remains to warn us that history can, and often does, repeat itself. Let this be the legacy of the Talbot Boys: that we become once again brothers and sisters in liberty and remain on guard against this sort of division.”
Think of Matthew 6:14-15.
So there’s a choice here: we can remove these monuments and deepen the divide, or we can use them as lessons on the road to creating a more perfect Union. The ball is in your court, Talbot County.