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Reflecting the divided sentiments of Maryland at the Civil War's onset, Talbot County residents enlisted in both Union and Confederate armies, although they joined U.S. forces in far greater numbers. In the early 20th century, prominent local citizens Joseph B. Seth and David G. McIntosh pushed for the creation of a monument to the county's Confederate veterans. The stone monument was inscribed with veterans' names and dedicated in 1914, and two years later, a bronze statue of a youthful Confederate soldier was added. In recent years, the "Talbot Boys" Monument has been apart of several controversies, with many calling for the monument's removal. The Talbot City Council has voted against removal, however, and some members of the council have argued that the fate of the monument should be decided by voters.

Talbot Boys Monument

Talbot Boys Monument

Frederick Douglass Monument

Frederick Douglass Monument

Black Lives Matter protestors in front of the Talbot Boys Monument, June 2020

Black Lives Matter protestors in front of the Talbot Boys Monument, June 2020

Joseph B. Seth

Joseph B. Seth

At the outset of the Civil War, the slave-holding border state of Maryland proved divided in its sentiments. Although a majority of the state supported the United States, a sizable minority was sympathetic to the Confederacy. Talbot County was home to a large slave and free Black population and was a center of the regional slave trade. Famous African American abolitionist and orator Frederick Douglass was born into slavery in Talbot County before he escaped North. Despite its strong connection to slavery, far more Talbot County citizens enlisted in the United States army than the Confederate army, including eighteen Black veterans of the United States Colored Troops. Although Talbot County primarily supported the Union, the Talbot Boys Monument supports those from the county who fought for the Confederacy.

The Talbot Boys Monument was the brainchild of Joseph B. Seth, a lawyer from Easton, and David G. McIntosh. The two men wanted to create a monument honoring the men from Talbot County who supported the Confederacy. Initially erecting a stone monument inscribed the name of the 82 veterans of Talbot County in 1914, Seth determined to add a statue atop the monument. As Seth determined, "It is my desire to get away from the conventional soldier figure which is found on all of the monuments North and South, and to get an allegorical figure representing youth and courage."[2] In June 1916, a bronze figure of a boy soldier holding a Confederate flag standing atop the stone monument was dedicated.

The monument has been part of several controversies in recent years. In the early 2000s, there was a push to establish a monument to Frederick Douglass on Talbot County courthouse grounds, not far from the Talbot Boys Monument. Born in Talbot County around 1817-1818, Douglass endured slavery before escaping north and becoming one of the most the United States' most well-known African American abolitionists, authors, orators, and thinkers. Despite his prominence, some local residents and veterans opposed placing the Douglass monument on courthouse grounds alongside the Talbot Boys Monument and a Vietnam memorial, believing the grounds should be reserved for honoring veterans. Others claimed racism was the root of the opposition the Douglass statue. The issue proved divisive, but the county ultimately approved the Douglass statue, and it was erected in 2011. As resident Dyanne Welte noted, "Our little town had a famous person who did a lot of good, so we're celebrating his good works."[6]

Following the racially-motivated mass shooting of Charleston's historically Black Emanuel AME Church in 2016, the local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored Persons (NAACP) called for the monument's removal. As Richard Potter, president of the local NAACP, noted:

"That monument is commemorating individuals who wanted to keep a group of people, African-American people especially, enslaved...The courthouse is supposed to be a place where we can all go seeking a just and fair trial, but then we have a statue that resembles hate to a certain group of people. How just of a trial can I get when I have my government officials agreeing to leave a statue that represents such?"

Many citizens opposed the monuments removal, forming a group called "Save the Talbot Boys," and the local County Council declined to remove the statue in a closed door meeting. The NAACP and American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) contested that the meeting should've been open to the public. While the County Council ultimately admitted their mistake, they didn't change their decision regarding the monument. As Council President Corey Pack claimed, "We were not going to remove the Talbot Boys statue. We felt it would be disrespectful to the family members of those Confederate relatives still alive in Talbot County."[5]

The issue of the Talbot Boys' removal again emerged in 2020, in the wake of the death of George Floyd, national protests over systemic racism, and the removal of dozens of Confederate monuments nationwide. Some locals proposed replacing the Talbot Boys with a "Unity Statue" that would acknowledge both United States and Confederate soldiers from Talbot County. Support for removal of the Talbot Boys statue also came from several prominent Maryland politicians. Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot stated, "The Talbot Boys Monument is a tribute to white supremacy, slavery and treason – nothing more and nothing less. It must be taken off the lawn of the Talbot County courthouse, never to be seen again.”[4]

U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen also weighed in favor of the statue's removal. "This Confederate monument serves not only as a constant and divisive reminder to residents of the legacy of slavery, but also begs the question of why a Confederate symbol would be celebrated in our public squares," Senator Van Hollen noted. He also expressed concern over having a Confederate monument on courthouse grounds, "where the mission is to deliver equal justice under the law. Having a monument to those who fought to preserve slavery outside this local historic landmark undermines that message.”[4]

In early August 2020, the Talbot County Council voted 3-2 against removal of the Talbot Boys statue. Those voting against removal claimed the decision should be made by local voters, not the County Council.

1. "Talboy Boys Monument." Smithsonian Institution Research Information System (SIRIS). Web. Accessed August 21, 2020.!324947~!0&ri=5&menu=search&source=~!siartinventories

2. "Legacy of slavery, segregation influences debate over removing Confederate statue in Maryland." August 20, 2020. Baltimore Fishbowl. Web. Accesses August 21, 2020.

3. Mike Murillo. "'Talboy Boys' Confederate statue to remain outside Easton courthouse." August 13, 2020. WTOP. Web. Accessed August 21, 2020.

4. Bennett Leckrone. "Unity Statue Proposed to Replace Memorial of 'Talbot Boys' with Confederate Flag." June 26, 2020. Maryland Matters. Web. Accessed August 21, 2020.

5. Colin Campbell. "As Confederate symbols come down, 'Talboy Boys' endures." May 16, 2016. Baltimore Sun. Web. Accessed August 21, 2020.

6. Brian White. "Statue of Frederick Douglass arrives after years of debate." June 16, 2011. Web. Accessed August 21, 2020.

7. Natalie Hopkinson. "After the Civil War, African-American Veterans Created a Home of Their Own: Unionville." September 2017. Smithsonian Magazine. Web. Accessed August 24, 2020.

Image Sources(Click to expand)

Kenneth K. Lam, Baltimore Sun:


Christine Dolan:

Archives of Maryland: