Northampton Monument Proposal: Add Union Monument with African American Soldiers

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By Stefanie Jackson – What should happen to Northampton’s Confederate monument that stands on the historic courthouse green in Eastville, the county seat?

The Confederate monument faces Eastville’s main street, Courthouse Road, as “a day-to-day reminder of some of the darker days of our history,” Bill Payne, of Cape Charles, told the Eastern Shore Post last week.

He would like to see the monument moved out of the public eye, but another Northampton citizen has a different idea.

Arthur Carter, of Nassawadox, proposes leaving the Confederate monument in place and raising next to it a Union monument of equal size and height.

He made the proposal in a letter to Northampton supervisors, which he read into the public record during the Aug. 10 supervisors meeting.

The proposal was similar to one made by Jay Ford, of Belle Haven, regarding the Confederate monument in Parksley. Ford offered to buy the Parksley monument from the town and build another monument dedicated the Eastern Shore’s historic African American community, but the town denied ownership of the monument.

The Confederate soldier featured on both the Parkley and Eastville monuments appears to be of European descent, like the majority of Confederate soldiers from the Eastern Shore of Virginia.

Carter’s research included a careful reading of “Civil War Soldiers and Sailors of the Eastern Shore of Virginia,” by Barry and Moody Miles.

The text revealed that of 1,367 Confederate soldiers and sailors from the Eastern Shore of Virginia, 1,358 or 99.3% were European American, two or 0.15% were African American, and seven or 0.5% were not identified by ethnicity.

Carter asserted that the soldier on the proposed Union monument should be carved with African American features, since the majority of Union soldiers from the Eastern Shore of Virginia were African American.

Of 943 Union soldiers and sailors from the Eastern Shore of Virginia, 825 or 87.5% were African American, 95 or 10.1% were European American, and 23 or 2.4% were not identified by ethnicity.

Carter observed that Eastville’s Confederate monument is made of white granite, with a dark-colored cannon and cannon balls at its base. He suggested that for visual contrast, the Union monument should be carved of dark or black African granite, with a white granite cannon and cannon balls at its base.

A list of the names and ethnicities of the 1,367 Confederates should be placed near the Confederate monument, and a list of the 943 Union soldiers and sailors should be placed near the Union monument, Carter suggested.

The cost of construction and placement of the Union monument, along with landscaping and curating for both monuments, should be paid by private and foundation donations and grants, he said.

Although soldiers on both sides in the Civil War fought for different reasons, the Union and Confederacy had something in common: “The legalized enslavement of African and African American children, women, men and elders was and is a painful and shameful epic” of their respective histories, Carter wrote.

He noted that the history of the United States of America through the Civil War lasted from 1776 to 1865, or 84 years, and the Confederate States of America existed from 1861 to 1865, or four years.

“Let’s not celebrate these periods, but commemorate and curate them for ourselves and for posterity,” Carter stated.

The shared history and heritage of all Americans should be acknowledged and remembered, he indicated.

He would like Northampton supervisors to schedule a public hearing on Civil War monuments on the Eastville courthouse green within 30 days.

Carter told supervisors he looks forward to the hearing and “the wisdom and fairness of your eventual decision.”

He concluded, “Northampton County has the opportunity to show ourselves, the Eastern Shore, the Commonwealth, and the world that here in Northampton County ‘We Have a Better Way.’”