The Confederate Statue in Rockville, 2015 (Photo Courtesy of Katherine M. Rogers)
At a worksession on Monday, July 20th at 6 pm, Rockville Mayor and Council will discuss the future of the Confederate Soldier Statue. This meeting is open to the public. Please attend to let Mayor and Council know your thoughts on this historic monument!
The History of Rockville’s Confederate Soldier
The statue was unveiled and dedicated on June 3, 1913. This date was Jefferson Davis’ birthday and 50 years after the Battle of Gettysburg, a time when reconciliation and ceremonies were important to surviving veterans on both sides of the Civil War. Judge Edward C. Peter and Rockville Mayor Lee Offutt made keynote speeches at the dedication. It has been suggested, but not documented, that the soldier’s head was modeled after Spencer C. Jones, Confederate veteran, Mayor of Rockville 1898-1901, and father-in-law of an official in the foundry that cast the statue. The location was a prominent public space – a triangular park opposite the Red Brick Courthouse. The triangle was used for important public items such as a hay-weighing station, a weather station, and public water fountains labeled “white” and “colored.”
The Rockville Confederate Statue in 1927 (Photo from Peerless Rockville’s Collections)
The statue remained in this location for over 50 years, though it was moved a few feet to the west in the 1930s to accommodate the widening of Perry Street. Angry members of the United Daughters of the Confederacy chased off an attempt to install the four sided town clock in the park in 1939.
The planned elimination of this park during Urban Renewal caused the City and Montgomery County to consider the future of the Confederate Statue in the late 1960s. Urban design consultants identified it as one of the few items with historical significance in central Rockville and recommended its relocation to the east side of the Red Brick Courthouse. The Mayor and Council, acting as the Local Public Agency for Urban Renewal, held public hearings on the matter and staff recommended requesting permission from the County Executive to relocate the statue. On August 13, 1971, County Executive James Gleason gave Rockville Mayor Achilles Tuchtan permission to do so.
On November 2, 1971 the statue was disassembled, then reassembled on its original base (with a 1971 penny between base and statue) five days later on the Courthouse lawn in its present location. The move was part of a contract for construction of Courthouse Square and the City paid for the move with federal funds. The statue remains facing south. In 1975, Montgomery County planted several trees nearby.
In 1994, the Maryland Military Monuments Commission (MMMC) was scheduled to clean and stabilize the statue, as it did for other monuments around the state. At that time, Peerless Rockville called a meeting with partners and those interested in the Confederate statue. The consensus of the group was to leave the statue where it is and improve its physical environment in order to aid conservation.
On September 17, 1994, the statue was rededicated in a ceremony sponsored by the Sons of Confederate Veterans. A Kensington resident, Edith Ray Saul, who was at the 1913 dedication, was present in the audience. The keynote speaker was an African-American professor from American University, Edward Smith, and Congressional Medal of Honor recipient Captain Thomas G. Kelley, USN Ret. was a special guest. The ceremony included a color guard, wreath-laying, music, and reenactments. Numerous County officials attended and later that year, as Governor W.D. Schaeffer toured military monuments in Maryland, the Confederate statue was his first stop.
In the late 1990s, the County improved the grounds of Courthouse Square, including walkways and other landscaping. The ‘Spirit of Rockville’ statue in the fountain in front of the Red Brick Courthouse included a crack in its base symbolizing the division in the Rockville community during the Civil War.