On Monday afternoon, the Confederate soldier stood high on his perch above a young family having a picnic on the lawn near the Red Brick Courthouse in Rockville.
The statue, erected in 1913 by The United Daughters of the Confederacy, is a life-sized bronze of a cavalry private and was created to commemorate the soldiers from Montgomery County who served the Confederacy during the Civil War.
The plaque on the statue reads, “To Our Heroes of Montgomery Co., Maryland, that we through life may not forget to love the thin gray line.”
Though the statue has stood on the courthouse lawn for decades, local officials are examining whether the statue should remain in its current location across from Montgomery County Circuit Court, given the national backlash against Confederate symbols—particularly the Confederate battle flag—after a June shooting reportedly motivated by racism left nine people dead at an historic black church in Charleston, South Carolina.
On July 20, the city of Rockville is inviting the public to attend a 6 p.m. work session prior to the City Council meeting to share thoughts on what should be done, if anything, with the statue.
“The idea is to really engage the community and try to get a representation of the different points of view,” city spokesman Marylou Berg said.
Montgomery County Council President George Leventhal said Monday the county has the authority to move the statue, if the community is interested in doing so. The monument is maintained by the Maryland Historical Trust.
“Our staff informs us it is the Maryland Historical Trust’s view that the county can make this decision on its own,” Leventhal said.
He added that while he wants the community to discuss the issue, he personally believes the statue should be moved to another location.
“I think it should be moved,” Leventhal said. “I don’t think it should be destroyed. I think we should identify an appropriate site for it and we haven’t done that yet. That’s my view, but I’m open to other points of view. I think we ought to do this in a non-confrontational way. I don’t think there’s any need for an argument over it. I think we’re an enlightened community and we can handle this in a responsible way.”
Patrick Lacefield, spokesman for County Executive Ike Leggett, said Monday Leggett had no comment on the issue.
The statue has already been moved once, from its original location in front of the Red Brick Courthouse to the shady, somewhat hidden grove of trees on the east lawn of the courthouse in 1971.
Rockville leaders, including Mayor Bridget Donnell Newton and City Council members Virginia Onley and Tom Moore told the Montgomery County Sentinel last week they would be in favor of a discussion about what to do with the statue.
Moore suggested it could be moved to the Beall-Dawson House in Rockville, which is home to the Montgomery County Historical Society, where more context could be added to show its historical significance, according to the news report.
The city has invited several historical and cultural experts to attend Monday’s conversation about the statue, which will occur before the 7 p.m. council meeting at City Hall.