Infamous cavalry statue takes its last ride to Poolesville to stand guard at White's Ferry
ROCKVILLE – Friday was a last hurrah for a 104-year-old Rockville statue representing an increasingly more distant past.
After two years of controversy and public debates a County contractor moved Rockville’s Confederate statue Tuesday to its new home at White’s Ferry outside of Poolesville. The statue, depicting a confederate cavalryman – and modeled after a former Rockville mayor, was taken from its home at the old Rockville “Red Brick” Courthouse where it had stayed for many years. The statue arrived at White’s Ferry on Tuesday.
For years Rockville and County residents debated the appropriateness of the statue, which for the last 104 years stood in downtown Rockville as a memorial to the County’s confederate Civil War veterans.
While the statue was the centerpiece of discussion for many Rockville City Council meetings, only about half a dozen County resident gathered on Friday to give the statue a farewell topped with a Champaign toast to a monument of Rockville’s past.
“I actually had relatives that fought for the Confederacy from Montgomery County, so this is actually part of my culture,” said Bethesda resident David King, who is a member of the local chapter of the Sons of Confederate Veterans.
The 16-foot statue, which sits on a 25,000-pound pedestal, was originally dedicated on the birthday of Jefferson Davis, the former President of the Confederate States of America on June 3, 1913 and to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg. The inscription on the statue reads, “To the heroes of Montgomery Co. Maryland: That we through life may not forget to love the Thin Gray Line.”
Local historian Tony Cohen, an African-American descended from a confederate veteran, organized the small commemoration Friday saying it was important to remember history the statue represents.
“People ask why a black guy with the last name Cohen comes to the defense of a friend in gray?” Cohen said. “The simple answer is history. Without symbols, without statuary, without memorials we have nothing around which to hold civil discourse or debate.”
The statue has been moved before. Originally it was located at Triangular Park, across the street from its last location next to the Red Brick Courthouse. In 1971, the statue was relocated to Courthouse Square Park to make way for new development in downtown Rockville.
Since 1971 the statue rested under the trees at Courthouse Square Park next to the Red Brick Courthouse facing south. In 1994, the County held a rededication ceremony for the statue, which was attended by then-County Executive Doug Duncan and then-Council member and current County Executive Ike Leggett.
In 2015, Leggett came to the decision that the statue should go saying it did not represent a “balanced” view of the County’s sacrifice because it excluded local veterans who fought for the Union during the Civil War.
While some cities have taken down confederate memorials and moved them into storage or a museum, Leggett said the statue does not need to be removed from public view only from public land. After the County received the go-ahead from the Maryland Historical Trust, Leggett eventually found a new home for the statue at historic White’s Ferry.
“I believe it should not be located on County property. Because it has significance locally, I want it to remain in Montgomery County – but not on County-owned land. I wanted it to be accessible to those who want to visit it,” Leggett said.
After Leggett decided he wanted the statue moved, the Rockville City Council debated on whether they should accept the statue. While statue has always remained in Rockville City limits, the statue was located on County-owned land.
After months of debate and “gift” offer from Leggett to relocate the statue, the Rockville City Council voted 4-1 against relocating the statue to Beall-Dawson House, citing security concerns and upkeep.
During the past two years the statue has been the target of graffiti with an incident where someone spray-painted “Black Lives Matter” on the statue. To prevent further damage, the County built a tall wooden gray box around the statue, blocking the view of most of the statue, while it waited to be relocated. In another instance, someone spray-painted “Sad!” on the wooden gray box covering the statue’s base in early May.
On Saturday, American Architectural Restoration LLC, moved the statue costing the County $98,384 to move, transport, assembly and fence at its new home at White’s Ferry. The statue will fit in at its new home in Dickerson where the boat that carries cars and passengers alike across the Potomac River to Loudoun County, Virginia, is named in honor of Confederate Civil War General Jubal A. Early.