On December 16 Virginia announced that a special advisory group had recommended that the statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee in Congress’s Statuary Hall be replaced by one of Barbara Rose Johns, a black student who led a protest in 1951 against segregated schools.
This step is the latest in a series begun in several states earlier this millennium to update their representation in the Capitol building. The very first change took place in 2003 when Kansas replaced George Washington Glick, a former Governor who had fought in the Civil War for the Union (not the Confederacy), with a statue of former President Eisenhower.
The history of Statuary Hall and the Civil War are inextricably intertwined. The legislation authorizing each state to give Congress two statues of its honorees was passed in 1864 in the midst of the war. Further, the “Statue of Freedom” atop the Capitol Dome was emplaced there just a year earlier, in 1863. The first statue, of Nathanial Greene of Rhode Island, was emplaced in 1870, and by 1971 each state had emplaced at least one.
Of the statues currently in Statuary Hall and elsewhere in the Capitol officially recognized as state “representatives,” roughly half have a connection to the Civil War.
It was with the above in mind that I decided to write a book about Statuary Hall and its relationship with the Civil War. Entitled The Civil War and Congress’s Statuary Hall, the book will, I hope, be published by the end of this year on amazon.com as the next in my series, “Civil War Personalities: 5o At A Time.” It contains a brief history of the creation and evolution of Statuary Hall and biographical sketches of 49 honorees and one allegorical figure, the “Statue of Freedom” herself, who were involved in the Civil War era. It also discusses which statues have been replaced, and by whom, and which statues, like Lee’s, are likely to be replaced.
Below is the likely cover page of the book, which pictures nine of the honorees. They are, from top left:
Francis Pierpont, West Virginia
General Philip Kearny, New Jersey (due to be replaced)
James A. Garfield, Ohio
Statue of Freedom
Frederick Douglass, District of Columbia
Confederate President Jefferson Davis, Mississippi
Sarah Winnemucca, Nevada
General Robert E. Lee, Virginia