Frederick Douglass was a “from here.” Where I was raised, on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, a “from here” is the opposite of a “come here,” and much is made of whether you were born on this side of the Chesapeake Bay or arrived later in life. In weighty matters, the question of just how many generations of your family have called this place home can become relevant, too.
One such matter is the Confederate monument at the Talbot County Courthouse, in Easton, a town of about seventeen thousand people. The monument, which is the last in Maryland on public property outside of cemeteries and battlefields, has two parts: a granite base, which was erected in 1914 and bears the names of ninety-six Confederate soldiers with some connection to the county—most carved in stone, others on two brass plaques—and a six-foot-tall statue, added two years later, of a young man with “C.S.A.” carved into his belt buckle and a Confederate flag in his arms. The front of the base is inscribed “To the Talbot Boys / 1861–1865 / C.S.A.”
For most of the past decade, that monument has shared the courthouse lawn with another: of Douglass, who was born into slavery some twelve miles from where his statue stands. Probably no one would be more surprised by this arrangement than Douglass himself, whose home state never seceded from the United States and whose home county voted against secession, sending more than three hundred soldiers to the Union Army. And yet there is no monument for the Union dead at the courthouse, or anywhere else in Talbot County.
The absence of a Union monument and the prominence of a Confederate one are part of why many a “from here,” like me, grew up believing that Talbot County was a Confederate stronghold. I love where I am from, so much so that I moved back to the Eastern Shore as an adult and, for years now, I have been one of many residents advocating for the removal of the “Talbot Boys” from the courthouse lawn. Earlier this summer, I thought I might be able to tell the story of how the Confederate monument finally came down. Instead, I’m left to confront why it remains.