Parkersburg Confederate Monument
During the Civil War, most residents of Parkersburg and Wood County remained loyal to the United States, although approximately 500 local citizens enlisted in the Confederate army. At the turn of the century, the United Daughters of the Confederacy slowly raised several thousand dollars to erect a statue to Parkersburg's Confederate dead as part of their nationwide campaign to create monuments that would lionize the Confederate leaders and vindicate the antebellum South. A key part of the UDC's program was the dedication of monuments in prominent places within Border South communities. As a result, West Virginia saw the creation of more Confederate monuments than Union monuments in the early 1900s despite the state's unique history which begins with the rejection of Virginia's decision to leave the Union. Meeting in Wheeling, representatives of western Virginia counties created a pro-Union government and formally joined the United States as a new state in the middle of the war. This monument was dedicated in 1908 and the ceremony featured noted United Confederate Veteran speaker and Lost Cause advocate Bennett Young. The former Confederate raider said little of Parkersburg or West Virginia's history in his speech, and instead chose to praise the racially "homogenous" nature of the Confederate army when he proudly proclaimed its soldiers "constituted the most homogeneous organization that every bore the Anglo-Saxon name." The monument features a bronze Confederate sentinel atop a rough-hewn granite pedestal.
Backstory and Context
During the Civil War, Parkersburg proved itself a firm Union town. Approximately 3,000 soldiers from Wood County enlisted in the United States army, while some 500 local citizens enlisted in Confederate service. The town also possessed a degree of strategic importance, as it set along the vital east-west Baltimore & Ohio Railroad; Fort Boreman was built overlooking Parkersburg to protect the town and rail line.
Despite its relatively minimal Confederate legacy, the Parkersburg Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC) determined to erect a monument to local Confederate dead. Wanting to honor Confederate veterans and also promoting "Lost Cause" ideology that minimized the role of slavery and Confederate defeat, the UDC supported the construction of many such monuments across the South.
It took seven years for the local UDC chapter to raise the requisite $2,600 necessary for the statue's construction, and the City of Parkersburg donated a small plot of land for its use. The monument consists of a 12-foot pedastal of Vermont granite, in which is a bronze plaque reads "In Memory of Our Confederate Dead: Erected by the Parkersburg Chapter United Daughters Confederacy 1908" and is likewise inscribed with the Confederate seal. The granite pedestal is topped by 7-foot bronze Confederate soldier, which was sculpted by French-American artist Leon Hermant.
The monument was dedicated on July 21, 1908. The key speaker was Bennett H. Young. A former Confederate colonel (who notably led a Rebel raid on St. Albans, Vermont from Canada), Young rose to prominence within the United Confederate Veterans, ultimately serving two terms as its Commander-in-Chief. A noted orator, Young routinely spoke at Confederate monument dedications. Speaking in Parkersburg, Young proudly proclaimed that the Confederate army "constituted the most homogeneous organization that every bore the Anglo-Saxon name."
Following the dedication, the UDC held annual Memorial Day ceremonies at the monument for a number of years.
1. Crooks, M.D., Robert D. "The Civil War in Greater Parkersburg." Visit Greater Parkersburg. Web. Accessed July 8, 2020. https://www.greaterparkersburg.com/things-to-do/history-heritage/civil-war/
2. Emerson, B.A.C. Historic Southern Monuments: Representative Memorials of the Heroic Dead of the Southern Confederacy. New York: Neale Publishing Company, 1911. Accessed via Google Books: https://play.google.com/store/books/details?id=Qhx3AAAAMAAJ&rdid=book-Qhx3AAAAMAAJ&rdot=1
3. Brown, Thomas J. Civil War Monuments and the Militarization of America. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2019. https://uncpress.org/book/9781469653747/civil-war-monuments-and-the-militarization-of-america/
4. Giguere, Joy M. "Bennett H. Young and the Rhetoric of Reconciliation." Veterans in Society Conference, Virginia Tech. 2015. Web. Accessed July 9, 2020. https://vtechworks.lib.vt.edu/handle/10919/72927
West Virginia & Regional History Center, https://wvhistoryonview.org/catalog/034461
Library of Congress, https://www.loc.gov/pictures/resource/cph.3b38305/