Monument to the Confederate Soldiers of Monroe County
This Confederate monument is located in a town named Union and within a state that was created as a rejection of secession after efforts by Virginia leaders of the United Daughters of the Confederacy. The monument features a Confederate infantryman on a white Italian granite base and was funded by area residents under the leadership of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, an organization based in Richmond that was created to vindicate the antebellum South. At the dedication ceremony in 1901, the keynote speaker was a politician from Virginia who lauded the fortitude of Confederate soldiers but also made a point to interject his racial worldview into his speech, stating Confederate troops fought to uphold "Anglo-Saxon" ways of life.
Backstory and Context
The cornerstone of the monument was laid September 6, 1900. Newspaper accounts from the Monroe Watchman indicate that the bulk of the fundraising and organizing that led to the monument was done by women. While all of the speakers at the dedication ceremony were men, the day's largest events were picnics organized by women and parade of over hundreds of area girls and women who were all dressed in white.
Similar to many Confederate monuments that were dedicated in the Border States, most of the remarks at the dedication indicate that the driving force behind the monument was the desire to honor the former soldiers while many were still alive. At the same time, the dedication ceremony revealed a defensive posture with many of the speakers offering their assurance that the cause of the Confederacy "had been just." This part of the dedication speeches were typically vague, with praise to the valor of soldiers on both sides of the conflict.
Given the high number of Confederate supporters in this section of West Virginia, the growth of Confederate reunions in the South and the Border States led to several encampments of former Confederates meeting in this area each year throughout the 1890s. These reunions included speeches and resolutions calling for the creation of a monument to honor Confederate veterans along with speeches that reflected the "Lost Cause" ideology that lauded the antebellum South. Dedication speeches made no mention of slavery but contained many subtle references to the Lost Cause and the nobility of the Old South. Perhaps most surprising given the unique political situation that led to the creation of West Virginia, none of the speakers at the dedication mentioned the issue of secession or West Virginia statehood in their remarks. Records of the voting returns for the statehood referendums sponsored by the Wheeling Unionist government on October 24, 1861, April 3, 1862, and March 26, 1863 show that citizens of Monroe County did not participate in any of these votes to be included in the new state.
"The Confederate Monument." Monroe Watchman, August 29, 1901.
Vote Totals by County on the West Virginia State Constitution April 3, 1862, West Virginia Department of Arts, Culture and History. Accessed January 22nd 2021. http://www.wvculture.org/history/statehood/constitutionvote.html.
Curry, Richard Orr. A House Divided, Statehood Politics & the Copperhead Movement in West Virginia, Accessed January 22nd 2021.