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Confederate Monuments in West Virginia

Created by Clio Admin on July 25th 2020, 5:19:26 am.

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West Virginia was formed during the Civil War by communities and leaders who rejected the Confederacy and their doctrine of secession and formed a new government loyal to the United States. Despite its Unionist past, West Virginia is home to more Confederate monuments than monuments honoring citizens who served in the armies and navies of the United States during the Civil War. Driving home this point, the state even has a Confederate monument in Union, West Virginia. This trail includes some of the most prominent Confederate monuments along with public university buildings named in honor of men who fought against the United States and opposed the formation of the Mountain State. Each monument is unique, but all were part of a campaign by organizations that sought to vindicate the Confederacy and the antebellum South. West Virginia provided more troops for the United States than the Confederacy, and the people of the state also suffered from numerous raids by Confederates and bushwhackers. The war also saw raids and counter-attacks by U.S. troops, and many families lost their homes and their loved ones. Given the destructive nature of the Civil War, residents focused on burying their dead and there were few efforts to erect memorials beyond markers in cemeteries, and certainly no effort to erect any monuments celebrating the war or the military leaders of the Confederacy. Understanding the complicated and tragic history of West Virginia's Civil War experience requires significant reading to understand the perspectives of those who served in Union and Confederate armies, as well as those who sought to shield their families from harm. Such history cannot be conveyed in stone or metal, and these monuments include little text and tend to place a single soldier or office on a pedestal. While some communities are considering new monuments and markers that do more to contextualize the Civil War as tragic period that brought destruction, others are debating the value of these monuments that were erected by organizations that were formed in the 1890s and early 1900s to vindicate the Confederacy and the antebellum South. Rather than reflecting the nature of a destructive civil war that divided families and communities, these monuments reflect another complicated story- that of organizations who sought to control the historical narrative. This trail offers context for each monument, including the words spoken at dedication speeches when available. As a result, the goal is not to settle any debates about the fate of any single monument, but rather to offer context to understand why they were created.