Pennsylvania’s Confederate monuments are coming down

Four historical markers and monuments recognizing Confederate troops and milestones in Pennsylvania will be taken down amid a national reckoning about the appropriateness of similar public displays.

The decision follows conversations between Gov. Tom Wolf’s office and the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission (PHMC), which owns the markers and monuments in question, all located in Fulton County. 

Two of the four items now slated for removal were erected decades ago — in the Jim Crow era — by the Pittsburgh chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy. The group remains in existence nationally today and is labeled a neo-confederate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.   

“After conversations with the governor’s office, it was decided that the two monuments and two state historical markers should be removed as soon as possible,” said PHMC’s director of external affairs, Howard Pollman. 

“As far as process, we will work with contractors for the removal,” Pollman added. “We don’t have a timeline.” 

We wrote about these monuments and historical markers in 2017 on the heels of deadly violence in Charlottesville, Va. — violence put in motion by the planned removal of a towering, bronze tribute to Confederate General Robert E. Lee. 

Pennsylvania is home to few publicly funded acknowledgements of the Confederacy beyond Gettysburg. (The National Park Service said last week that it will not alter, relocate, obscure or remove any monuments at Gettysburg National Military Park, even “when they are deemed inaccurate or incompatible with prevailing present-day values.”) 

Unofficial tallies list a total of four non-Gettysburg markers and monuments recognizing Confederate troops and milestones in Pennsylvania. All are located in or near McConnellsburg in Fulton County — roughly two hours southeast of Pittsburgh. All are now set to be removed.  

They are:

  • A historical marker commemorating the site of the final Confederate encampment in Pennsylvania (pictured here
  • A limestone monument and mounted plaque that commemorates the same (pictured here
  • A six-foot tall granite monument to two Confederate soldiers killed during the first battle on Pennsylvania soil (pictured here)
  • A historical marker commemorating the same (pictured here)

It’s worth noting that the limestone and granite monuments in the list above were approved by PHMC’s predecessor, the Pennsylvania Historical Commission. The blue-and-gold historical markers were issued by the PHMC.  

“We’re removing these because the markers are ours and the monuments became ours,” Pollman explained. 

He added: “The Pennsylvania Historical Marker program has been in existence for more than 100 years. Some of our earlier markers may contain outdated cultural references. The Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission is working to address this situation and will work with communities during the process.” 

The number of monuments and memorials here is one of the lowest in the country, but ranks somewhere near the top for Union states, on par with those totals seen in New York, Iowa, and Ohio, per SPLC data. 

In 2017, Chambersburg’s Public Opinion newspaper talked to residents of the Fulton County area about the monuments and found little to no clamor for their removal. The monument to the two Confederate soldiers was rededicated in 2014 with local officials in attendance. 

The paper also noted that these monuments are unlike many found elsewhere around the country because “they memorialize very specific historical events.” 

But outside McConnellsburg, calls for their removal were growing, joined by the likes of U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-Pa.) who said of the two roadside monuments in 2017: “If it were up to me, we wouldn’t have them. I don’t decide that.”  

Asked by The Incline if Gov. Wolf supported the removal of Confederate monuments and historical markers like these, Wolf’s office referred to his recent interview with Bill Mead of WHP 580 News, in which the governor said this on the subject: 

“I mean, it depends on the statue. I think we honor people and events that have real meaning and that reinforce the values that we care about, and if there are things and monuments that don’t actually jibe with the values we hold, then we should not be elevating those things.” 

Meanwhile in Pittsburgh, “the most racist statue in America” was removed in 2018 and thousands are now calling for the removal of the Christopher Columbus statue in Oakland. 

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