Days after the planned removal of a Confederate statue in Virginia prompted rallies, three deaths and a nationwide outcry, Pennsylvania’s governor’s office objected to the public placement of similar monuments in the Commonwealth.
“There should be no place in Pennsylvania that honors bigotry or hatred,” spokesman JJ Abbott said via email. “Historical markers should only serve as that and should not honor or memorialize Confederate soldiers or the Confederacy. Any such monument should be relocated to a museum or non-public space that provides the complete context of why so many Pennsylvanians died to defeat the Confederate army.”
Virginia — where three people died Saturday after opposing rallies in Charlottesville — is itself home to the highest concentration of publicly placed Confederacy symbols in the nation, some 220, per the Southern Poverty Law Center. (Richmond, an hour southeast of Charlottesville, was at one time the Confederacy’s capital city.)
Pennsylvania, meanwhile, claims just four Confederate monuments, markers or public symbols, according to the SPLC. This does not include those found at Gettysburg, which is home to both Confederate and Union memorials.
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. As The Washington Post pointed out this week, roughly 1 in 12 U.S. Confederate memorials exist in Union states like Pennsylvania. (A list of both Union and Confederate monuments in Pennsylvania, as compiled by Slate, can be found here.)
Pennsylvania’s publicly supported Confederate monuments, per the SPLC, include the following:
- Lee Park Avenue; Wilkes-Barre/Hanover Township (though a local historian contradicts this conclusion)
- Confederate Soldiers Monument and Confederate Dead Marker; McConnellsburg, Fulton County
- Last Confederate Bivouac Marker; McConnellsburg
- Confederate Lane roadway; McConnellsburg
The Herald-Mail reports that McConnellsburg and Fulton County are “known as the location of the last Confederate presence north of the Mason-Dixon line, but also the site of the first Confederate deaths.” Those deaths are commemorated through the Confederate Soldiers Monument and Confederate Dead Marker erected in 1929 and 1948, respectively, by the Daughters of the Confederacy. The Last Confederate Bivouac Marker was erected by the Pittsburgh Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy in 1930. The Confederate Soldiers Monument was set to be rededicated in June 2014, The Herald-Mail adds.
Though not memorials, in Pittsburgh, there are several Confederate burials in Allegheny Cemetery in Lawrenceville, said Michael Kraus, curator the Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall and Museum in Pittsburgh. Also, the only Confederate prisoners of war held in Pittsburgh were in a prison where the National Aviary now sits. A plaque at the site commemorates the location, he said.
Gettysburg park officials this week told PennLive.com that they had received no complaints concerning the Confederate monuments there — including a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee — and won’t be removing any.
“Thousands of Pennsylvanians gave their lives to defeat the Confederacy and what they stood for — and Governor Wolf believes only they should be honored for their sacrifice,” his spokesperson told The Incline. “Gettysburg National Park is a historical site that goes to great lengths to provide full context for visitors on the turning point battle and President Lincoln’s address proclaiming the true American value of equal rights for all people.”
Just as recently as a year ago, Wolf held the same hard line.
In June 2016, roughly a year after a white supremacist murdered nine black churchgoers in Charleston, S.C., Wolf ordered a Confederate flag removed from the state Capitol building in Harrisburg.
“The governor believes the Confederate flag is a symbol of racism and hatred that has no place in this building or any state building,” a Wolf spokesman said at the time.
‘Pittsburgh was a very Union city’
In the last year, Pennsylvania has remained largely — although not entirely — removed from the nationwide debate around Confederate symbols, their meaning and their appropriateness for public display. In addition to those symbols counted by the SPLC, there are also reports of smaller-scale tributes to the Confederacy across the Commonwealth, although many of these are harder to verify.
When Al Jazeera published an interactive article titled “Mapping America’s roads named after Confederates,” it included dozens of streets in Pennsylvania that it said were named for John C. Calhoun, a politician and supporter of the Confederacy, Confederate Maj. Gen. George Edward Pickett and Confederate Gen. Joseph Brevard Kershaw.
Among those was Calhoun Street Bridge running between Trenton, NJ, and Morrisville, Pa., near Philadelphia. But the Trenton Historical Society says Calhoun Street was named for Alexander Calhoun, a local store owner.
The Al Jazeera list similarly names Calhoun streets in Johnstown and at least six other Pennsylvania cities as having been named for John C. Calhoun, the white supremacist and anti-abolitionist. It’s unclear how many, if any, actually were.
The list also names roadways in Pittsburgh, Punxsutawney and Enola, Pa., as having been named for Pickett and Kershaw Avenue in Doylestown honoring a Confederate general.
In Pittsburgh, an attempt to confirm the origins of the city’s Pickett Way in Chartiers City revealed the story may already have been lost to history.
“It was originally called Pine Alley and changed to Pickett Way in 1908,” said Katie O’Malley, a spokesperson for Mayor Bill Peduto.
“There is no indication why the name was chosen,” she added, before offering one potential theory. “Many street names were changed as they were annexed into the city. In several instances, street names were derived from the families who owned the land at the time such as Marloff Street in Brookline from the Marloff family.”
Kirk Savage, a History of Art and Architecture professor at the University of Pittsburgh, said he did not know whether Pickett Way in Pittsburgh was named for the Confederate general, adding, “There are other Picketts.” In recent years, Savage’s work has focused heavily on the debate building around Confederate monuments and symbols nationwide. But his response confirms that it remains harder to verify what may be smaller and more plentiful street-level tributes to the Confederacy given the ubiquity of certain surnames and the generations that have passed since many of these street markers were first placed.
Soldiers & Sailors’ Kraus said a Pittsburgh street named after Confederate Maj. Gen. George Edward Pickett seems unusual given the context. “I’m not sure that’s Pickett from Pickett’s charge,” Kraus explained, adding, “Pittsburgh was a very Union city. It had some dissension, but it wasn’t very widespread.”
Instead, Kraus said streets in and around Pittsburgh are more likely to be named for Union figures.
“There’s a number of streets and places named for Union generals. You’ll find streets named after battles — Fair Oaks Street, for example. Every street in Millvale is named after a Union general — Hays, Stevens, Grant, Sherman, Sheridan — and that’s because Millvale really came into existence after the Civil War, and so it was still fresh.”
In fact, Kraus said when Soldiers & Sailors was first established by Union veterans in 1910, “the policy was not to accept anything Confederate as far as relics, flags and mementos were concerned.”
“That’s no longer policy,” he added, “but it just shows you that in 1910, feelings among veterans were still pretty high.”