Mr. Edward Taylor, former county councilman and civic leader who recently passed, had twice asked that the county remove the historical marker which many felt was a symbol of hurtful history that had no business being showcased on government property. It’s not that people felt the marker should be destroyed. They felt that the use of public property like a courthouse lawn provided a glorification of a war over slavery. And Winder’s role running the prison camps including Andersonville, as briefly mentioned on the marker, accentuated that defense of slavery, in a governmental location. There were other reasons, such as the less-than-full story about Gen. Winder who may well have been hung for war crimes had he not died soon after the end of the Civil War. Others questioned why have a marker about a historical figure who was never a resident of Salisbury and lived before there was a Wicomico County and a courthouse.
In a surprise unannounced move on Friday, county employees led by Wicomico County Executive Bob Culver dismantled the historical marker. It was a surprise to just about everyone. But the days leading up to its removal, another online petition drive had begun for its removal and was gaining quicker acceptance than the previous petition drive a few years ago. This effort was riding on the momentum of recent nationwide protests against police brutality in connection to the murder of George Floyd and others. Still, there was no indication that this renewed effort to remove the controversial historical marker would not be an equally difficult fight, given that previous efforts failed.
For the day and the weekend, the sign post remained, left for later removal. The pole is deep and anchored with cement, typical of historical markers, and removal will take digging and ensuring the hole is filled in to avoid accidents. The pole was a temporary visible reminder, for some so surprised that it happened. It was tangible evidence of its former existence for those happily stunned by the marker’s removal.
For those who sought the marker’s removal, the motives and decisions leading to removal that day were immaterial. They were just so thrilled to see it happened. Some had expressed being upset that there had been no fanfare and chance for crowds to watch the event themselves. Others, such as myself, felt the quick method was good to prevent outbursts to derail the plan. And although some community members have and will likely continue to complain about its removal, the fact remains that this battle is over. For many, it is a great relief. And as I think of Mr. Taylor, who initiated this request before doing so was a nationwide movement, I smile, hoping somehow he knows its gone.
It is indeed a sense of relief, a feeling that one can breath more easily. This one effort means that the words of some who found their voices historically ignored, have now been heard. It’s a small step, but one in the right direction towards healing. It means that quite possibly, the people of Salisbury are at least open to conversation.