Community News


Originally published in the Winter/Spring 2023 edition of the Virginia Defender, issue 71, printed March 22. Reproduced here for accessibility and archival purposes. To find other stories in the Winter/Spring 2023 issue or to download the full PDF, see this post. For other issues dating back to 2012, see the Full Issues page.

By Phil Wilayto

As of this writing, in mid-March, Richmond historical institutions are getting ready to mark the anniversary of the day the city was liberated from Confederate rule and slavery: April 3, 1865. But the state historical marker that stood at the site where Union troops enter Richmond has now been missing for more than a year.

Marker SA-41, “Union Army Enters Richmond,” stood on a grassy area overlooking the James River where East Main Street meets Old Main Street by Rocketts Landing in Richmond’s East End. The marker read:

“Here Maj. Gen. Godfrey Weitzel, commander of the Army of the James, entered and took possession of Richmond at 8:15 A.M. on 3 April 1865 after receiving the surrender of the confederate [sic] capital from Mayor Joseph Mayo a few miles east. The first units of Weitzel’s command to enter the city were six regiments from Brig. Gen. Edward H. Ripley’s 1st Brigade of the XXIVth Army Corps, and U.S. Colored Troops from infantry and cavalry regiments of the XXVth Army Corps.

During the next twenty-four hours, the Union troops extinguished the fire that destroyed almost 40 blocks that extended along the river and north to Capitol Square, restored order, and occupied Confederate (sic) office buildings.”

Last year, as the Defenders prepared a Richmond Liberation Day program to be held at the site on April 3, we looked into the whereabouts of the missing marker. Contacting the Virginia Department of Historic Resources, we reached Highway Marker Program Historian and Manager Jennifer Loux, who sent us this statement:

“DHR received a report on March 7 [2022] that the marker had been knocked down. Richmond Public Works retrieved the marker and determined that it was damaged beyond repair. We do not know whether the damage resulted from the marker being struck by a vehicle (the most common reason for markers to be knocked down) or whether it was a case of vandalism. This is the second time this particular marker has been damaged in the last few years. We hope to replace it, but that will take some time.”

It has. As of this writing, the marker still has not been replaced. And it is no longer listed on the DHR online database of state markers.

This photo recently was taken at the corner of East Main and Old Main streets in Richmond’s East End where the Union Army entered Richmond on April 3, 1865. A state historical highway marker at this site that was damaged in the spring of 2022 has yet to be replaced. Photo by Kat McNeal.

We decided to contact Manager Loux again, and received this statement:

“The Union Army Enters Richmond marker is currently # 8 in the queue of 44 Virginia markers that are on order at the foundry. The foundry has been contending with supply chain problems and other issues that have prevented it from completing orders in a timely manner. We expect the marker to be delivered later this spring, but can’t say exactly when.

“We don’t know the cause of the damage. Since this has happened twice, Richmond Public Works has approved a new, safer site for the marker in Great Shiplock Park.

“When markers are no longer on the roadside, we temporarily remove them from our website. This marker will reappear on the site when it is reinstalled.”

So – the state of Virginia erected signage to mark one of the arguably most important historical sites in U.S. history – the liberation of the city that (briefly) was the capital of the slavery-defending Confederacy. The marker was damaged, or vandalized, twice in the last few years and had already been replaced once. Now the state plans to replace the marker a second time, but in a new, “safer” location – a mile away – not the site where the marker is intended to stand.

Thanks to Manager Loux for her detailed and quick responses to our inquiries. And thanks to the DHR for being committed to replacing the damaged – or vandalized – marker.

But, going forward, we would hope that the state government would not cede any more space to those who, apparently, are offended by reminders that the Confederacy was defeated and slavery abolished at the hands of Black and white troops united in a common struggle for justice.

Categories: Community News

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