A few weeks back, I forwarded my ECW blog post on Lt. General A.P. Hill’s remains to several of Richmond’s leading officials involved in the removal of the city’s Confederate monuments: Mayor Levar Stoney, Interim City Attorney Haskell C. Brown III, the City Council of Richmond, and the Hermitage Road Historic District Association’s officers. I hoped that I could provide a little guidance when it comes to the unique case involving the A.P. Hill Monument.
I didn’t receive a reply from any of them. That didn’t bother me at all. What did bother me was that I began to see (and continue to see) inaccurate information being published and circulated about the A.P. Hill Monument, notably the statements made by the Hermitage Road Historic District Association’s president. He incorrectly told one news source that Hill’s remains were buried under the monument (something I continually see repeated by online news sources) and that the Confederate general desired to buried in the middle of the intersection at Laburnum Avenue and Hermitage Road. Unless someone can prove otherwise, I have every reason to believe that Hill’s remains are stored inside the monument’s pedestal, not buried under it. But the comment that Hill wanted to be buried in that location is indisputably false.
In a letter sent to the city on June 26, the Hermitage Road Historic District Association requested that Mayor Stoney and the City Council of Richmond act swiftly to remove the monument while officials debated what to do with his body. Shortly after, Mayor Stoney ordered the immediate removal of 11 Confederate monuments, declaring them to be a threat to public safety, among them the A.P. Hill Monument. But the monument’s removal was delayed when a Richmond judge issued an injunction barring Mayor Stoney from moving the monument for at least 60 days.
No doubt, the sooner the city removes the monument, the better. But this should not come at the expense of damaging or destroying Hill’s remains. We have to remember this is not just a monument, but also a gravesite.
Interim City Attorney Haskell C. Brown III’s office is reportedly researching the ownership and removal restrictions surrounding the monument and Hill’s body. I have no doubt they are doing their due diligence. But as I proposed in my previous post, a historian or historians should be involved in this process.
According to Virginia law, a body can’t be disinterred until ordered by a court in the jurisdiction and an application for disinterment submitted to the city, county registrar, or state registrar. Three disinterment permits must be then issued: one to the funeral service licensee, a second to the sexton or person in charge of the cemetery, and the third to be used during transportation and filed with the sexton or person in charge of the cemetery where the remains will be reinterred.
First, the city needs to crack open the statue’s pedestal and establish if Hill’s remains are inside. Once confirmed, they need to be removed following the procedures defined by Virginia law. The removal of the monument can come soon after.
I’ve identified two cemeteries that are the most appropriate locations to relocate Hill’s remains: Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond, Virginia, and Fairview Cemetery in Culpeper, Virginia. I mentioned both in my previous blog post about a month ago. I decided to investigate the pros and cons of each as a suitable location.
Fairview Cemetery is located roughly one hour and 30 minutes northwest of Hill’s monument. Hill’s mother, father, two sisters, a brother, and other family members are buried in the cemetery. Colonel Henry Hill, A.P. Hill’s uncle, purchased 12 graves in Section OLD of the cemetery. Unfortunately, all of the graves are occupied, meaning that A.P. Hill could not be reinterred next to his kin. But the cemetery is still selling graves in the back of Sections D and E, so a grave could be purchased for him at Fairview. At least Hill would be able to buried at the cemetery his family originally intended to be his final resting place.
The second option is Hollywood Cemetery, located only 10 minutes away from the A.P. Hill Monument. Hollywood is much closer than Fairview, likely making it cheaper to transport the remains. Also, 25 Confederate generals are buried in this cemetery. One of Hill’s daughters, Lucy Lee Hill McGill, is buried in Section Q, Lot 15. (Her mother and sister are buried at Lexington Cemetery, in Lexington, Kentucky.) Section N, Plot 35, where Hill was originally buried until removed in 1892, is now occupied. (The cemetery is currently researching who is now buried here and if they have any ties to Hill.) Therefore, this exact spot is not an option. But surely space can be found somewhere else in the cemetery for Hill’s remains.
There are two choices when it comes to General Hill’s headstone. The VA will provide a government-issued headstone free of charge. The only expense would be the cemetery’s installation fee (assuming they don’t waiver it). The inscription can be as simple as listing Hill’s date of birth, date of death, and rank. The other option is a privately purchased maker which will allow for more personalization. (Better not go overboard with it or we will end up in the same predicament as we’re in now.)
I do not recommend that the A.P. Hill Monument be placed at his fourth — and hopefully final — gravesite. There is already talk about removing Confederate monuments from national parks, so it could occur in cemeteries too. I don’t see much sense in moving it to one of these cemeteries, only to have to remove it at a later date. Besides, it would look quite out of place and could possibly attract vandalism within the cemetery. Once Hill’s remains have been removed and taken to one of these two cemeteries, the city can decide what to do with the monument and the other Confederate monuments currently in storage.
My fear is that during the process of removing Hill’s monument that they will be quite surprised to find a body (even though they had fair warning). Even worse, I fear they might damage or destroy the remains. Does any soldier, regardless if he wore blue of gray, deserve that fate? I don’t think so. That’s why the city needs to have a good plan in place (backed up with good research) before removing the monument. The 60-day order may have been a blessing in disguise by giving the city adequate time to get their ducks in a row before acting. At least I hope this is the case.
 Roberto Roldan, “Neighborhood Association Backs Removal Of AP Hill Statue, Remains,” VPM (June 29, 2020), https://vpm.org/news/articles/14531/neighborhood-association-backs-removal-of-ap-hill-statue-remains; Laura Perrot, “A.P. Hill’s gravesite presents unique challenge in monument’s removal,” 8News (July 8, 2020), https://www.wric.com/news/local-news/richmond/a-p-hills-gravesite-presents-unique-challenge-in-monuments-removal/; Laurel Wamsley, “Richmond, Va., Mayor Orders Emergency Removal Of Confederate Statues,” NPR (July 20, 2020), https://www.npr.org/sections/live-updates-protests-for-racial-justice/2020/07/01/886204604/richmond-va-mayor-orders-emergency-removal-of-confederate-statues; Brendan King, “A.P. Hill statue in Richmond won’t be removed, for now,” WVTR CBS 6 News (July 9, 2020), https://www.wtvr.com/news/local-news/a-p-hill-statue-in-richmond-wont-be-removed-for-now; Henry Graff, “Maury statue on Monument Avenue removed from pedestal; Mayor Stoney says 11 Confederate statues will be removed in total,” WWBT NBC12 (July 2, 2020), https://www.nbc12.com/2020/07/02/city-start-removal-maury-statue-monument-avenue/; WTVR CBS 6 Web Staff, “Judge grants injunction to halt removal of Confederate monuments,” WVTR CBS 6 News (July 9, 2020), https://www.wtvr.com/news/local-news/judge-grants-injunction-to-halt-removal-of-confederate-monuments; “Judge blocks removal of more Confederate statues in Richmond,” WTOP News (July 9, 2020), https://wtop.com/virginia/2020/07/crews-continue-work-to-remove-richmonds-confederate-statues/.