General A.P. Hill’s Remains Exhumed

On December 13, 2022, construction workers using shovels and other equipment dismantled three heavy stone blocks concealing General A.P. Hill’s remains, exposing them for the first time in over a century. The construction workers uncovered the bone fragments gathered by Hollywood Cemetery workers in 1892. The construction workers, mortician, and two of Hill’s descendants covered the general’s remains with a tarp, quilt, and Virginia’s state flag. After over two years, General Hill’s remains have been removed, and the last city-owned Confederate monument in Richmond, Virginia, is gone.

Hill's remains being removed from the monument. (Jay Paul, JPaulPhoto.com)
Hill’s remains being removed from the monument. (Jay Paul, JPaulPhoto.com)

The “Lightning Rod”

Hill never asked to be buried at the intersection of Richmond’s West Laburnum Avenue and Hermitage Road. Some of his relatives were opposed to his remains being disinterred from Hollywood Cemetery. Ever since they were relocated and placed inside the pedestal of the large monument, there has been debate surrounding the location. It wasn’t a matter of if the monument would be removed, but rather, it was a matter of when it would be. Things finally came to a head in 2020.

University of Florida staff members and General William W. Loring’s descendants understood that the general’s monument in St. Augustine, Florida, was the “lightning rod.” From the beginning, both parties recognized the importance of separating Loring’s remains from the monument. This has been a point of contention between Hill’s descendants and the City of Richmond, which contributed to delaying the removal of both the monument and Hill’s remains for so long.

The pedestal’s empty receptacle. (Jay Paul, JPaulPhoto.com)
The pedestal’s empty receptacle. (Jay Paul, JPaulPhoto.com)

General A.P. Hill’s Remains Disinterred

My biggest concern for the last two years has been that Hill’s remains would be destroyed by workers hastily exhuming them or who did not know exactly where they were located in the monument. As far as I can tell, there was no archeologist or historian on site like there was during the removal of Loring’s remains from St. Augustine in 2020. However, a mortician from Bennett Funeral Home was present to help supervise the disinterment and to transport Hill’s remains to the funeral home.

It appears from the photos and videos shared by the local media that the workers from the construction company contracted by the City of Richmond to remove the A.P. Hill Monument and disinter his remains treated them delicately and with respect. The crew covered Hill’s bones from view when removing them from the pedestal’s receptacle. However, I discovered that one worker made unprofessional and inappropriate comments on Facebook about Hill and the state of his body. (The individual has since restricted access to his Facebook page.)

Regardless of what side a soldier fought on, whether it was for the Confederacy or the U.S., he should be treated with respect. And even if you don’t agree with Hill’s views and what he fought for, his remains shouldn’t be desecrated.

Circa. 1855 daguerreotype of Ambrose Powell Hill. (American Civil War Museum)
Circa. 1855 daguerreotype of Ambrose Powell Hill. (American Civil War Museum)

Final Destination

Bennett Funeral Home will be relocating Hill’s remains to Evergreen Cemetery in Culpeper, Virginia, in January 2023. This is good news since Hill’s mother, father, two sisters, brother, and other family members are buried there. Cousin George Powell Hill intended to bury A.P. Hill there in 1865 after he was killed at Petersburg. Hill probably would have wanted to be buried at Evergreen. For now, General Hill’s remains rest in modern oak casket at Bennett Funeral Home to await transportation and reburial.

Hill’s descendants attempted to place the monument from Richmond over his gravesite. The town, who manages the cemetery, wisely refused. A clerk with the Town of Culpeper told me via email that Hill’s descendants are working with Bennett Funeral Home to place an obelisk on his grave. I was alarmed when I read one of Hill’s descendants comment on Twitter that “a tall, beautiful headstone for the cemetery [is] already in the works.”

General Loring’s family chose to place a portrait of him in his Egyptian uniform and list his life achievements on his headstone. He isn’t pictured in a Confederate uniform, and the epitaph doesn’t mention him participating in the rebellion. If Hill’s descendants choose for his headstone to be only about his service to the Confederacy or to adorn it with Confederate flags or emblems, that’s their choice. But I believe a marker noting his career as a soldier in general would be more appropriate. Hill is eligible for a standard government-issued headstone from the Department of Veterans Affairs, which would be a better choice. (The VA will cut and ship it to the cemetery for free.) He spent 14 long years in the U.S. Army, compared to four years in the Confederate Army.

General Loring's grave at Craig Memorial Park. (Barry Coombs)
General Loring’s grave at Craig Memorial Park. (Barry Coombs)

I worry that the family will turn the gravesite into another Confederate shrine. That’s why the General A.P. Hill Monument was removed from Richmond in the first place (in addition to it being a traffic hazard). Besides, a lavish monument extolling the Lost Cause could attract vandals to not only Hill’s gravesite, but also to other graves located in the cemetery. Honor him, yes, but do it appropriately. Hill never asked for his body to become an object of adoration. His remains have been used for other people’s agendas since his death. Hate him or love him, let Hill finally rest in peace.

For more on the A.P. Hill Monument, see “A Grave Dilemma: What to Do With A.P. Hill” on pages 151 to 159 in Civil War Monuments and Memory: Favorite Stories and Fresh Perspectives from the Historians at Emerging Civil War.



18 Responses to General A.P. Hill’s Remains Exhumed

  1. If he is considered a US soldier, as Hill is my law, and entitled to a VA headstone, then his remains should have been given an official “dignified transfer of remains.” There’s still that opportunity as he is buried again. But who will have the moral courage to do so this time.

  2. “I worry that the family will turn the gravesite into another Confederate shrine.” And I worry that some Civil War historians are slowly but steadily advancing the idea that any positive mention of the Confederacy, anywhere in public view, is beyond the pale.

    I’ve looked at pictures of A.P. Hill’s monument and I see no obvious “Lost Cause” symbology. The statue shows the general holding a sword. The pedestal has his name. I see no other inscriptions glorifying the Lost Cause, slavery, state’s rights or anything like that. I can understand Culpeper not wanting the statue in a public cemetery, because it would attract protesters. I can especially understand the police chief not wanting it. But I don’t see how this statue could be considered “a lavish monument extolling the Lost Cause.”

    “If Hill’s descendants choose for his headstone to be only about his service to the Confederacy or to adorn it with Confederate flags or emblems, that’s their choice.”

    Once again, many Southerners fought for their states, not the Confederacy. Many fought because they felt obligated to defend their homes, or do their duty as they saw it. Some fought because of the conscription law, which was passed in 1862. Once they started fighting, many created close bonds with their fellow comrades, and didn’t want to let them down. The Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps, trying to console and inspire his Marines after the horror at Kabul Airport, reminded them that they “fought for the Marine to the right of you and the Marine to the left of you.” That’s always been true of the American soldier.

    If people want to see any Confederate statue as nothing but a “Lost Cause” totem, that is their choice. But, don’t be surprised if many of us choose otherwise.

    I do not blame the City of Richmond for moving the monument and the grave. They apparently handled it well, and with dignity. Just as they did with the other Confederate statues. (Not their pedestals, the statues themselves.) When Lee’s statue was removed and sawn in half, it was done in such a way that it can be repaired.

  3. I agree that we must permit the family to honor their deceased relative the way they see fit. According to local news reports, the exhumation was marred by an individual who hollered and screamed at not only the witnesses who gathered there to honor the general but also to the lone relative who came down from Ohio to help in the actual exhumation. It got so bad, that the relative, who was in the grave, took notice and asked this “gentleman” to show some respect. The question that I have now is, what is to be done with all the monuments that have been removed? Ultimately, I am of the opinion that they should be placed at Civil War battlefields where they belong. Perhaps not on City streets.

  4. LTC Herbek makes a good point. By statute passed in the 1950’s, Confederate veterans are considered veterans for purposes of the VA. and therefore entitled to a VA headstone. But, in today’s climate, I doubt any one will take notice. It is unfortunate folks want to vandalize these memorials. And, they are memorials, not monuments. Every one of them calls on the viewer to recall those who fell.

    The former memorial in San Antonio, Texas commemorated the common soldier. But, that did not keep unknown persons from messing with it during the removal process. The hand carved rifle was broken in two places during the removal. The city then affixed blue epoxy as a quick, cheap repair. The blue color really stands out from the granite memorial. It looks like blue bubble gum. Rumor has it that some workers were bouncing on the hand carved soldier and rifle during the removal process. Right or wrong, that memorial commemorated soldiers who did not return from a distant conflict.
    Tom

  5. Replying to Ted Romans. As I understand it, all the Confederate monuments removed from Richmond are in outside storage. They are in fine shape, and can be remounted on new pedestals, if someone is willing to display them. (The Lee statue can be repaired and remounted, too). The Black History Museum of Virginia has custody of the statues. It has been taking comments from the public for almost a year now, soliciting suggestions for what to do with them. Technically, it could destroy them if they wished, but I know of no one who thinks they’ll do that. I suspect that, eventually, the statues will go to good homes.

  6. We’re Hill’s remains in a casket in the monument,or were his bones loose in the rectangular pit. The description makes it sound as though there was no casket in the monument which I find very strange indeed.

  7. From Robertson’s “A. P. Hill” p. 324, concerning the transfer from Hollywood Cemetery:

    “Funeral director L. T. Christian deposited the remains in an appropriate container. Near sundown, the case was sealed in the receptacle at the base of the uncompleted monument. For the third time, Hill had been buried without any formal ceremony. Thereafter, veterans from the Solders’ Home took turns guarding the new resting place until the heavier stones of the monument were in place and the vault securely sealed.”

  8. A fair article. Thanks Mr. Jastrzembski. I did see the absolutely disgusting social media posts widely disseminated that the construction worker was posting from the site work. Unprofessional is an understatement and the general contractor would have reasonable grounds for firing him based on his conduct in my opinion. The site work they were contracted to complete for the city was sensitive enough as is and his conduct while performing the work was despicable. I also marvel at the amount of times General Hill’s remains had been relocated and always believed he should have been left alone at Hollywood. I also agree and hope that a modest marker is appropriate. Unfortunately anything too large and exuberant is going to attract bad actors and destruction of his and other graves. It’s sad to say, but reality in these times. Folks, the removal of confederate markers, signage and other like iconography isn’t the end point. It will continue and will not just stop at memory for the civil war. There will be a day when society, culture and future generations no longer support the battlefields in addition to many other traditional symbols and historical sites representing the journey of our country. There will be a day when it is realized that a moment existed when it has gone too far and too much is lost. It is my assessment we have already got to a place past the point of no return and you will see a continued deterioration of important historical assets at a much faster rate. This all goes much deeper than the American Civil War and a lot of people, even amongst historian circles still have their blinders on and refuse to admit this wrong path in fear of being canceled or publicly ridiculed by the cultural war zealots and social activist.

  9. To Donald Smith : The photos I’ve seen show the A.P. Hill monument has been pretty well obliterated; are any of the blocks being saved anywhere? When the J.E.B. Stuart monument was taken down, it was supposedly stored at the City of Richmond waste water treatment plant south of the James River however, no one has reported seeing the statue for over a year now. Do you know if it is still there? The Trust that maintains the J.E.B. Stuart birthplace has been inquiring about receiving the statue but has not gotten any firm responses.

  10. My name is John Hill. I am the closest living Collateral Descendant of A.P. Hill. I exhumed his remains with the funeral director on December 13th. I was the only descendant there, no other family showed up. I exhumed his remains with the utmost respect and placed them in a bodybag. The casket was completely deteriorated, no wood was left. I also found 3 buttons, what looked to be 2 casket keys, and a few small pieces of his uniform. His remains, and everything else that I found are now in a beautiful oak casket draped with an Unreconstructed Virginia Flag. He is going to be reinterred at Fairview Cemetery in Culpeper on January 21st.

  11. Sadly, there was not a team of archeologists on hand and astonishingly, the contractor in charge of dismantling the monument and remains braggadociosly posted selfies and photos of the event with explicative laden snarky comments. Very unprofessional. There were also protestors screaming, which can be expected, but a fight had to be broken up at the moment the remains were being recovered. I’m not a fan of the Confederacy, but having an interest in the Civil War and American History, there is a better way to handle removing the remains of any historical figure.

  12. Pleased to learn that this honorable gentleman and member of the Confederate Staes of America history has been reintered in Culpepper in a manner befitting one who heroically defended his nation against a foreign enemy.

  13. I certainly agree with a city government if they voted to remove those monuments but in the bigger scheme of things it really wasn’t about “bad memories” or people being offended by their presence. Since when have we become such sensitives? History is history and it’s been written. Removing it and re-writing it does smack of Taliban like tactics and ideology.

    In my estimation this is but a very small part of what’s really going on in our cities all over the country. Lenient DA’s, removing cops, releasing convicts from jail, no bail laws, reduced or eliminated charges for crimes, systematically looting stores, normal citizens fearing for theirs and their children’s lives are all a part of this modern day neo-reparations movement or for those uneducated about most everything it’s a payback for the sins of our ancestors. This is the price everyone pays until such time as the limp wristed spineless in charge decide that it isn’t. Thank you for your time comrades.

  14. Curious why you didn’t bury him in the Culpeper National Cemetery, where he could have gotten a simple marble gravestone and been buried among thousands of other veterans.

  15. As many of you know, Douglas Southhall Freeman saluted Lee’s statue every morning on his way to work in Richmond. On my last, and final, visit to Richmond pre-BLM, pre-Woke, I made the sentimental journey down Monument Avenue – couldn’t resist emulating Freeman, saluting Lee and visiting A.P. Hill’s monument one last time. So, farewell Richmond. The desecration you have endured is too sad to visit.

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