Delighted to read the references to Confederate General A.P. Hill in the latest front page Rant. Living within spitting distance of the general’s monument/grave, I thought your readers might enjoy a bit more about his postmortem adventures and how he manages, even in death and to this day, to make his presence felt.
Fatally shot in battle less than two weeks before hostilities ended at Appomattox, he was hastily buried in Chesterfield County, then two years later dug up and reinterred in Hollywood Cemetery, in a spot years later deemed unsuitable for one of his stature.
In the early 1890’s, as the whitewashing of the origins of the previous civil conflict began in earnest, concerned citizens decided that placing him and his monument in the middle of a major intersection bestowed the appropriate honor and thus made the most sense. The intersection just happens to be in an area of the city affectionately known as the Northside. Oh, the irony. Anyway, there he stands, buried in an upright position, monument above, smack dab in the middle of Laburnum and Hermitage Avenues. Ten to twenty thousand cars a day roar by.
It is difficult to adequately describe the challenge one faces when attempting a left turn from any direction around A.P. There are stop lights at each entrance to “circle,” but none with a leading green. For decades, literally decades, dozens of car crashes have occurred there each year. Fatalities, though fairly rare, have happened. The intersection is so unusual and so unexpected, especially for those encountering it for the first time, that automotive chaos and mayhem are simply the norm. For old A.P., being buried a third time is definitely not a charm.
I have been arguing for his removal and replacement for years, but as one incensed advocate for keeping things as they are, no matter how screwed up, made perfectly unclear to me, “It’s complicated!” I’m still trying to figure out how applying the capabilities of crane and a backhoe to this situation can be complicated.
As I write this, A.P. has suffered only minor indignities from the protesting graffiti artists, as compared with those impressed upon the monuments of Marse Robert and the rest of the Monument Avenue “heroes” of The Lost Cause. Northside is a few miles from ground zero of the activities that have recently taken place in Richmond.
No one really knows if or when A.P. will be moved to a quieter and certainly less chaotic home. But I swear, each and every day I pass by his spot, I can hear him whisper from his tomb, “Please, for god’s sake, get me the hell out of here.”
John C. Ficor
Thanks very much for your entertaining letter.
We had seen accounts claiming the General had been buried in an upright position, but weren’t sure we could believe them. Thank you for confirming that bizarre detail; nothing like hearing it direct from a local resident. For the record, we’ll add this tidbit here: Hill’s fatal shot was fired by a lowly Union corporal.
We just heard today that your Mayor’s having all those monument Avenue statues taken down—congratulations!