Taneytown, Maryland’s Monumental Mistake

I am just going to cut right to the chase. The city of Taneytown, Maryland is making a huge mistake in considering placing a Civil War memorial designed by Gary Casteel in their community. The design itself is unoriginal and even though it acknowledges African Americans it honors the Confederacy in a way that is reminiscent of a reconciliationist culture popular at the beginning of the twentieth century.

The Washington Post rightly points out Casteel’s connection to the Sons of Confederate Veterans and his role in bringing a Confederate flag rally to Gettysburg in 2016. Keep in mind that this was roughly one year after the photographs of Dylann Roof carrying Confederate flags emerged following his killing spree in Charleston, South Carolina.

And why is Casteel allowed to call this a National Civil War Memorial? What exactly gives him or anyone involved with this project the authority to stamp it with such a designation? Answer: Nothing. I can envision a memorial on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. that was commissioned by the National Civil War Sesquicentennial Commission if such a group had been authorized.

The Taneytown City Council is considering nothing more than a poorly designed memorial.

Even more troubling is the possibility that given the current design Taneytown will become a rallying point for groups promoting white supremacy. Imagine the Virginia Flaggers, various secessionist groups and the Sons of Confederate Veterans gathering around this memorial. They would find plenty in this design that speaks to their values and agenda.

The residents of Taneytown really need to think this through carefully.

About the author: Thank you for taking the time to read this post. What next? Scroll down and join the discussion in the comments section. Looking for more Civil War content? You can follow me on Twitter. Check out my forthcoming book, Searching For Black Confederates: The Civil War’s Most Persistent Myth, which is the first book-length analysis of the black Confederate myth ever published. Pre-order your copy today.

10 comments… add one
  • Meg Groeling Feb 19, 2019 @ 15:04

    Well, what do you expect from a town named for the presiding judge in Dred Scott?

    • Tom Clark Feb 19, 2019 @ 16:09

      Exactly, Meg Groeling. Come to think of it, Dredtown has a nice ring to it. Someone should propose a name-change for that town.

    • Al Mackey Feb 19, 2019 @ 17:55

      It was named after Raphael Taney, not Roger B. Taney. Raphael Taney was a recipient of a land grant and designed the layout of the town. It was incorporated in the 1750s, before Roger Taney’s birth.

      • Kevin Levin Feb 19, 2019 @ 18:14

        Thanks, Al.

      • Tom Clark Feb 21, 2019 @ 13:45

        Well, good point, if that’s true. Still seems a little ‘Taneyt-ed’ to me. : )

  • alonzo quitana Feb 19, 2019 @ 16:45

    Well. It’s a local affair and all and God bless ’em, but the town fathers don’t have the most pristine track record as far as good judgment in recent times. See … “The chief of police in Taneytown, Maryland pleaded guilty to the illegal transfer and possession of machine guns…” https://www.localdvm.com/news/i-270/taneytown-police-chief-pleads-guilty/1777076215 (02.12.2019) ) I really have no right to make any predictions, but frankly I don’t hold much stock in the idea that the Taneytowners have the wherewithal to pull this off. But if they do . . . I expect that there’s better than middling odds that Taneytown’ll be bearing the nick-name Tooneytown, or even Looney-Tooneytown before too long.

  • Jack Waring Feb 19, 2019 @ 19:47

    Al, glad you were able to correct the record. It’s amazing that people do not heisitate to post about things and people they know nothing about.

  • Tom Clark Feb 21, 2019 @ 14:09

    Don’t know why ‘the record’ is so comforting to you, Mr. Waring.

    I made that popular and logical, yet incorrect assumption, that the town was named for Roger and it’s just not true that I ‘know nothing.’ I plead guilty to not knowing enough to know about Raphael—but he was probably a slaver too, as most land entrepreneurs at that time were—I’d be happy to be proven wrong on that.

    I know enough to know that Roger was Francis Scott Key’s brother-in-law and that the Maryland Taney name is appropriately tainted by the most immoral, anti-human decision ever issued by the SCOTUS, a judgement reflected by the removal of his statue from Annapolis a while back.

    • Terry M. Klima Feb 21, 2019 @ 19:02

      While Taney is often vilified for the 7-2 majority opinion in the controversial Dred Scott case, few are sufficiently familiar with Taney to judge him fairly. A strict constructionist of the Constitution, he believed that the Court’s role was to uphold the Constitution as it was written, rather than engage in judicial activism and proffer an opinion from the bench reflecting his personal disdain for slavery. He stated, “We must look at the institution of slavery as publicists, and not as casuists. It is a question of law, and not a case of conscience.” On a personal level, Taney referred to slavery as “a blot on our national character.”

      In 1818, well before it became fashionable or politically expedient, he granted freedom to seven slaves that he inherited, and continued to care for and financially support several other slaves too old or infirm to support themselves. He was active in an anti-kidnapping society for the protection of blacks and known for his willingness to provide legal services to slaves when few were willing to do so.

      Few, if any of our country’s historical figures, can escape the scrutiny of those attempting to judge them by applying 21st century standards. It is completely inappropriate to censor historical figures, solely to appease the demand for 21st century political correctness. Rather than casting aspersions on Taney’s character, society would be better served by dwelling deeper on historical facts.It is indeed difficult to view 19th century history through the lens of the 21st century and I often wonder what Taney would think of some of the very controversial legislation being passed today that would be equally disturbing to the conscience and sensibilities of those in the 19th Century.

  • Tom Clark Feb 22, 2019 @ 4:31

    Thanks, Mr. Klima, for that well-written and informative response. I’ll assume what you say about Taney is true. It’s certainly believable from what i’ve read about his brother-in-law Key, also a morally complex individual.

    However, are you saying you think that Taney had a statue in the Maryland capitol as a monument to his judicial integrity? I think not. I think it was put there by people who deeply believed that African-Americans have no rights that white people “…are bound to respect,” to use Taney’s meticulously authored and most well-known phrase. And because of that, it is most inappropriate to continue to memorialize him.

    And so it is with all the Confederates. They were not all Nathan Bedford Forrests, a particularly cruel slave driver, as I understand it, or John C. “Slavery is a positive good” Calhouns. Though of course, many more of them then it is ‘politically correct’ to discuss were indeed, simply greedy racists—that’s where the money was in 19th Century ante-bellum America. But they all were willing to die to protect and extend that essentially barbarian cause and we should consign them to history books and spend not one more dime from the public fisc to ‘commemorate’ their lives.

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