SALISBURY – Residents both for and against the removal of a historical marker in Wicomico County honoring a Confederate general shared their views with the county council this week.
In a public comment portion of Tuesday’s Wicomico County Council meeting, residents and organizations called for county officials to remove the marker of Confederate Gen. John Henry Winder from the courthouse lawn in Salisbury.
Winder, who was born in the area, graduated from the U.S. Military Academy. He left the U.S. Army to serve the Confederacy during the Civil War. Prior to his death, he was in charge of Confederate prison camps.
The marker of Winder was originally placed along Route 13, but was later moved to its current location on the courthouse lawn in Salisbury after it was involved in a number of motor vehicle accidents.
In a petition submitted to the county council to remove the sign, supporters said Winder had no direct connection to the site where the marker now stands and was in command of Confederate prisons where more than 10,000 Union soldiers died of maltreatment and disease. The petition states the marker “stands tall over the sites of more relevant historical incidents connected to that location.”
Those supporting the marker’s removal said the plaque is a symbol of division and white supremacy.
Mardela Springs resident Donald Singleton said the plaque hides Winder’s past.
“It’s like putting up a plaque of Hitler that says ‘this man invented the Autobahn and the Volkswagen’, hardly historical truth,” he said. “The plaque is offensive.”
Resident Mark Decker said he sees no justification for the county honoring Winder.
“What message as a county are we sending to people of color that reside here by honoring Winder like this?” he said.
Those opposing the marker’s removal said the sign serves as a reminder of the nation’s history.
A counter petition submitted to the county council states “it is important for us to not let this movement take away our history.”
Resident Julie Brewington said the movement to remove the marker has divided residents and called for consensus and understanding.
“If that sign remains, or it’s removed, or it’s taken down, it won’t make any difference to anyone,” she said. “It will not change your life. It does not personally hurt anyone.”
Rabbi Allan Bailey of Delmarva Messianic Fellowship questioned the impact of the marker’s removal.
“Where do we stop?” he said. “Where is the line between the reality of oppression and the insanity of political correctness?”
Though residents and organizations took turns debating the removal of the sign, the council made no formal decision.
Council President John Cannon said he had “mixed emotions” about the marker and questioned who had the authority to decide its fate.
Those supporting the marker’s removal said they reached out to the Maryland Historical Trust and were told the plaque could only be removed or relocated at the request of the county council.
The council has made no decision on the marker as of Thursday.