As you drive south on US Route 219 in Monroe County, West Virginia, just before entering the town of Union, over on the right you can see a statue. This statue was erected in memory of the soldiers from Monroe County who served in the Confederate Army during the Civil War. Anywhere south of the Mason-Dixon Line, it is not unusual to see such a monument, which is normally located in front of the town's court house, in a park, or in the town square. But the statue in Union is standing almost in the center of a 20-acre cow pasture...and nobody seems to know why.
Until a few years ago, cows fed at the base of the monument. Recently, the statue and a paved path leading up to it were fenced in.
Records show that half of the money for the memorial was donated by the son of Confederate General John Echols and the rest was raised by the Daughters of the Confederacy. The marble statue was carved in Italy and unveiled on August 29, 1901, amidst a lot of pomp and circumstance. There was a parade, speeches, and so forth. Twelve thousand people attended, 250 of them Confederate veterans. But there is no record of why the statue was placed in a cow pasture.
There are three theories. At the time the memorial was erected, it had been only 36 years since Gen. Lee had surrendered. The town's officials were Northern sympathizers; they may have felt such a statue inside the town would be inappropriate. Another theory holds that, at that time, it was believed that Union was going to grow in that direction and, at some time in the future, the statue would be in the center of town. Last, many feel that this farm may have been the site of a recruiting station and, possibly, a basic training camp.
Whatever the reason, there it stands, a lone sentinel, facing South.