One-tank road trips: Richmond’s Monument Avenue
This impressive equestrian statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee was the first memorial erected (in 1890) on Richmond’s Monument Avenue, a planned road that within 25 years was lined with impressive homes, churches, and apartment buildings. Crowds of up to 100,000 people filled the area for the May 29, 1890, dedication of the Lee Monument. Famed French sculptor and painter Antonin Mercié sculpted the statue of “Bobby Lee.”
There are four other monuments to Confederate leaders along the tree-lined divided road, as well as a much more recent statue honoring Arthur Ashe, a world-renown tennis player from the 1960s and 70s.
Several markers recall that Monument Avenue runs roughly along the outer line of the Confederate defenses of Richmond during the Civil War. Robert E. Lee died in 1870, and city fathers conceived of the idea of Monument Avenue while searching for a suitable site to locate a planned statue of the late general.
Famed Confederate cavalry commander J.E.B. Stuart is depicted on this statue at a busy intersection of Monument Avenue several blocks from the Lee statue.
Union troopers mortally wounded Stuart in 1864 not far from Richmond at the Battle of Yellow Tavern.
Mississippian Jefferson Davis served as the President of the Confederate States of America during the Civil War. His office was in downtown Richmond at the Confederate White House.
Davis is buried in Richmond’s Hollywood Cemetery on a bluff overlooking the scenic James River. During the war, Union troops often enjoyed singing a sarcastic ditty, “We’ll Hang Jeff Davis from a Sour Apple Tree.”
Matthew Fontaine Maury is little known to most modern Civil War buffs, compared to the other Southern leaders depicted on Monument Avenue. However, in his day he was a world-famous oceanographer (the Jacques Cousteau of that era). The press nicknamed Maury as the “Pathfinder of the Seas” and “Father of Modern Oceanography and Naval Meteorology.” Some called him the “Scientist of the Seas” for his detailed scientific explorations and books.
Thomas J. Jackson at the start of the Civil War was a professor at the Virginia Military Institute. His students nicknamed him “Tom Fool,” but by the end of 1862 he was Lee’s right-hand man and a trusted leader of independent expeditions.
Jackson died of complications from a wound suffered in May 1863 at the Battle of Chancellorsville. Many have speculated what impact his presence may have had at the Battle of Gettysburg had he not been shot accidentally by his own men at Chancellorsville.
Tennis player Arthur Ashe‘s inclusion in on Monument Avenue was not without controversy. The memorial, sculpted by Paul Di Pasquale, was unveiled July 10, 1996.