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Update: Richmond judge to rule on A.P. Hill monument removal petition next month

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The Confederate statues removed from Richmond’s Monument Avenue, Fan District and Libbie Hill are being stored at the city’s sewage treatment plant where there is around-the-clock security.

Confederate Gen. A.P. Hill is buried beneath his monument in Richmond's North Side.

The last city-owned Confederate statue standing in Richmond could soon be moved after a circuit court judge Thursday listened to arguments regarding the city’s petition to remove it.

While the city took down the rest of its Confederate monuments two years ago, a court order is required under state law for the city to move the A.P. Hill monument at Laburnum Avenue and Hermitage Road because the general is buried inside its plinth.

Several indirect descendants of the U.S. Army officer who served as a Confederate general during the Civil War are challenging the city’s plans and made their case in court Thursday. At the end of the hearing, Richmond Circuit Court Judge David Eugene Cheek Sr. said he will take the petition and arguments against it under advisement for the next 30 days.

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The dispute is centered on the city’s plans to donate the monument to the Black History Museum & Cultural Center of Virginia and relocate the remains to Fairview Cemetery in Culpeper.

The city and state last year granted the monuments it took down to the Black History Museum under an agreement that says it will consult with the public before deciding on a final destination. The monuments are currently being held at the city’s sewage treatment plant where there is around-the-clock security.

Mayor Stoney on the city's efforts thus far to remove the AP Hill statue.

In May, the city filed a petition in court, asking a judge to allow it to transfer the human remains to a cemetery plot it has purchased for $1,000.

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Though Hill’s distant relatives say they are amenable to the plans for his remains, they say the monument rightfully belongs to them and want to place it at the Cedar Mountain Battlefield in the Culpeper area where their ancestor was born.

Hill has no direct descendants; his children had no children of their own. The group claims the descendants are the rightful owners of the monument because the monument itself is a cemetery neglected by the city.

“This is about his remains and gravesite,” said Scott Braxton Puryear, a lawyer representing the descendants. “The plinth is his grave. The statue is the marker.”

While Puryear said there is no record of the city accepting the monument, Robert Rolfe, a lawyer with the firm Hunton Andrews and Kurth representing the city, said it has been maintaining it for a majority of the time since it was dedicated in 1892.

In cross-examination, Rolfe asked the three descendants who were called as witnesses whether they had been involved in maintaining the statue. None of them said so.

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Rolfe also contested the group’s claim that the city had abandoned the monument, noting that city workers had cleaned the monument when it was vandalized with graffiti and performed repairs when it’s been struck by vehicles.

“These respondents have no right to the monument,” he said.

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City officials have said another reason to move the monument is because of the high volume of vehicle crashes there, and they plan to remove the roundabout if the judge grants the request to move the monument.

Ambrose Powell Hill died in 1865 after a Union soldier shot him outside Petersburg. He was initially buried in a cemetery in Chesterfield County. Two years later, his body was moved to Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond, where it remained for four more years. Hill’s body was then moved to its current site in 1891.

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