The remains of Hill, which had been buried under a monument to the general, were located on Tuesday after two days of digging. The casket of Hill, who was reportedly buried standing up, was rotted away when workers finally found the remains using an excavator.
According to local reporter Riley Wyant, the remains of Hill were blocked from public view using a tarp before they were transferred into a body bag and wheeled away on a stretcher. The remains were transferred to the general’s relatives, including John Hill, the general’s closest indirect descendent.
— Riley Wyant (@rileywyantTV) December 13, 2022
The city had brought in an excavator to search for Hill’s remains, which had been buried at an intersection of the city for over 130 years. On top of the grave was a statue of the Confederate soldier. The statue, which was removed via crane on Monday, was the last city-owned Confederate monument to be removed from Richmond.
The removal of the statue and remains comes after a legal battle between the city and descendants of Hill, which was complicated by the monument’s usage as a headstone. The move was hailed by Democratic Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney, but decried by Hill’s relatives.
“Over two years ago, Richmond was home to more Confederate statues than any city in the United States. Collectively, we have closed that chapter,” Stoney tweeted. “We now continue the work of being a more inclusive and welcoming place where ALL belong.”
John Hill said he was disappointed to see the statue removed. “It’s been devastating because that is my family name up there, that’s our headstone so we don’t want the city to have possession of it and destroy it,” he said, according to NBC 29. “We wanted his remains to be moved with the headstone so they didn’t have to be disturbed.”
John Hill, AP Hill’s descendant, and other relatives are here watching the removal. He was fighting the removal of the statue in Richmond court. He said today was a “tough” day and he wanted to ensure the remains are treated fairly. pic.twitter.com/PqKQuND00G
— Brendan King CBS 6 (@ImBrendanKing) December 12, 2022
The relative also said the Virginian opposed slavery. “All of his census documents show he never owned a slave and he did not believe in slavery,” he said. Following the war, Hill’s wife Kitty claimed that Hill had not supported slavery.
Hill’s remains are expected to be moved to a Culpeper cemetery, nearby to where the Confederate general grew up. The monument itself has been moved to storage while Hill’s descendants and the city fight for control. The city wants to give it to the Black History Museum and Cultural Center of Virginia while Hill’s family hopes to place it at a battlefield where he fought.
Born in Culpeper, Virginia, in 1825, Ambrose Powell Hill attended West Point in the 1840s, where he was roommates with future Union Major General George McClellan, who would be a commander of the Army of the Potomac during the Civil War. The future enemies would become friends during school, and Hill was even in McClellan’s wedding.
Before the Civil War, Hill wrote in the 1850s of his disgust at the lynching of a black man in his hometown who had been accused of murder. “Shame, shame upon all you, good citizens,” he said at the time according to late Virginia Tech historian James I. Robertson, Jr. “Virginia must crawl unless you vindicate good order or discipline and hang every son of a b**** connected with the outrage.”
During the war, Hill rose to prominence because of his key contributions at the battles of Cedar Mountain, Second Bull Run, Antietam, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, and Petersburg. Hill is credited with saving Robert E. Lee’s army at Antietam when he launched a counterattack in the battle, which saw 22,000 casualties.
Hill was killed at Petersburg on April 2, 1865, just days before the end of the war, leaving behind his wife and three daughters.
The removal of the Hill statue and grave follows other prominent monument removals in Richmond, including statues of Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis, and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson.