Virginia Magazine of History and Biography
Volume 120 / Number 4
Matthew Fontaine Maury and the Evolution of Southern Memory
- Matthew Mace Barbee, pp. 372–93
This essay explores Matthew Fontaine Maury's role in the development of and place within southern memory. In particular, it focuses on the statue of Maury that was added to Richmond's Monument Avenue in 1929. Although he served in the Confederate navy as an advisor and overseas envoy, Maury's monument is often understood to be a celebration of his contributions to oceanography. He is rarely seen as a symbol of regional partisanship. As this essay demonstrates, however, throughout his life, Maury attempted to perpetuate and expand the reach of the southern plantation economy and contribute to developing narratives of the Lost Cause. This lifelong advocacy influenced early twentieth-century efforts to celebrate Maury as an international hero associated with the modernizing and peaceful influences of scientific knowledge. Through a close analysis of his writings and the archives of the Matthew Fontaine Maury Monument Association, this essay argues that by tracing the evolution of Maury's biography and memory it is possible to track the transitions and shifts within the expression of southern memory in the early twentieth century.