Maury was Superintendent of the Depot of Charts and Instruments of the U.S. Navy, a position from which he resigned to join the Confederacy when Virginia seceded from the Union in 1861. He became Commander of the Confederate Navy, and lived and worked in Richmond for a short time while developing the electric torpedo before he was assigned to Europe in the Confederate Secret Service. After spending his post-Civil War years in England, he returned to Lexington, Virginia, where he served as professor of meteorology at Virginia Military Institute. He died in Lexington, and his body was carried through Goshen Pass en route to his burial in Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond, where it remains today. Maury is buried between Presidents Monroe and Tyler.
The Maury Monument
2009 marked the 80th anniversary of the monument honoring Matthew Fontaine Maury, which is directly in front of Maury Place. The balcony in our Pathfinder Suite overlooks this statue.
The Maury Monument was the last of the Confederate Monuments to be erected on Monument Avenue. It was paid for by donations from the Women’s Club of Virginia, the State of Virginia, and the City of Richmond. Its total cost was $60,000, and it was unveiled on November 11, 1929.
The sculptor was Richmonder William F. Sievers, who also designed the Stonewall Jackson Monument. Sievers composed the statue with images of water, land, and sky, which relate to Maury’s achievements in oceanography, navigation, and meteorology. Jellyfish are sculpted in the arms of Maury’s chair, and bats, swallows, and fish encircle the base supporting the globe. Stylistically, the statue (which faces eastward toward the Atlantic Ocean) is perhaps the most complex of all the monuments on Monument Avenue.
The globe behind Maury is the most dramatic aspect of the statue, and it tilts off axis with figures of humans and animals divided into scenes of desperation and struggle on water and land. Unlike the other monuments on Monument Avenue, it conveys a feeling of movement and rotation. The woman standing adjacent to the globe is a representation of Mother Nature between land and sea.
The statue is not a confederate war monument per se. It was originally to have been placed in Washington, D.C., but was rejected because Maury abandoned his career with the Union to support the Confederacy.