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WHERE WILL A. P. HILL PAINTING HANG NEXT?
Culpeper museum says Daughters of the Confederacy plan to take back portrait of Confederate Gen. A. P. Hill

 This portrait of Confederate Gen. A. P. Hill may leave the Culpeper Area Museum.
FILE/DAVE ELLIS/THE FREE LANCE-STAR
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Date published: 4/28/2010

BY DONNIE JOHNSTON

Confederate Gen. Ambrose Powell Hill was killed 145 years ago, but it appears that Culpeper's favorite Civil War son isn't going to rest in peace.

At least his portrait isn't.

Nine years ago, amid considerable controversy, Hill's portrait was removed from the county courthouse and put on display at the Museum of Culpeper History.

During all that time, further controversy swirled around ownership of the painting and who had the right to remove it: The United Daughters of the Confederacy, who commissioned the portrait, or Culpeper County, to whom it was presented in 1935?

On March 2 of this year, the Board of Supervisors, who had dealt with the issue for almost a decade, gave up all ownership of the painting and returned it to the Culpeper chapter of the UDC.

The letter to the board that prompted the move, signed by Anne Howard, the UDC's president, states that the historical group would then give the painting "as a gift free and clear" to the museum.

"A.P. Hill will have a permanent home at the museum," the Jan. 27 letter reads.

The Board of Supervisors' March 2 resolution further states that the abandonment of ownership was done so the "UDC may give the portrait as a gift to the Museum of Culpeper History."

Two days later, the museum signed a one-year loan agreement with the UDC, museum Executive Director Lee Langston-Harrison said.

Then two days ago, according to Langston-Harrison, Howard came into the museum and told him the UDC wanted the painting back and would pick it up at 10:30 a.m. tomorrow.

"We don't know where it is going or why," Langston-Harrison said yesterday. "We have no clue what is going on. We're caught in the middle."

The director said that the painting--like all of the museum's historical artifacts--is insured, as the UDC had requested.

"This will be a loss to the museum and to the people of Culpeper," Langston-Harrison said, adding that more than 100,000 people have viewed the portrait since it was put on display.

Supervisor Bill Chase, who is also a non-voting member of the museum's board, said that he was upset at this latest development and vowed to bring the issue up at the board's meeting next Wednesday.

Howard could not be contacted for a response yesterday. Her husband said she was "under the weather" and unable to talk on the telephone.

Donnie Johnston:
Email: djohnston@freelancestar.com