State Senate votes to ditch statue of N.J. hero Phil Kearny

TRENTON, N.J. – Fightin’ Phil Kearny is a legendary New Jersey figure.

Trenton Democrats don’t care. On Monday, the New Jersey Senate voted to ask the Joint Committee on the Library of Congress to replace Kearny’s statue at the United States Capitol with that of suffragist Alice Paul.

State Senator Joe Pennacchio (R-26) took to the floor to object.

“Alice Paul was a fantastic leader in the campaign to pass the 19th amendment and allow women to vote,” Pennacchio said. “Our nation and our democracy is stronger, thanks to her vision and tenacity. She deserves every accolade we can give her. It troubles me that to memorialize her place in history, we feel the need to tear down the honor of another hero, a veteran who made the ultimate sacrifice.”

“Major General Kearny was a decorated war hero in the Mexican-American War and was destined to become a top general in the Union Army when he was killed on the Civil War battlefield,” Pennacchio added. “This courageous soldier lost his arm in the Mexican war, and returned to the battlefield when the Civil War broke out. Removing his statue is disgracing the honor of a fallen hero who helped change the course of American history.”

Kearny’s statue is currently a part of the U.S. Capitol’s National Statuary Hall Collection; each state gets two statues, and New Jersey’s statues are currently Kearny’s and another of Declaration of Independence signatory Richard Stockton.

During a career spanning both the Mexican-American War and the U.S. Civil War, Kearny earned a reputation as a tough soldier and fierce patriot. The celebrated war hero ultimately served as brigadier general of the First New Jersey Brigade during the Civil War; wary Confederates dubbed him “The One-Armed Devil.” The town of Kearny outside of Newark is named after him. He spent time living in both Newark and the future Kearny at his mansion, Bellegrove, overlooking the Passaic River.

Kearny died during the 1862 Battle of Chantilly while investigating a gap in the Union line. He refused to surrender when confronted by the Confederate soldiers, telling an aide shortly before the confrontation that “[t]he Rebel bullet that can kill me has not yet been molded.” 

Pennacchio says Kearny residents are furious.

“They aren’t happy about it, and I don’t blame them,” reported Pennacchio. “We don’t discard our heroes.”