Looking for Captain Q-Tip

I lived briefly in Richmond, Virginia after I got out of the Army, and I’ve had a deep affection for the city ever since.

It’s got problems – some of them identical to other larger cities, some of them unique to Richmond. But it’s also a colorful, quirky old city with deep history and some fascinating neighborhoods.

I lived in a neighborhood known as The Fan, a residential district that was started soon after the Civil War ended in 1865 and much of Richmond was rebuilt. The neighborhood gets its name from the fact that it’s shaped roughly like the old-fashioned fans that were used in churches on hot days before air conditioning.

Richmond is full of statues, and when I lived there, one of the neighborhood landmarks was a statue of a Civil War soldier that was nicknamed Captain Q-Tip. The statue actually was a memorial to a Confederate artillery company known as the Richmond Howitzers. But you can tell at a glance how Captain Q-Tip got his name. An often-heard phrase when I lived in The Fan was “Meet me at Captain Q-Tip.”

I went looking for the Captain on a recent weekend trip to Richmond with my wife, my mother-in-law Shirley Morrow, and our niece Patty Morrow, who’s a junior at the University of Virginia. But it’s been many years since I was in the old neighborhood, and I couldn’t find the statue. I also discovered that new construction by Virginia Commonwealth University has dramatically changed the landscape of several city blocks in The Fan.

So I started wondering if perhaps Captain Q-Tip had become a victim of VCU’s progress. Finally, I saw a man and a woman that were old enough to have lived in Richmond for a while.

I interrupted their conversation and asked if they knew of a nearby statue of a Civil War soldier holding an artillery swab. They looked puzzled. “We used to call him Captain Q-Tip,” I said.

They smiled. “I’ve never heard it called that, but I can see where the name came from,” the woman said.

Turned out I was less than two blocks from the Captain. Patty shot the above photo of my reunion with my old friend.

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