Stone Mountain: Confederate Memorial
Confederate Heroes’ Day is an official state holiday in Texas, commemorating those who died fighting for the Confederate States of America during the American Civil War. Confederate Heroes Day is held annually on January 19, Robert E. Lee's birthday. In addition, anyone who lives below the Mason-Dixon line should be well aware that April is Confederate Heritage and History Month. If you don’t reside in the land of Dixie, you probably haven’t even heard of it. Nevertheless, April is an important month in America's history.
The Civil War began on April 12, 1861 and ended on April 9, 1865. President Abraham Lincoln was shot by John Wilkes Booth on April 14 and died the next day on April 15, 1865. Booth himself was later shot and killed on April 26. In between there was the Great Locomotive Chase that took place on April 12, 1862, and of course various battles that occurred.
The Georgia Division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans sponsors Confederate Heritage and History Month to honor their ancestors and pay tribute to their valiant heroes. The Confederacy and its citizens are often victims of political correctness and of people's insistence on looking at historical events from today's perspective. Yet these were brave and loyal folks with deeply entrenched traditions who were willing to risk their lives and their possessions in defense of their beliefs. Just watch Gods and Generals or Gettysburg, and you will know what I mean.
I’ve never lived in a southern state and I don’t have any Confederate ancestors, but as a student of history I feel that any attempt to denigrate the proud history of the South should be viewed as an insult to the heritage of our country as a whole. Yes, it’s unfortunate that it took the Civil War to accomplish what our nation is today, but that makes it all the more important to understand the real reasons for the war. Ask most individuals and they will simply say it was a fight over slavery, but there was so much more to it than that.
That’s why people need to be educated about both sides in order to protect against distortions, misrepresentations or even deliberate alteration by historical revisionists. Thus, I am very grateful for the historical information available to us on the Civil War, and the time and money spent to maintain battle sites, historical buildings and landmarks for future generations. One such example is the Confederate Memorial Carving at Stone Mountain, Georgia.
Stone Mountain is a giant granite dome located just outside of Atlanta, Georgia. The elevation at its summit is 1,683 feet above sea level and 825 feet above the surrounding plateau. Perhaps more than its geology, Stone Mountain is well-known for the enormous bas-relief on its north face, the largest low relief sculpture in the world. The carving depicts three Confederate heroes of the Civil War: President Jefferson Davis, General Robert E. Lee and Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson.
The three men are on horseback, appearing to ride in a group from right to left across the mountainside. The lower parts of the horses' bodies merge into the mountainside at the foot of the carving. The three riders are shown bare-headed and holding their hats to their chests. The carving is actually much larger than it appears from a distance. For example, workers could easily stand inside the horse's mouth.
The entire carved surface measures three acres across which is larger than a football field. The carving of the three men towers 400 feet above the ground, measures 90 by 190 feet, and is recessed into a hollowed-out area 42 feet into the mountain. The deepest point of the carving itself is at Lee's elbow, which extends 12 feet into the mountain's surface. A sculpture of this size had never been attempted before.
In 1912, the carving existed only in the imagination of Mrs. C. Helen Plane, charter member of the United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC). The Venable family, owners of the mountain, deeded the north face of the mountain to the UDC in 1916. The UDC was given 12 years to complete a sizable Civil War monument.
In 1915, Sculptor Gutzon Borglum was approached by the UDC with a project for sculpting a 20-foot high bust of General Robert E. Lee on the mountain's rockface. Borglum accepted, but told the committee, "Ladies, a twenty foot head of Lee on that mountainside would look like a postage stamp on a barn door." Borglum envisioned a carving with seven central figures accompanied by an army of thousands.
Borglum was not able to begin work on the carving until 1923 due to funding problems and World War I. After blasting away large portions of the mountain with dynamite, Borglum was able to complete the head of Lee on January 19, 1924. But in 1925, a dispute arose between Borglum and the managing association. As a result of the conflict, Borglum left and went on to carve his best-known work, the famous Mount Rushmore sculpture in South Dakota.
Sculptor Augustus Lukeman took over the Stone Mountain project in 1925. Lukeman's carving included the three central figures of the Confederacy on horseback. However, he didn’t get very far before the funds were depleted and the 1928 deadline was reached. Many difficulties slowed progress, some because of the sheer scale involved. The Venable family reclaimed their property, and the stone mountain remained untouched for 36 years.
In 1958, the state of Georgia purchased the mountain and the surrounding land. The Georgia General Assembly created the Stone Mountain Memorial Association. In 1963, the Stone Mountain Confederate Memorial Advisory Committee hired Walker Kirkland Hancock to complete the carving. Work resumed in 1964, and by this time new techniques made the work go faster.
But even with modern equipment, it still took years to finish the masterpiece. Eyebrows, fingers, buckles and even strands of hair were painstakingly carved with the detail of a fine painting. A dedication ceremony for the Confederate Memorial Carving was held on May 9, 1970. Final touches were completed in 1972.
In the meantime, Gutzon Borglum had gone on to create Mount Rushmore which he started working on in 1927. He also sculpted a bust of Lincoln for the United States Capitol building as well as three statues in the National Statuary Hall Collection: John Campbell Greenway (Arizona), Alexander Hamilton Stephens (Georgia), and Zebulon Baird Vance (North Carolina).
Mount Rushmore was completed after Borglum's death by his son, Lincoln, just before the start of World War II. Coincidentally, both Mount Rushmore and the Confederate Memorial Carving at Stone Mountain depict famous men from American history who were self-educated or taught at home. Click on the links below to read more about Mount Rushmore and/or the men's bios:
ARIZONA | LEARNING FOR LIFE | PRODUCT CATALOG | LINK LIBRARY | ABOUT US | CONTACT
These pages are a continuous work in progress.
Thanks for your votes!
and purchase items via our
affiliate links. Thank you!