Gen. William H. Lytle has come up a few cannonballs short of a pyramid.
Fortunately for the long-dead Union general, two preservation groups are uniting to rebuild his monument at the Chickamauga Battlefield by recasting 323 cannonballs stolen by looters or borrowed to fill in at other monuments.
Only a single layer of cannonballs -- 15 on each side of the pyramid -- remains on the monument for Lytle, a Union general from Cincinnati.
The Friends of Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park and the Cincinnati Camp of the Sons of Union Veterans have teamed up to launch a fundraising campaign to rebuild the monument.
The groups hope to host a dedication ceremony as part of the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Chickamauga in 2013.
Patrice Glass, new executive director of the Friends group, said the monument's remote location an eighth of a mile off a paved road may have been its undoing. Both park staff and illegal relic hunters may have seen the general's pyramid as an out-of-the-way source for cannonballs.
"They thought, 'This is the farthest one from the road, nobody will notice,' and then we get this," said Glass, gesturing at the single layer of spheres.
Lytle's monument was one of eight large pyramids built in the park in 1894 to mark the sites where commanding generals from both sides were killed.
"Once this one is restored, the collection can be complete again," said Kay Parish, outgoing director of the group.
Lytle was fairly well known as a lawyer and legislator, and his poem "Anthony and Cleopatra" gained some notoriety across the country.
"At the time he was certainly recognized," park historian Jim Ogden said.
When Lytle fell, Confederate commanders stationed a guard detachment around the poet-warrior's body so it could be returned safely across Union lines.
The friends group estimates each cannonball will cost $200. Coupled with the cost of restoring the path to the pyramid, they expect to need about $65,000 overall. So far they have raised $8,400.
Kerry Langdon, commander of the Cincinnati camp that bears Lytle's name, said his men traveled to the battlefield and were "saddened" to see the monument's condition.
"It's a worthy cause, we believe," he said. "We don't want to see any historical leader with his monument reduced."
Ogden said cannonballs used to be easier to take because 19th century welding technology did not allow for sturdy connections between the balls. Modern welds should keep the new balls in place and foil all but the most dedicated vandals.
Glass said park policies have changed over the years. While modern caretakers would never steal from one monument to build up another, it was apparently acceptable practice decades ago.
"With a park this old, there were a lot of things going on," she said.
TO LEARN MORE
Contact the Friends of Chickamauga Chattanooga at 423-648-5623 or at www.chickchatt.org.