Cooper: Park may not be place for bust

Cooper: Park may not be place for bust

October 8th, 2017 by Clint Cooper in Opinion Free Press

Monuments in the Chickamauga Battlefield depict the average soldier rather than the battle's generals.

Photo by Jay Bailey /Times Free Press.

The 6-2 vote last week by the Hamilton County Commission not to move the Hamilton County Courthouse lawn bust of Confederate Lt. Gen. A.P. Stewart may quiet the trumped-up controversy for the moment, but the issue is unlikely to go away.

Though the resolution did not suggest where the bust should go, "the Confederate cemetery" (Chattanooga has two), "the battlefield" (presumably Chickamauga Battlefield, where Stewart served and was a park commissioner) and a "museum" (the Hunter Museum of American Art? the Children's Discovery Museum? the Towing and Recovery Museum?) all were mentioned.

We wonder what would have happened if Commissioner Greg Beck, instead of reacting with his resolution on the bust to protesters in Southern cities insisting anything Confederate-related should be erased, had acted instead to contact the U.S. Department of the Interior to ask if the battlefield could receive, if offered, and appropriately erect such a bust in a manner that would be befitting of Stewart's status as a peacemaker and park commissioner.

A positive resolution that detailed a new resting place for the bust, with perhaps further explanation of why the bust was created in the first place (no, not out of racism, Jim Crow laws or any of the other lies told in recent weeks) might not have passed the commission, but it might have received further support.

We believe, in the meantime, the commission was correct in its decision to oppose such a vague, reactive resolution.

Should Stewart ever be offered to the park and accepted, he would be among about 1,400 commemorative features, which include monuments, markers, tablets and plaques, across the units of the Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park.

If such a placement were to occur, it would be the first such commemorative feature put there since 1977.

Many of the features across the park units are simple markers. Other monuments are carved in granite or marble. The bulk of the markers and monuments are located where a specific military unit did its most memorable fighting. As a visitor reads the inscriptions on many of them, the visitor is facing the direction in which the soldiers were facing during the fighting. In other words the monuments are facing away from the fighting.

Monuments marking the positions of regular army units were paid for by a federal government appropriation, according to a National Park Service history publication. Monuments dedicated to specific military units were placed by surviving members of the units and the individual state governments, according to the online National Park Planner, which is not associated with the National Park Service. A few are dedicated to individual soldiers and were placed by the soldier's family.

Many of the monuments feature soldiers — carrying flags, standing with a pointed gun, urging on their fellow soldiers, standing with a torch, lying prone with a pointed gun, charging on their horse, standing with gun at the ready, crouching with fellow soldiers or attending to their wounded comrades.

Others feature riderless horses, acorns, draped cannon, and cannon balls.

But don't look for Union Maj. Gen. William Rosecrans (Union), Gen. Braxton Bragg (Confederate), the two leaders of the Battle of Chickamauga, or Gen. Ulysses S. Grant (he didn't arrive until the Battles of Chattanooga), Gen. Robert E. Lee (he wasn't there) or Lt. Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest (though he was at Chickamauga). They're not there.

That, says Jim Ogden, chief historian at the park, is for multiple reasons.

"Even as this battle unfolded, in a mostly wooded or forested environment," he said, "it was recognized as a soldier's battle. The leadership at the top did not have a great deal of influence."

So would Lt. Gen. Stewart be welcome at Chickamauga Battlefield?

Ogden wouldn't say, but he said the park, in its origins, did not "allow monuments to generals."

Stewart's bust certainly would be an outlier to the other monuments, which depict the general soldier. But his history as a park commissioner, as a significant factor in the completion of the nation's first ever national military park, might allow him a prominent space overseeing the park headquarters in Fort Oglethorpe.

His late-in-life role as a peacemaker, after all, is in keeping with the symbolism depicted in one of the military park's most prominent monuments, the New York Peace Monument in Point Park.

That monument, erected by veterans from New York in 1907, features at the top of its 85 feet two bronze soldiers, one Union and one Confederate, shaking hands underneath the United States flag. The monument, in further symbolism, was constructed of Tennessee marble and Massachusetts granite mixed together to signify the rebirth of the country.

That construction was 117 years ago. If we put the past aside then, why can't we now?

Getting Started/Comments Policy

Getting started

  1. 1. If you frequently comment on news websites then you may already have a Disqus account. If so, click the "Login" button at the top right of the comment widget and choose whether you'd rather log in with Facebook, Twitter, Google, or a Disqus account.
  2. 2. If you've forgotten your password, Disqus will email you a link that will allow you to create a new one. Easy!
  3. 3. If you're not a member yet, Disqus will go ahead and register you. It's seamless and takes about 10 seconds.
  4. 4. To register, either go through the login process or just click in the box that says "join the discussion," type your comment, and either choose a social media platform to log you in or create a Disqus account with your email address.
  5. 5. If you use Twitter, Facebook or Google to log in, you will need to stay logged into that platform in order to comment. If you create a Disqus account instead, you'll need to remember your Disqus password. Either way, you can change your display name if you'd rather not show off your real name.
  6. 6. Don't be a huge jerk or do anything illegal, and you'll be fine.

Chattanooga Times Free Press Comments Policy

The Chattanooga Times Free Press web sites include interactive areas in which users can express opinions and share ideas and information. We cannot and do not monitor all of the material submitted to the website. Additionally, we do not control, and are not responsible for, content submitted by users. By using the web sites, you may be exposed to content that you may find offensive, indecent, inaccurate, misleading, or otherwise objectionable. You agree that you must evaluate, and bear all risks associated with, the use of the Times Free Press web sites and any content on the Times Free Press web sites, including, but not limited to, whether you should rely on such content. Notwithstanding the foregoing, you acknowledge that we shall have the right (but not the obligation) to review any content that you have submitted to the Times Free Press, and to reject, delete, disable, or remove any content that we determine, in our sole discretion, (a) does not comply with the terms and conditions of this agreement; (b) might violate any law, infringe upon the rights of third parties, or subject us to liability for any reason; or (c) might adversely affect our public image, reputation or goodwill. Moreover, we reserve the right to reject, delete, disable, or remove any content at any time, for the reasons set forth above, for any other reason, or for no reason. If you believe that any content on any of the Times Free Press websites infringes upon any copyrights that you own, please contact us pursuant to the procedures outlined in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (Title 17 U.S.C. § 512) at the following address:

Copyright Agent
The Chattanooga Times Free Press
400 East 11th Street
Chattanooga, TN 37403
Phone: 423-757-6315
Email: webeditor@timesfreepress.com


Loading...