Thursday, June 8, 2017

Virginia's Memorial at Gettysburg Dedicated, June 8, 1917

 The Virginia Monument at Gettysburg, from Some Gave All, which includes a complete set of photographs of the battlefield.

It's an odd thing to think of, and I wonder how it felt at the time, but on this day in 1917 Virginia's monument at Gettysburg was dedicated. The oddity, of course, is that Virginia's monument was dedicated to commemorate its Civil War dead at Gettysburg just as the nation had started the process for conscription in a new, 20th Century, war.


Work on the monument by Frederick William Sievers had commenced in 1913. The total cost of the work was $50,000 in the money of the time.  It was the first of the Confederate monuments to be placed on the battlefield.

The monument was placed at a location where Robert E. Lee observed Pickett's Charge from and he's prominently placed on the top of the monument. The men at the base depict the average Virginia soldier, as viewed from the prospective of the 1910s, and are supposed to be sufficiently detailed that they represent the civilian occupations of the soldiers on the ground, those being, from left to right, a professional (lawyer, etc.), mechanic, artist, businessman and farmer.  In reality, of course, the overwhelming majority of the Army of Northern Virginia would have fit in that latter group.

Its interesting to realize that the 50th anniversary of the battle occurred at the same time construction of the monument itself did, in 1913.  The anniversary was heavily photographed at the time due to the large number of veterans that attended it.  Also of interest, in the context of this blog, fewer years had passed between the dedication of the monument and the battle than have now passed between the the Allied invasion of Normandy during World War Two and the anniversary of that event which occurred two days ago.  For that matter, the distance between the Battle of Gettysburg and the Vietnam War's Tet Offensive and the Battle of Khe Sahn, is about the same.

The Virginia monument remains the most spectacular of the Confederate monuments on the battlefield.  Other Southern states soon placed their own, but none are as large as this one.  That probably reflected the economics of the time.  Today, of course, in many locations in the South Confederate monuments are being reconsidered, and even removed.

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