Monroe County group comes together to rededicate memorial

Posted on Sun, Jun. 22, 2008
By Chuck Thompson

Women in brightly colored hoop dresses and hats fluttered their hand fans and held parasols to shade themselves from the broiling sun.

Men in gray and butternut uniforms simply sweated, standing at attention with rifles and flags or drums, fifes and bugles.

Until their part of the program was finished.

Then they sought shade beneath the trees that surround the courthouse on Forsyth’s downtown square.

At the corner of the square was the reason they were there Saturday dressed in period clothing of a time long ago.

At the corner of the square, where Lee and Johnston streets intersect, is Monroe County’s Confederate Memorial, a 7-foot tall bronze statue of a marching Confederate soldier with his rifle on his shoulder mounted on an 8-foot base of Elberton granite.

It was dedicated 100 years ago Friday.

So Saturday, 100 years and a day after the Cabaniss Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, which had formed in 1900, had dedicated the memorial, the descendants of that group and the Monroe County Historical Society held a centennial celebration of that dedication.

Amma Crum, current president of the Cabaniss Chapter, observed that it had also been “a day of excessive heat” when the statue was unveiled in 1908 as she opened Saturday’s ceremony.

Re-enactors dressed as Confederate soldiers presented the colors, and pledges to the U.S., Georgia and Confederate flags were recited. “The Star-Spangled Banner” and “Dixie” and period martial songs were played by Tunes of the Battlefield, a re-enactor group of musicians from Crawford County.

Barbara Fincher, playing the part of Stella Center, a Tift College professor who led the drive to commission the memorial, read Center’s original dedication speech. Center was the daughter of Charles Center, one of the 857 men who served in the seven companies from Monroe County to fight for the Confederacy.

In her speech re-enacted by Fincher, Center said the people of Monroe County had decided to erect the monument because the county’s Civil War veterans and their widows were disappearing, and that they should be honored before they were all gone. The speech also said the monument was needed because the region’s “distinctly Southern traits were in danger of disappearing.”

Janice Langford, president general of the UDC, came from Texas to deliver the keynote speech Saturday. She commended those involved in the anniversary celebration not only for honoring the memories of their ancestors who fought in the Civil War, but also for honoring Monroe Countians of 1908 who raised the $3,000 needed to erect the monument.

Langford and Priscilla Doster, co-chairwoman for Saturday’s celebration, explained how the statue was sculpted by Frederick C. Hibbard, a famed memorial sculptor based in Chicago.

Doster said it is one of only two bronze Civil War memorials in the state and that it is thought to be the first war memorial commission Hibbard received.

“He became quite famous and sculpted some major memorials around the country in his career,” Doster said.

A native of Canton, Mo., Hibbard became interested in art as a child, using clay he found on his family’s farm near the Mississippi River to sculpt his favorite animals.

He trained as an electrical engineer and worked as an electrician, however, before enrolling in the Art Institute of Chicago in 1901 to study under master sculptor Lorado Taft. After a year, he became Taft’s assistant, then in 1904 established his own studio in Chicago.

Among his major works were the Shiloh Monument commissioned by the UDC for the Shiloh Battlefield in Tennessee, an equestrian statue of Maj. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant for Vicksburg National Military Park in Mississippi, statues of Jefferson Davis in Frankfort, Ky., and Montgomery, Ala., effigies of Abraham Lincoln and Mary Todd Lincoln in Racine, Wis., and the Mark Twain and Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn monuments in Hannibal, Mo., boyhood home of Twain.

Doster said Hibbard’s daughter visited Forsyth in 1987 and saw the statue for the first time.

“She said she immediately recognized the hands as her father’s, that he apparently had used his own hands for his model,” Doster said.

Doster also said that there has been a surge in membership in the UDC in recent years as people become more interested in their heritage and patriotism.

The local UDC members are now raising money and seeking grants to have the bronze statue cleaned and restored. Doster said it could cost $4,000 to $14,000, but that the group is determined to see the job through.

Much as the ladies of 1908 led the effort to secure the memorial to honor their heritage.

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By |2008-06-24T12:20:18+00:00June 24th, 2008|News|Comments Off on News 695