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Sacred Memories: The Civil War Monument Movement in Texas

Sacred Memories: The Civil War Monument Movement in Texas

by Kelly McMichael

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War memorials are symbols of a community’s sense of itself, the values it holds dear, and its collective memory. They inform us more, perhaps, about the period in which the memorials were erected than the period of the war itself.

Kelly McMichael, in her book, Sacred Memories: The Civil War Monument Movement in Texas, takes


War memorials are symbols of a community’s sense of itself, the values it holds dear, and its collective memory. They inform us more, perhaps, about the period in which the memorials were erected than the period of the war itself.

Kelly McMichael, in her book, Sacred Memories: The Civil War Monument Movement in Texas, takes the reader on a tour of Civil War monuments throughout the state and in doing so tells the story of each monument and its creation. McMichael explores Texans’ motivations for erecting Civil War memorials, which she views as attempts during a period of turmoil and uncertainty—“severe depression, social unrest, the rise of Populism, mass immigration, urbanization, industrialization, imperialism, lynching, and Jim Crow laws”—to preserve the memory of the Confederate dead, to instill in future generations the values of patriotism, duty, and courage; to create a shared memory and identity “based on a largely invented story”; and to “anchor a community against social and political doubt.”

Her focus is the human story of each monument, the characters involved in its creation, and the sacred memories held dear to them.

Product Details

Texas State Historical Assn Press
Publication date:
Fred Rider Cotten Popular History Series , #19
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Barnes & Noble
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7 MB

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Sacred Memories

The Civil War Monument Movement in Texas

By Kelly McMichael

Texas State Historical Association

Copyright © 2009 Texas State Historical Association
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-87611-299-1



Huntsville, Walker County

HUNTSVILLE IS AT THE JUNCTION of Interstate 45, U.S. Highway 190, and state highways 19 and 30. The monument is downtown on the courthouse lawn, at the corner of Eleventh Street (U.S. Highway 190) and Sam Houston Avenue.

Responding to veteran J. F. Jarrard's call, twenty-five local women gathered at the Baptist church on a Sunday afternoon in November 1899 to establish a UDC chapter in Huntsville, which they named the John B. Gordon Chapter after Gen. John B. Gordon, a respected soldier and, later, a governor and senator from Georgia. In 1900 the chapter's second president, Mary Wynne Farris, suggested erecting a monument to the Confederacy. Farris, born in Mississippi in 1836, came to Texas as a child with her parents and was in the first graduating class of Andrew Female College, one of the earliest schools for girls in the state. The petite, dark-haired woman worked until her death in 1922 to raise funds to commemorate the county's soldiers. On June 27, 1956, more than fifty years after Farris first began raising money, the Gordon Chapter erected a small marble shaft on the courthouse lawn "in memory of our Confederate patriots." The monument was removed and placed in storage in 1968 after the courthouse burned, but was placed on the grounds of the new courthouse in June 1973.

Jefferson, Marion County

Jefferson is at the intersection of U.S. Highway 59 and State Highway 49. The monument sits on the courthouse lawn on West Austin Street.

Jefferson's Richard Taylor Camp, UCV, unveiled its Confederate monument on July 10, 1907, six blocks north of its present location on the courthouse lawn. Although members of the camp and nearby Robert E. Lee Chapter of the UDC had debated the merits of erecting a monument for several years, the two organizations garnered little public support until the neighboring city of Marshall unveiled a memorial in January 1906. So many Jeffersonians participated in the ceremonies in Marshall that Jefferson's citizens vowed to build their own monument to the Confederacy, a memorial that would, of course, surpass Marshall's.

The Richard Taylor Camp—called the Dick Taylor Camp by the old soldiers and named in honor of Gen. Richard Taylor, hero of the Battle of Mansfield, Louisiana, and son of President Zachary Taylor—placed an order with Llano, Texas, granite dealer Frank Teich for a shaft of granite topped by a Confederate soldier of gray bronze. The camp originally planned to place the monument in Oakwood Cemetery but decided instead, after the memorial's arrival, to set it in a small park (only 115 by 150 feet) on the north side of Broadway at the corner of Line and Polk Street, six blocks north of the courthouse and town square.

Jefferson's city leaders organized an unveiling celebration that included a parade, cannon fire, and a musical program, all with an eye to outdoing Marshall's recent ceremony. United States Senator Charles Allen Culberson, who had spent his childhood in Jefferson (Culberson was six years old when the war began) and had been elected in 1894 and 1896 as the state's governor, served as the primary speaker at the celebration. The large crowd that gathered sang "Tenting on the Old Camp Ground" and then listened to a dedicatory address delivered by Gertrude Cartwright of the Robert E. Lee Chapter of the UDC in Cass County. Jefferson's newspaper, the Jimplecute, said her speech "stirred the heart of every Southerner." Although the veterans spearheaded the monument drive, they committed the monument's care to the Robert E. Lee Chapter, telling the members that the monument was "a gift to be cherished and protected."

At the end of the ceremony, the crowd sang the "Bonnie Blue Flag" while thirteen girls dressed in white dresses with red sashes, each one representing one of the Confederate states, placed wreaths of flowers at the monument's base and then pulled ribbons that released the red, white, and blue bunting draped over the monument. As soon as the bronze Confederate figure came into view, the crowd let out a prolonged cheer, mingled with the rebel yell. Senator Culberson claimed, "no community in the state responded to the call to arms of 1861 with more honor, sympathy, or daring soldiery than Jefferson."

In the 1930s Joseph McCasland became county judge and had the monument moved from its original location to the courthouse. Since boyhood, McCasland had argued with his father that the monument should be moved, and he was especially appalled that it stood with its back facing the North. After becoming county judge, he "had the county surveyor determine true North, and then I had the Confederate monument relocated on the courthouse lawn so that the soldier's eyes would be gazing right toward his enemy."

For seventy-five years, local history buffs attempted to solve the mystery of the monument's lost inscription. Like many monuments in Texas, Jefferson's provided the name of the UCV camp that erected the statue plus a few other lines, in this case, "lest we forget. In memory of our dead. 1861–1865." But unlike other memorials, Jefferson's monument had a line erased from the monument. By the mid-1980s a myth circulated that the words "for a lost cause," had been inscribed on the monument but were rubbed off in 1911 when survivors of Hood's Brigade met in Jefferson for a reunion. According to the myth, the old soldiers noticed the inscription, declared, "Hell, it was no Lost Cause," and removed the offensive statement.

Curious researchers tried many different methods for deciphering the missing lines. Eventually one man tried liberally dusting the scrawled inscription with ladies' face powder and a powder puff. It soon became clear that the last word began with a "C" and possibly ended with a "Y." Soon, the letter "W" became evident, as did the letters "OO" in the second word. Jotting down the letters, the researcher speculated about the missing ones. Suddenly the inscription was obvious—"In Oakwood Cemetery." Newspaper accounts in early 1907 regarding the monument selection recounted that the Dick Taylor Camp had been uncertain whether to place the monument in the park, or in the cemetery, where so many Confederate dead were buried. Apparently the monument had been ordered with the idea that it would be placed in the cemetery but by the time it arrived, the camp had decided to place it in the park.

Linden, Cass County

Linden is at the intersection of U.S. Highway 59 and state highways 8 and 155. The monument is on the courthouse lawn on East Houston Street.

Gertrude Curtwright missed her younger brother terribly after the war. He died while serving the Confederate cause, and no matter how many years passed, Curtwright could not forget her only brother. In 1903 she convinced area veterans and businessmen that the county needed a monument to honor her brother and all the men like him who had given their lives fighting for a free and independent South. Local citizens agreed and collected $320 to purchase their monument—a marble shaft which they placed in the "most public of places," the lawn of the county courthouse. They unveiled the monument in October 1903.

The Cass County Sun reported that the unveiling ceremony began at ten o'clock in the morning with the Atlanta Band leading the procession (the musicians hailed from the nearby town of Atlanta, not the city in Georgia). Gertrude Curtwright spoke, the newspaper reporter claiming that "she made one of the best speeches that it has been our pleasure to listen to for a while." Curtwright spoke frequently in front of large crowds. Her granddaughter later recalled that she once delivered an address to a large group of veterans gathered for a reunion in New Orleans, and when she finished, the veterans cheered her words loudly. Curtwright seemed at ease in the spotlight. Not only was she the only woman to speak that day, but she was also the only female member of the monument committee; that might not seem unusual considering that Curtwright had been the one to suggest building the memorial, but it was highly unusual for women to serve on decision-making committees. Women often suggested that a monument should be built, and they almost always did the necessary fundraising, but men generally kept the planning committees to themselves. Local men seemed comfortable with women doing the bulk of the work, but few relinquished the decision-making roles.

Cass County's courthouse is the oldest continually used courthouse in the state. Area builders began constructing the structure in 1859 but did not finish the courthouse until 1866, their work having been interrupted by the war. Although a fire gutted the courthouse in 1933, the county restored its interior, repaired the damage to the exterior, and reopened the following year. But this fire was not the courthouse's only brush with danger.

A tornado blew through Linden on May 13, 1908, destroying much of the town and leaving hundreds homeless. The Confederate monument blew over in the storm, and the city hired Nelson & Sheffield (more than likely a local granite dealer) to replace it the following November. A strong wind once again toppled the memorial in September 1940, and the community hired the T. J. Hopkins Studio of Atlanta, Texas, to shorten the monument and place it back on its base. This appears to have worked: the shortened monument, dedicated "in memory of our Confederate soldiers who fought and died in the war and of those who fought and lived," stands on the courthouse lawn today.

Livingston, Polk County

Livingston is at the junction of U.S. highways 190 and 59 and State Highway 146. The monument sits on the courthouse lawn on Church Street.

The Ike Turner Camp, UCV, erected the Confederate monument in Livingston on October 10, 1900. The single granite shaft has inscriptions on all four sides, including one that states, "Polk County furnished the Confederacy more soldiers than she had voters."

Polk County boasts that nine hundred of its area men joined the Confederacy between 1861 and 1865, forming seven separate companies, while it had only six hundred registered voters in 1860. The county also claims that it provided a greater number of slaves and servants for the cause, in proportion to its white population, than did any other Texas county.

In 1996 an architect working for the city suggested that the monument be moved from the courthouse lawn to another location and that a gazebo be built in its place. A few citizens rallied to stop the move, and the memorial still stands where it was originally unveiled in 1900.

Longview, Gregg County

Longview is at Interstate 20 and U.S. highways 80 and 259. The monument is on the courthouse lawn on East Methvin Street.

"God bless the noble women who have made this great day possible," declared Longview's Mayor G. A. Bodenheim in his speech at the city's monument unveiling ceremony. After six years of fundraising, the R. B. Levy Chapter of the UDC erected a monument of Texas granite and Italian marble on June 3, 1911, in commemoration of Jefferson Davis's birth.

The city organized a massive celebration. Led by a local band, citizens marched to the monument waving flags and bunting of red and white. Crowding around the memorial, the audience listened as Mayor Bodenheim and Viola Bivins, president of the Levy Chapter, spoke of their love for the men who fought for the Confederacy. Bivins declared that the old soldiers would "live eternally in the hearts and ideals of their children." Her speech, the longest of the ceremony, marked one of the first times in Longview that a woman had been asked to speak to such a large mixed-sex gathering.

The monument was unveiled with great ceremony, and when the public first saw the statue, waves of cheers, which some citizens said were reminiscent of the old rebel yell, went through the crowd. Longview's Chamber of Commerce invited everyone to the courthouse lawn where they and the Levy Chapter of the UDC had organized a barbeque dinner. Following the meal, the city's citizens continued the celebration with a baseball game, a motorcycle race, and a release of balloons.

Originally placed within sight of the train depot so that all visitors would immediately see the memorial, the monument was unveiled in Bodie Park, which the city created specifically for the monument. For years the park served as a meeting place for local citizens. In 1930, after the discovery of oil in East Texas, the city sold the park for commercial development, and the memorial was moved to the courthouse lawn, where it still stands.

The thirty-five-foot monument was designed by Llano granite dealer Frank Teich at an estimated cost of $3,000. A life-size figure of a Confederate soldier stands above a marble base decorated with a statue of a woman writing the words "Lest We Forget" on a tablet.

Marshall, Harrison County

Marshall is on Interstate 20, approximately thirty-nine miles west of Shreveport, Louisiana. The city's main Confederate monument sits on the old courthouse lawn on Whetstone Square (in the old downtown district). There is a second monument in the northwest corner of the city cemetery on Lynoak Street.

Laura Elgin, president of Marshall Chapter of the UDC, almost single-handedly ensured the creation of the town's main memorial. Calling the work a "labor of love," Elgin began fundraising in 1903. Three years later on January 19, 1906 (in commemoration of Robert E. Lee's birth), she and the Marshall Chapter unveiled the sculpture on the courthouse lawn, in the same spot where several Confederate companies—the most notable being Bass's Grays, also known as Company D, Seventh Texas Regiment, commanded by K. M. Van Zandt—had been sworn into service.

The Marshall Chapter of the UDC purchased the most prominent memorial from Llano granite dealer Frank Teich for an estimated $2,500. The sculpture stands nineteen feet tall and is topped by a soldier figure with a blanket rolled around his shoulder alongside a haversack and canteen. A Confederate flag, entwined with a laurel wreath and palm leaf, decorates the east side of the base. The wreath was chosen to represent the charge and the palm leaf the grief for those who lost their lives following the Confederate flag. The Daughters inscribed the memorial's north and south sides with poems that lament the dead:

Take our love and our tears today; take them, all that we have to give,
And by God's help while our heart shall live it still shall keep in its
Thankful way the campfires lit for the men in gray—
"Aye till trumpet sounds far away and the silver bugles of heaven play,
And the roll is called at the judgment day!

The unveiling ceremony began at ten o'clock in the morning with a parade of veterans and UDC members leading Marshall's citizens to the courthouse. Thirteen young girls, representing the thirteen states of the Confederacy, formed a ring around the monument and sang "My Maryland." A band played other songs, including "America" and the "Vacant Chair," and a loud cheer went through the audience when the musicians played "Dixie." The main speakers of the day were Laura Elgin, Dr. A. G. Clopton, a veteran, and W. W. Heartsill, who later wrote a book recording his wartime experiences.

K. M. Van Zandt, who had organized one of the first companies from Marshall to enlist in the Confederacy, returned to the city for the unveiling ceremony and recounted how at that exact spot in 1861 his mustered company was presented with a flag made by the women of the city. When it came time to surrender, he said, the men tore the flag into little bits, each member taking a tiny souvenir, rather than surrendering their banner.

A second, much smaller monument sits in Marshall's city cemetery. The Marshall Chapter of the UDC erected the granite shaft in 1908 to honor the unknown Confederate soldiers buried in the cemetery.

Mount Pleasant, Titus County

Mount Pleasant is sixty-one miles southwest of Texarkana at the junction of Interstate 30, U.S. Highway 271, and State Highway 49. The monument is on the courthouse square on West First Street.

The Dudley W. Jones Camp, UCV, sponsored several reunions in Mount Pleasant around the turn of the twentieth century. The veterans named their camp in honor of Dudley Jones, the son of one of the county's earliest pioneers, who rushed back to Texas from his law studies in Tennessee at the first sign of secession and enlisted in the Ninth Texas Cavalry. He eventually rose to the rank of colonel and commanding officer of the company. Jones survived the war but died in Houston in 1870. His fellow soldiers honored his memory by naming their camp for him.


Excerpted from Sacred Memories by Kelly McMichael. Copyright © 2009 Texas State Historical Association. Excerpted by permission of Texas State Historical Association.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

KELLY McMICHAEL is associate director of the Center for Learning Enhancement, Assessment, and Redesign at the University of North Texas. She lives in Denton, Texas.

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