BATTLE OF NASHVILLE MONUMENT REDEDICATED AT NEW PARK SITE
With several hundred spectators in attendance, the refurbished Battle of Nashville Monument was rededicated at its new location on Saturday, June 26, 1999, replacing the original marble obelisk destroyed by a tornado 25 years earlier and reinstating it to a place of honor virtually on top of the line of battle that occurred on December 15, 1864.
The principal speaker at the rededication ceremony was Mr. Wilbur Foster Creighton, Jr. of the Tennessee Historical Commission. Mr. Ward DeWitt, Jr., Chairman of the Commission, presided. During the ceremony, Civil War re-enactors presented the colors and a black powder salute, and the Graylyn Brass Quintet provided musical entertainment.
The new gleaming white granite monument honors not only the sacrifices of both Confederate and Union soldiers who clashed in the December 15-16, 1864 Battle of Nashville, but also the American soldiers who fought in “The Great War” (World War I). The original Monument had originally been dedicated on Armistice Day, 1927.
The re-dedication marked the successful completion of relocating the Nashville landmark from its original site on Franklin Road to the new park at Granny White Pike and Battlefield Drive.
The Tennessee Historical Commission, which owns the statue, chose the new home for it in 1992. State and federal money, as well as generous private contributions, made the restoration possible. The monument was originally created in 1927 by artist and sculptor Giuseppe Moretti, who was commissioned by the Ladies Battlefield Association. In 1974, the obelisk and angel were destroyed by a tornado, and during the 1980s construction of a large interstate highway interchange had obstructed the monument to public viewing.
The new monument was completely restored, with the bronze sculpture of the youth and horses refinished, and the marble base, obelisk, and angel reconstructed in granite, which is more durable than the original marble.
During the re-dedication, several Nashvillians were singled out for their efforts in reestablishing the monument and the park grounds. They included James Summerville, local historian who spearheaded the project; Mrs. Paula McCord of McCord Crane Co., which donated its services to relocate the monument; Coley Coleman, the sculptor of the angel; Gary Hawkins of Hawkins Partners, Inc., the park designers; McPherson Shaw, Inc., the contractors; and Rehorn & Kelly.
After the ceremony, the Battle of Nashville Preservation Society sponsored a free concert at the north border of the park. Headlining the concert was RCA Records’ artist Andy Griggs, whose debut album, “You Won’t Ever Be Lonely,” had produced the #1 hit with the title-track single that year, and the album made its debut at an impressive #15 on the country charts the very first week of its release.
The concert also featured Greg Crowe (co-writer of the then-current Montgomery Gentry single, “Lonely and Gone”); Kimberly Dahne; multi-award winning singer / songwriter / playwright ; Chris Gantry; Tim and Trent LeClaire (Gantry, Tim, and Trent co-wrote the song “Garden of Angels” for this event); and Kevin Sysyn, who wrote the song “Nashville, 1864” with Charlie Baker for the occasion. Dr. Stewart Shofner, Cracker Barrel Old Country Store, and WKDF 103.3 sponsored the concert. Net proceeds from all donations received at the event were dedicated to battlefield preservation. Volunteers from Tennessee State Guard units in Nashville and Gallatin provided parking assistance and security during the day’s events.
A second phase of the monument project later resulted in the installation of walkways, benches, and interpretive elements at the park.
The Battle Line “Witness Tree” Still Holds Its Secrets
The Battle of Nashville Monument stands framed by a majestic “basket oak” tree (Quercus michauxii) which stood on this spot during the 1864 battle.
Records confirm that the tree was on the 1,500 acre farm of Oscar Fitzallen Noel and Sallie T. Noel. The farm was the site of violent fighting on the first day of the battle. The basket oak was located near the breastworks constructed by the Confederate line which ran diagonally across the property.
It has been designated a “Historic Tree” by the Tennessee Landmark and Historic Tree Registry, recognizing noteworthy trees for their significance to Tennessee. A “Historic Tree” must have been “a direct witness to a historic event or cultural movement that was significant nationally, regionally, or within the state and confirmed to date to that time.” For more information on this amazing tree, one of the last “living witnesses” to the Battle of Nashville, see: http://www.tufc.com/registries.html
June 16, 1999
Governor’s Dedication Remarks
Cannon fire boomed across Nashville, and bullets whistled through the trees in one of the decisive battles of the Civil War, fought here on December 15-16, 1864.
Today, a long drive led by volunteers is crowned with success as we rededicate one of the finest war memorials in the United States, the Battle of Nashville Monument.
It is one of the few Civil War statues that honors the memory of both the Union and Confederate dead. The bronze figure of the young man also stands for Americans from north and south who fought again, now under a common flag of a reunited nation, in the Spanish-American War and in the first World War.
The Monument’s original builders understood and interpreted it for their time, and we may do the same for ours. Perhaps its meaning today is that what we have in common as Americans is more important than what divides us into bitterness over issues of race or class or ethnicity or gender.
I congratulate the Tennessee Historical Commission on this occasion, and thank it for restoring this grand old sculpture for the instruction and enjoyment of all our people.
With warm regards,
Recreating the Battle of Nashville Monument
Concept Plan for Interpretive Park
The park is a two-acre site just south of I-440 and bounded by Granny White Pike, Clifton Avenue, and Battlefield Drive. It sits on the battlefield at the northernmost penetration by Confederate forces. The plot forms the crest of a hill and is dominated by a large basket oak tree.
The monument was situated at the highest elevation, facing east as intended by original sculptor Giuseppe Moretti. Onsite parking and pathways enable visitors to view the monument close up, as well as view interpretive signage and a Wall of Peace, built with $72,000 in funds provided by the Frist Foundation.
Of the $225,000 raised for the project, all but about $15,000 was needed for the relocation and restoration of the monument itself. It was originally estimated that $400,000 would be needed to complete the park to the Concept Plan specifications.
Sculptor Coley Coleman noted that the new angel atop the monument’s obelisk is made of granite from Elberton, Georgia, which is much more suitable for outdoor sculptures than the monument’s original Italian marble. (The original obelisk and angel were destroyed during a 1974 tornado). He noted that he had to wait eight months to receive the granite from the quarry. The original bronze sculpture of a youth and two horses was cleaned and resealed at Rehorn & Kelly on Lebanon Road after being removed from the original site by McCord Crane Co. The bronze, which had turned dark with age and exposure, was restored to a beautiful light-brown bronze patina.
The original base remains at the old site on Franklin Road, said Commission chairman Ward DeWitt, who noted that the property should be maintained as a historical site. The small plot of land, now overshadowed by a huge interstate interchange (I-65 at I-440), will revert back to the heirs of the original donors otherwise. Confederate artillery was situated at that site during the battle.
History of the Battle of Nashville Monument
Presented by Ward DeWitt, Chairman of the Tennessee Historical Commission, at the Battle of Nashville Monument Symposium, Nov. 6, 1998.
The Battle of Nashville Monument has a long and sometimes tortuous history — a history not always smooth and pleasant — which perhaps is befitting a monument erected following and as a result of a bitter intersectional war. It needs to be remembered, however, that it is more than a monument to the battle which was fought here in December of 1864 — a battle which noted Nashville historian Stanley Horn called the Decisive Battle of Nashville. It is a monument which was conceived, built, and dedicated as a memorial to those brave men and women, from both North and South, who fought so courageously in not only the War Between the States but also in World War I, known as the Great War. It is a monument intended to unify the country, which in the early part of this century and even up until World War I was still badly torn with strife resulting from the Civil War.
The history of this beautiful monument goes all the way back to the year 1902, when the Vaulx heirs gave a tract of land on the Franklin Pike for a Battle of Nashville park. Mrs. James E. Caldwell, president of a group called the Ladies Battlefield Association, came up with the idea of a monument on the site, and a noted Italian sculptor, Giuseppe Moretti, submitted a quotation of $30,000 for it.
Then, about 1910, a Nashville battlefield park was again proposed, this time by Congressman Joe Byrnes of Nashville, and later that year a Congressional committee heard testimony from a group called the Nashville National Battlefield Association, comprised of prominent businessmen, including Confederate and Union veterans.
In April 1914 Mrs. Caldwell’s Ladies Battlefield Association held a “Historical Ball” at the Maxwell House to raise money for the monument, with the United Daughters of the Confederacy contributing generously.
In 1924 and early 1925 the Ladies Battlefield Association sponsored various fundraising events for the monument but only a small amount of money was raised. But by canvassing businesses and individuals and by appropriations from the Tennessee General Assembly and the Davidson County Quarterly Court, a lot more was raised toward the project.
The Monument was isolated by the construction of a huge interstate highway interchange.
In April of 1926 the L.B.A. contracted with Signor Moretti for construction of the monument on Franklin Pike where Thompson Lane intersected. In 1926 Moretti’s plaster model of the bronze figures was sent to the foundry to be cast, and quarrying of the marble was underway at Carrara in Italy. The bronze came from broken and melted cannons.
During 1927 Moretti came to Nashville and personally oversaw the construction of the monument, and on Armistice Day, 1927 (November 11) it was dedicated, with former U.S. Senator and war hero Luke Lea giving the principal address. Unfortunately Moretti could not be here for the dedication, although he called the monument his greatest work.
In 1945 the acreage and monument were conveyed to the Tennessee Historical Commission by a successor group to the L.B.A., and there the monument stood in all its glory until 1974 — in full view of motorists on Franklin Pike or on Thompson Lane at its intersection with Franklin Pike. But then, on March 31, 1974, a tornado ripped through the area and toppled the 40-foot obelisk and angel atop it to the ground, shattering them into pieces. The bronze figures — two horses and a youthful man — were damaged but could be repaired and put back on the original base, but the obelisk and angel were not restorable.
Then, to add insult to injury, in early 1980 interstate construction virtually blotted out all view of the monument, which was, and still is, isolated behind a chain-link fence on a bluff overlooking Franklin Pike. It was a disaster.
At that point, following the tornado and interstate construction, some funds were allocated by the Department of Transportation for relocation but not restoration of the monument.
So, beginning in the 1980s the idea of a new location for and restoration of the monument was brought up, and the T.H.C. appointed a committee of citizens to suggest new sites. In 1988 the committee recommended Centennial Park, but the Metro Parks Board vetoed that and the committee was discharged. A number of other sites were considered, among them Riverfront Park, a grassy slope on the Burton Hills property on Hillsboro Pike in Green Hills, and the Brightwood Avenue bridge over I-440. None was accepted.
Finally, in 1992, the T.H.C., on the recommendation of its Markers and Monuments Committee chaired by Pam Garrett of Goodlettsville, chose the 2.5-acre tract at the intersection of Granny White Pike and Battlefield Drive which was originally slated to be an I-440 interchange. At this point the long struggle began for funds to remove and restore the monument to this new location.
Hawkins Partners, headed by Gary Hawkins, presented a plan for development of the site into an interpretive park, the T.H.C. applied for funds available under an act of Congress known as ISTEA, an acronym for Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act, and in 1995 a grant of $150,000 was given under that act. Soon thereafter, as a result of efforts by the T.H.C., $37,500 was given by both the State of Tennessee and Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County.
In 1996 the Nashville Iowa Club, spearheaded by Jon Ohrt and Jim Summerville, had a successful fundraising campaign which brought in $15,000, and bit by bit sufficient money came in to restore the monument to its former grandeur and move it to G.W. Pike and Battlefield Drive — right on the battlefield. But then, in August of 1996, the state architect’s office proposed that it be re-located to Tennessee’s new Bi-Centennial Mall in North Nashville. However, editorials in the papers, op-ed articles, the Metro Council and Governor Sundquist all endorsed the G.W. Pike site. The state Building Commission then endorsed the spending of the total budget, $225,000, for relocation and restoration at the G.W. Pike site.
In September of 1996 Hawkins Partners was hired by the state as chief contractor for the project, and last December the T.H.C. held a groundbreaking ceremony at the new site, at which 75 to 100 persons attended, including re-enactors and two of Mrs. Caldwell’s descendants. At this ceremony it was announced that the Frist Foundation had granted $65,000, later increased to $72,000, to build a Wall of Peace on the site.
Site preparation began last February; the foundation was poured Feb. 24, 1998. During this past summer work began on the carving of the angel of peace, and the first granite for the base arrived from the quarry in Georgia. In July the bronze was taken to Rehorn & Kelly, monument builders in Nashville, for cleaning. Tomorrow (Nov. 7, 1998) was scheduled to be Re-Dedication Day, but due to unexpected construction delays we decided to postpone that until restoration is complete. We will probably have the ceremony in early spring, but if you want to drive by the site and take a look at what has been done, I think you will find it interesting and agree that the site is a good choice.
Lastly, it is tempting to rattle off a long list of names of people who have been instrumental in bringing this project to near fulfillment, but if I started that then surely I would omit one or more who should be recognized, so I won’t do it. I do feel, however, that one person deserves special credit for his unflagging efforts to see this thing through to a successful conclusion, and that person is Jim Summerville, who put this symposium together. Jim, we thank you, and I thank you too.
The Original Battle of Nashville Monument: A Photo Gallery
The original location of the Battle of Nashville Monument is on a rise near the intersection of Franklin Road and the I-440 southbound exit ramp onto I-65 South. The marble base, heavily damaged by a 1974 tornado, is positioned near the end of a parking area located between Villa Adrian Apartments and Franklin Road. Note: It is not know whether this is a public or private access point. Photos by Tom Lawrence. Click to enlarge.