Thursday, September 26, 2013

North and South joined hands for Chickamauga monument project

(Civil War Picket photos)

This time, it's built to last.

After years of slowly fading away at Chickamauga & Chattanooga National Military Park, the Lytle Monument stands tall again, a tribute to a fallen Union poet-warrior and others who spilled blood in the 1863 battle.

The pyramid of 323 reproduction 8-inch shells produced by a local foundry was rededicated on Sept. 20, almost 150 years to the hour that Brig. Gen. William H. Lytle was killed leading a counterattack against Confederate forces who would carry the field at Chickamauga that day. He was a brigade commander in Sheridan's Division of McCook's Corps.

R.A. Davis, commander of Lytle SUV camp
Vandalism took its toll gradually after the Lytle Monument was dedicated in 1894. As the pyramid shrank to one level, some of the cannonballs – surplus artillery shells from the Civil War – were used to repair other monuments at the park.

For the restoration, Lookout Metalworks used 130 bags of concrete and welded each of the shells to a metal frame. The cannonballs aren't going anywhere.

"It still chokes me up," Lee Collins, a laborer for the company, said of the significance of the project.

People across the North and South came together to raise about $65,000 for the work.

Tom Reckner's great-great-grandfather fought with the 10th OVI
About 60 percent of the gifts came from outside the Georgia-Tennessee region, said executive director Patrice Glass of the Friends of the Park. Forty percent came from Ohio, home to Lytle, a hero in his hometown of Cincinnati.

"It has been a joint effort and labor of love," Glass told the crowd, seated around the monument and standing under the dappled sunlight on Lytle Hill.

The well-known poetry and bravery of Lytle, twice wounded in previous battles, brought him high esteem among his Confederate adversaries, who placed a guard around his body until it could be returned to Union lines.

Pete Sturdevant played at ceremony
Lytle early in the war led the 10th Ohio Volunteer Infantry.

"He was not an officer who led from behind the lines," said Kerry Langdon of the General William H. Lytle Camp #10 of the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War (SUVCV).

Graying warriors in the years after the battle placed monuments in the fields of glory, recognizing fallen men and the sacrifice of Confederate and Union units. The park was authorized by Congress in 1890, a tribute to hallowed ground "where they returned to shake hands," said Glass.

Tom Reckner, who re-enacts with the 6th Ohio Volunteer Infantry, carried a reproduction flag of the 10th Ohio, the unit in which his great-great grandfather, Sgt. Michael O'Brien, served. 

"It touched my heart," Reckner, 53, said of his company commander's decision to let him perform the role during honor guard duties at the Chickamauga ceremony.

O'Brien's service with the 10th included the battles of Perryville and Resaca. According to pension records, he was believed to have contracted chronic bronchitis at Resaca. He died of complications in 1893.

Anthony Hodges of Friends of the Park

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