Monday, July 1, 2013

Cannonball pyramid will rise again at Chickamauga battlefield

Lytle Monument today ... (SUVCW)
Imagine one of the ancient pyramids of Egypt reduced to only its bottom level of stones. Kind of loses its visual impact, right?

That’s what happened over time to one of eight monuments – built with about 320 cannonballs – that honor senior officers killed at the Battle of Chickamauga in northwest Georgia in September 1863.

Ohio Brig. Gen. William H. Lytle, known as the “poet warrior,” fell during a failed counterattack on Sept. 20, 1863. 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.

... Back in its glory days (SUVCW)
This Sept. 20, 150 years to the day after Lytle fell, the fully restored Lytle Monument will be rededicated during a ceremony at Chickamauga & Chattanooga National Military Park.

Groups that supported the restoration and, possibly, Lytle descendants will join park and local dignitaries for the formal observance of the 150th anniversary of the battle, which ended in Confederate victory.

A separate Battle of Chickamauga re-enactment, set for Sept. 19-22 and sponsored by the Blue Gray Alliance, will be held in Walker County, Ga.

The monument project has proven a challenge for park staff, said Jim Szyjkowski, chief resource manager.

Fund-raising led by the Friends of the Park and the General William H. Lytle Camp #10 of the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War, totaling about $65,000, was critical to moving the project forward. “Typically, you cannot do something like this with a park budget. You have to go outside,” said Szyjkowski.

Officials had to consult old plans for the cannonball pyramids and find a welder and manufacturer who could faithfully duplicate the work.

Brig. Gen.W.H. Lytle
“It is exciting because it has been a different kind of project the park has taken on. It is great to see it restored to its onetime grandeur,” Szyjkowski told the Picket.

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

The exact number of original cannonballs is either 317, by Szyjkowski’s count, or 323. Only 120 of the original shells remain.

Szyjkowski said the pyramid monuments at Chickamauga recognize four Union and four Confederate mortally wounded officers.

They have a mortar skeleton, meaning they are not entirely made of artillery shells.

“All of them were victims of vandalism,” he said.

The Lyle Monument was eventually reconfigured to one level.

The restored monument – back to its original height -- will be made of reproduction 8-inch shells produced by a local foundry. The old shells will be stored for possible future use.

Szyjkowski said his staff is working from original monument plans designed by park engineer Edward E. Betts.

Original plans for Chickamauga pyramid monuments (NPS)
Kerry Langdon, a Cincinnati Realtor and past commander of the Lytle SUVCW camp, is thankful the park has improved maintenance around the monument -- which is a bit off the beaten track -- northeast of the towering Wilder Brigade Monument.

A few years back, Langdon and his wife, Wanda, contacted the Friends of the Park to help further along the restoration project to honor a “brave soldier” who Langdon said should be considered for a posthumous Medal of Honor.

In 1895, Chickamauga was the first of the four original federal Civil War sites to open, a testament to the desire of veterans of both sides to see a lasting symbol of the bloody clash.

“We are now on the same side and working together and we love this country,” said Kerry Langdon, who visited the federal cemetery at Chattanooga, Tennessee, when he was a small boy. “It is a good example of how forgiving both sides were after the war and we are united.”

One of the intact pyramid monuments (NPS)
The Friends of the Park, formed in 1986, supports educational programming and restoration and preservation projects.

“We are having huge success in working with individuals and corporations for the 150th,” said executive director Patrice Glass.

The Friends, which operates the Jewell Memorial Restoration Fund, is helping governments and the National Park Service with 150th anniversary events, including a Chattanooga Symphony Orchestra concert at the battlefield on Sept. 21.

An emphasis this year has been the Lytle Monument.

“It is the first monument to be completely restored through the fund-raising of the Friends and other organizations,” said Glass.

The Sept. 20 Lytle rededication ceremony will recall the sacrifice of soldiers and others for the entire battle.

National Park Service
“That is the moment where we will stop and pause and will say here is what happened here and the significance,” said Glass. “This is where reunification happened. … Those veterans said we need to mark this and we need to remember it.”

Other sesquicentennial events that week at Chickamauga include ranger-led programs and the Civil War timeline, at which living historians "will propel visitors through North Georgia between 1861 and 1864."

Kerry Langdon said about 25 members of the Cincinnati SUVCW will be at Chickamauga for the rededication.

“The ceremony is going to be based on a Grand Army of the Republic ceremony back when monuments were first being up,” said Wanda Langdon.

Her husband will be one of the speakers, and will make note of Lytle’s poetry skills and military leadership.

“We feel it is our duty and privilege to honor the honorable,” Kerry Langdon said. “We will be moved, likely to tears, that this monument, through (the work of) so many, has been fully restored.”

COMING SOON: A closer look at Lytle’s life and his poetry.

1 comment:

  1. Great story. One of the brave Union soldiers killed at the top of the same hill was Cpl. Silas Parsons, with Co A 24th Wisconsin Infantry, who charged the hill with the 36th Illinois on their left and the 21st Michigan on their right. A letter home by his cousin reveals "Poor Silas! one of the bravest of the
    brave"-much esteemed by the whole company and by all that knew him, was one of the first to fall.-Scare more than two musket lengths from the rebels, he was dealing out to them pills they did not much admire, when he received a shot square through the neck, and fell without a word. - He then stretched forth his hands and said "come and take me away." - Two boys immediately stepped out and brought him back to the rear of the company, where at my command they lay him down. -- I cheered him as well as I could, placed his blanket under his head and his canteen in his hands, so he could use it. Seeing he was done for,I asked him if he had anything to say. He said, "No, my actions will tell all." He appeared to be in no pain, and bled very little, was very calm, and his right hand was fingering the gravel where he lay."
    Such was the bravery and sacrifice of the many thousands who lost their lives that day. May they rest in Peace.