The rambling monument

By the way, if you were surprised when I told you back here that the Confederate monument has not always been in the most prominent location in Columbia, you might be interested to read this excerpt from a column I wrote for July 2, 2000 — the day after the flag moved from the dome to the monument:

Well, here’s a fun fact to know and tell: The state’s official monument to Confederate soldiers was not always in that location. In fact, that isn’t even the original monument.

I had heard this in the past but just read some confirmation of it this past week, in a column written in 1971 by a former State editor. When I called Charles Wickenberg, who is now retired, to ask where he got his facts, he wasn’t sure after all these years. But the folks at the S.C. Department of Archives and History were able to confirm the story for me. It goes like this:

The original monument , in fact, wasn’t even on the State House grounds. It was initially erected on Arsenal Hill, but a problem developed – it was sitting on quicksand. So it was moved to the top of a hill at the entrance of Elmwood cemetery.

The monument finally made it to the State House grounds in 1879. But it didn’t go where it is now. It was placed instead “near the eastern end of the building, about 60 feet from the front wall and 100 feet from the present site,” Mr. Wickenberg wrote.

But another problem developed: The monument kept getting struck by lightning. “The last stroke” hit on June 22, 1882, and demolished the stone figure.

At this point, if I were one of the folks in charge of this monument , I might have started to wonder about the whole enterprise. But folks back then were made of sterner stuff, and they soldiered on, so to speak.

At this point a new base was obtained, with stirring words inscribed upon it, and “a new statue, chiseled in Italy,” placed at the top. On May 9, 1884, the new monument was unveiled and dedicated in the same location in which we find it today.

Of course, my purpose in writing that was to suggest, The thing doesn’t have to stay there! There were, and are, plenty of other places for it — places that seemed quite suitable to the generation that actually experienced the War.

7 thoughts on “The rambling monument

  1. Karen McLeod

    They are welcome to move it to a side section of the State House Grounds, if they choose, so long as it doesn’t appear that the Stars and Bars is the primary flag. It was a part of our history. But something more inclusive, more moral, and more successful, should be front and center.

  2. `Kathryn Fenner

    With metal prices at such a high right now, think of how we could balance the budget by melting down the Confederate monuments, Ben Tillman, etc….

  3. Karen McLeod

    Or, Kathryn, we could auction them off to the highest bidder. I’m sure Glen McConnell and his buddies would be interested. Just think, a Confederate General instead of a “lawn jockey” for your front yard!

  4. Steven Davis

    @Kathryn – Don’t forget those big bronze plates in the African-American monument and the George Washington statue. If you’re going to attempt to erase history you might do a thorough job.

  5. Mark Stewart

    Steven, history is rewritten everyday. Usually, but not always, by the victors. However, at some point the present matters more than what people thought in the past.

    Ben Tillman should absolutely be relocated to some far corner of a Clemson ag school field. Too bad we can’t send off his constitution with him as well.

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