Kentucky State Monument at Chickamauga National Military Park

In 1890, when Henry V. Boynton and Ferdinand Van Derveer began contemplating the idea of preserving the Chickamauga battlefield, they wanted it to honor soldiers of both sides of the conflict and perhaps even demonstrate reconciliation between the North and South. In September 1895, they realized their dream of a battlefield park at Chickamauga and Chattanooga. Most of the monuments dedicated that month and first year were Union states.

Southern states, lacking funds, trailed behind in erecting monuments. By the turn of the century,  only two border state had completed and dedicated monuments. For Maryland and Kentucky erecting a monument on the battlefield was a delicate ordeal. These states had soldiers fighting for both sides during the conflict. During reconstruction, these states struggled to find peace among its citizens.   In 1898, the state of Kentucky began the work of constructing a monument in honor of the soldiers who served at Chickamauga. The state had formed a commission in 1893, to locate battle positions, but the task of erecting a monument lingered for several years.

With their design submission, the Kentucky commission explained that it was the state’s intention to honor both sides and to try not to offend either one.  Most of the monuments on the battlefield celebrated the heroism of the soldiers with a granite soldier ready for battle or carrying the flag. Kentucky chose to forgo the classic soldier. The state commissioners worried that the image may offend one side or the other.  This may seem harmless, but one must consider that most of the soldier statutes were realistic in their portrayal of a confederate or union soldier. This would have left Kentucky having to make choice- North or South? Instead of the soldier, Kentucky chose the image of Bellona, the Roman goddess of War. They placed her upon a round sphere with four cannons pointing out in four different directions. On top of the shaft, she held her sword high in the air.

Bellona, the Roman Goddess of War stands on top of the Kentucky monument at Chickamauga.

Bellona, the Roman Goddess of War stands on top of the Kentucky monument at Chickamauga.

On the four corners of the capstone, the commission place roaring tiger heads. These symbolized battle as well. An American and a Confederate flag with an eagle’s wings spread over both flags, thus symbolizing unity decorated the sides of the capstone. One side of the monument featured a confederate shield and the opposite a union shield.

Rampant tiger head on the Kentucky monument.

Rampant tiger head on the Kentucky monument.

Plaster model of the capstone for the Kentucky monument featuring an eagle with spread wings over flags from both sides.

Plaster model of the capstone for the Kentucky monument featuring an eagle with spread wings over flags from both sides.

To further capture the idea of reconciliation and unity the commission included a seal with two sides shaking hands. The monument features some of the most moving inscriptions on the battlefield. It is monument well worth a stopping and admiring. One of the best Inscriptions on the side are the words,

“As we unite in life and , they united in death, let one monument perpetuate their deeds, and one people forgetful of all asperitives, forever hold in grateful rememberance all of the glories of the terrible conflict which made all men free and retained every star on the nation’s flag.”

Seal on the Kentucky state monument at Chickamauga

Seal on the Kentucky state monument at Chickamauga

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