As mentioned back in September, the State of Mississippi dedicated a state monument at Shiloh National Military Park on October 10, 2015. This southern monument has been long in the works. The efforts of the Mississippi Veterans Monument Commission was not the first time that there was interest in erecting a monument to these brave soldiers.
By 1900, most of the union states had either already erected a monument or were in the process of creating one. The South still struggled to honor their soldiers on the Shiloh battlefield. In 1903, Bates’ 2nd Tennessee erected a monument through private funding and the United Daughters of the Confederacy in Alabama were busy working to raise funds to honor the Alabama troops. In 1913, a Mississippi state representative received a letter from Josiah Patterson requesting him to recommend a legislative bill authorizing $10,000 for a monument on the Shiloh battlefield. The Senator explained that that upcoming session was a limited 30 day special session that would see matters of the “utmost importance claim the attention of the body.” The senator reassured Patterson that some future legislature would make a suitable request. This did not happen.
In 1914, the park commission dissolved and DeLong Rice was appointed as the park’s first superintendent. Rice eagerly accepted the job and immediately began inviting states without memorials to erect one upon the battlefield. Wishing to see men from both sides honored, he began writing to the state governors. In a semi-form letter that Rice sent to southern state governor’s and legislatures he wrote that the “men who struggled on this field are our heroes- come her and build monuments in their glory, whether they wore the blue or the grey.” He did not receive positive responses from most of the former Confederate states. Mississippi governor, Earl Brewer, told Rice that he wished the superintendent’s letter had come sooner so that he could have forcefully called attention to the need for a monument.” Grimly, the governor informed Rice that as it was the state was faced with scant resources and growing expenditures. The prospects for a Mississippi state monument did not look promising.
Rice was determined to see all those who fought in the bloody battle be honored. He continued throughout his term as superintendent to write to the state governors and legislatures. In 1916, Rice wrote to the new Mississippi Governor Theodore Bilbo acknowledging that most southern states had not erected monuments and that he understood their economic struggle. However, the park superintendent made a plea to Bilbo stating that, “in the great composite southern heart is undying love for the soldiers of the sixties. The pinch of poverty has played its part in their delay, but your state is no longer poor, and the brave Mississippians who fought here deserve a monument at the hands of your people.”(DeLong Rice to Theodore Bilbo, Feb. 19, 1916, SNMP files) Bilbo took time to answer Rice noting that he had spoken with the women of the UDC and they had some interest, but as governor he was overrun with legislative matters and could not get behind this movement.(Bilbo to Rice, March 9, 1916 SNMP files)
The determined superintendent still did not give up hope for a Mississippi monument. He sent a circular to the members of the state legislature proposing a bill for a monument. One senator wrote back to inform Rice that efforts were made but only two members of the committee recommended his bill. Every senator but two voted for it, but it never reached the house for consideration. Efforts to erect a monument to brave men of Mississippi ended in 1929 with Rice’s early death. It would not be until the early 1990’s that a renewed effort, this time fueled by citizens of Mississippi, would be launched.