Jim Burgess is the Museum Specialist at Manassas National Battlefield Park, and he is one of the many folks I’ve come across in the NPS who goes the extra mile to help out strangers. I was put in contact with Jim by John Hennessy down in Fredericksburg after asking John about a relatively obscure listing in his order of battle for BR1, and together I think Jim and I solved something of a mystery while uncovering another, but more on that in a later post. I sent Jim a note on Monday asking if he had any info on the dedication of the Jackson monument on the battlefield and, as I knew he would, he came through for me yesterday. The following summary of how the monument came to be has been gleaned from the information Jim sent me and from the e-book “Battling for Manassas” by Joan Zenzen.
At the 75th Anniversary reenactment on July 21, 1936, a suggestion was made to erect a monument more suitable than the “poorly lettered” sign then marking the site of Jackson’s line. When the Sons of Confederate Veterans conveyed the Henry Farm to the US government on March 19, 1938, the deed included a condition for the erection of a monument to Jackson by the State of Virginia. Also as part of the negotiations with the SCV, the Park Service pledged to construct what is now the visitor’s center. These two projects effectively established the national park.
In 1939, the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (after the usual wrangling with a national arts commission) chose Joseph P. Pollia (1894-1954) to sculpt the Jackson statue. Pollia was Italian born but trained in Boston, and had previously sculpted a memorial on San Juan Hill in Cuba and a statue of Phil Sheridan. An early model of the statue was criticized by Confederate organizations because they felt the features of the rider more closely resembled US Grant, and that the horse looked more like a plow horse than a prize mount (that is, more like Little Sorrel than Cincinnati?). Pollia changed his design.
After casting at the Bedy-Rassi Foundry in New York City, the statue was trucked to the park where it arrived on July 14, 1940. The State of Virginia appropriated $25,000 for the artwork and paid $22,500 to Pollia. On August 31, 1940, more than 1,500 people gathered for the dedication, and were reminded by Douglas Southall Freeman in his keynote speech that “Jackson’s use of discipline and vigorous training…would serve current military commanders well.”
Even though I am a thoroughly unreconstructed Union man, I’ve loved this monument from the day I first laid eyes on it. It reminded me of so many of the drawings in the Stan Lee Marvel Comics of my youth – this Jackson is impossibly muscular, like The Incredible Hulk. In fact, this Jackson achieved a state of muscular development not seen in real live human beings until the mid 1980′s. The dude is ripped! And so is his horse (supposed to be “Little Sorrell” – not likely). Striated glutes! The horse has striated glutes! Jackson’s diamond shaped calves are easily discernible through his heavy leather riding boots. And his chest! (See the banner at the top of this page.) Obviously ‘ol Blue Light spent his down time at Harper’s Ferry that spring doing lots of bench presses from various angles, dumbbell flys, and cable crossovers. But I suspect he (and Little Sorrel) had some help. And on my last visit to the park, I found something that comfirmed my suspicion.
On the west side fo the monument’s black granite base are etched the immortal (if possibly ambiguous) words of Brigadier General Barnard Bee, uttered before his mortal wounding: “There Stands Jackson Like a Stone Wall.” Everyone can see these words. They face the visitor’s center. Fewer folks walk to the east side of the monument, and fewer still stoop low enough to read the small inscription nearly at ground level:
“Saved the day for the Confederacy in 1861, also hit 78 home runs with 207 RBI in a secession shortened season.”
And at the end of the inscription, in a brighter etching obviously made recently: