Monday, October 01, 2018

Welcome to the jungle: Battle of Nashville monument 'remains'

Obscured by trees and brush, the pedestal of the original Battle of Nashville Peace Monument.
(CLICK ON ALL IMAGES TO ENLARGE.)

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On Armistice Day, Nov. 11, 1927, nearly 500 people gathered on a knoll four miles from downtown Nashville for the dedication of the Battle of Nashville Peace Monument. It was a grand scene with all the trappings one would expect for a patriotic occasion: speeches from politicians, an army band, and a woman singing Taps to the accompaniment of a bugler.

Wearing their tattered army uniforms, a few Confederate veterans, certainly in their mid-80s to early 90s, were spotted. "Bowed gray heads paid tribute to the valor of the heroes of the North as well as those of the South in whose honor the monument is built on the battlefield," the Nashville Tennessean reported the next day.

The original Battle of Nashville monument was dedicated on Nov. 11, 1927.
Notably, the monument did not include weapons of war -- no cannonballs, artillery shells, swords or muskets. Instead, the 40-foot obelisk -- which included a massive bronze sculpture of horses and a glorified figure of youth -- was topped with a statue of an angel. "I love this monument," noted its creator, Italian emigre Giuseppe Moretti, in 1926,  "more than any other work that I have done ..."

Nearly 91 years after the dedication, two visitors to the monument site find a much different scene. Yards away,  two residents of an aging apartment complex nearby work on a decrepit car in a small lot. On the knoll where hundreds gathered for the monument dedication on a fall day in 1927, trees and brush now obscure the view beyond.

Wary of their surroundings, the visitors take a circuitous route to the top of the knoll, eluding briars, spider webs, trash and who knows what else along the way. A steady roar of traffic on Franklin Road proves unnerving. Then huge blocks of marble, framed by leaves and brush, appear in a small clearing. It's the long-forgotten pedestal of the once-majestic monument to the valor of Billy Yank and Johnny Reb, who fought at Nashville on Dec. 15-16, 1864.

The monument stood defiantly on the site until 1974, when a tornado toppled its obelisk and angel,  destroying them. By the early 1980s, construction of an interstate had made what was left of it a castaway on a tiny island in a sea of development. A second iteration of the monument was dedicated on a new site nearby in 1999.

Fascinated with what remains of Moretti's masterpiece, the amateur historians examine it closely. A strange blue stains the pedestal, likely the result of oxidation of the bronze statuary atop it long ago. Victimized by time and nature, marble blocks are separating. Intrigued, the visitors read inscriptions on the side and reverse of the slabs of stone.

“A monument like this, standing on such memories, having no reference to utilities," a sentence begins, "becomes a sentiment, a poet, a prophet, an orator to every passerby.”

Inscriptions on the side of the weather-beaten pedestal.
A 40-foot obelisk atop this pedestal was toppled by a tornado in 1974.

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SOURCES

-- Nashville Tennessean, Oct. 3, 1926, Nov. 12, 1927.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for bringing this monument and its blight into our consciousness. How sad. It certainly shows a decline in our society's state of everything. Dystopia is with us.

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