Tuesday, July 6, 2010
Stone Mountain Carving
The Confederate Memorial Carving on the face of Stone Mountain is one of the largest bas relief sculptures in the world and depicts three Confederate leaders of the War Between the States, President Jefferson Davis and Generals Robert E. Lee and Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson. They are riding their favorite horses, Blackjack, Traveller, and Little Sorrel. The entire carved surface measures 3 acres, a little larger than a football field. The carving rises about 400 feet above the ground and is recessed 42 feet into the mountain. I took this picture while my grandson and I were standing near the fountain located directly under the carving.
The idea for the carving on the face of Stone Mountain was first brought up by Helen Plane, a Confederate widow whose husband had fought with General Robert E. Lee during the War Between the States and had died at the Battle of Gettysburg. Mrs. Plane was president of both the Atlanta chapter and the national organization of the United Daughters of the Confederacy. Plane felt it was their duty to preserve the memory of the Confederacy and honor its leaders. She conceived the idea of honoring the late General Robert E. Lee with a carving on the largest piece of exposed granite in the world, Stone Mountain. In 1914, the idea took off with a few powerful endorsements in local newspapers and artist Gutzon Borglum was contacted by Mrs. Plane in June 1915. Borglum visited Stone Mountain and originally envisioned a much larger carving. The $8 million cost proved too much for the United Daughters of the Confederacy and they eventually approved spending $250,000 for Borglum to complete the central figures. Not much work had been done by the time the United States entered World War I in 1917 and problems continued after the war resulting in the original artist being fired. A new artist, Augustus Lukeman, was hired in 1925. He began work the following year, but in 1928, disagreements with the owner of Stone Mountain surfaced resulting in another halt to work on the carving. The carving sat uncompleted for the next 35 years. As early as 1940, the state of Georgia expressed an interest in acquiring Stone Mountain, but the process was not completed until 1960. In 1963, men once again scaled the half-completed mountain to prepare for carving. Actual carving began on July 11, 1964 and by the following Thanksgiving, the canvas tarp over the carving was removed, exposing the work to date. The unveiling had not been announced, but word quickly spread that the carving was visible and crowds began to flock to the mountain. Vice President Spiro Agnew attended the dedication of the carving of Stone Mountain on May 9, 1970. The carving was officially declared complete in 1972.