“Let us then make this monument a symbol of not of Southern heritage alone. Let us dedicate it to American heritage, past and present. Let us resolve at this time and place to look to this symbol and renew the American faith. We are one people. We are one nation. Let us stand together today united by the strength that can come from conflicts in the past…and determine through the oneness of national purpose to build an ever greater America for the future.” – Senator Herman E. Talmadge, Chairman of the Advisory Committee on the Stone Mountain Dedication (Excerpt from Speech given on May 9, 1970)
On April 2, 2016, the 15th Annual National Confederate Memorial Service held at Stone Mountain Park, was blessed with picture perfect weather. Several hundred people from across America came to pay their respects for not only the majestic carving but also to honor the largest bas-relief sculpture in the world. The event took place below the colossal figures of Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee and Thomas Jonathon Jackson; just in front of the pond. Any equine lovers would readily recognize their famed horses in the bas-relief. They were Blackjack, Traveller and Little Sorrel.
The memorial service began by a cannonade, welcome by O. David Denard (Commander of Georgia Society Military Order of the Stars and Bars), invocation by Bill Wynn (Chaplain of William E. Simmons SCV Camp #96), presentation of the colors (Captain Dennis Cook commanding), Pledge of Allegiance, pledge to Georgia State Flag and Salute to the Confederate Flag by Colonel Rick Daniel of the Old Gate City Guard. O. David Denard recognized the guests, greetings was offered by Dorothy Partridge (Agnes Lee Chapter 434), Colonel Kevin Stone (National SCV Mechanized Cavalry) and Colonel John Dietrichs (Commandant of the Old Guard of the Gate City Guard). Thomas Strain, Lt. Commander of the National Sons of Confederate Veterans, gave a brief speech, followed by the benediction (Bill Wynn), Amazing Grace (Performed on the bag pipes), a cannon and rifle salute (Commander Leonard Draper and Dennis Cook respectively) and taps by Steve Cook (Mechanized Cavalry). It was announced that the 16th annual memorial service would be held on April 1, 2017, at 1 p.m.
After the singing of Dixie, the personas of President Davis, General Lee, General Jackson and General Stuart met and greeted several hundred people. They posed for pictures and shared with the visitors the importance of history, heritage and preserving our American legacy for the rising generation. They posed with people from India, Netherlands, Japan, Mexico, Argentina, Africa, and other nationalities to name a few. The crowd was very receptive and respectful of the occasion.
The concept for the massive engraving on Stone Mountain was conceived by Mrs. C. Helen Plane. Upon sharing the idea with her sisters of the United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC), they approached the Venable Brothers, owners of Stone Mountain. The brothers deeded the north face of the mountainside to the UDC in 1916. The ladies in turn hired Gutzon Borglum (Of Mount Rushmore and Crazy Horse monuments fame) to do the relief. Work continued on the world’s largest relief by Augustus Lukeman, Walker Hancock and Roy Faulkner. The monument was purchased by the state of Georgia in 1964. It was considered officially finished on March 3, 1972. Because of the famous artists, the mountain engravings are considered to be historic art.
The carvings are majestic in proportion. The surface of the bas-reliefs measures 1.57 acres or approximately the size of two football fields. It measures seventy six by one hundred fifty eight feet and towers over the countryside at four hundred feet. Robert E. Lee’s right elbow is indented twelve feet into the mountain. To get a mental image of its enormous size, one of the participants of the event shared that his mother used to picnic on the shoulder of Robert E. Lee when they had a walkway up to the monument.
Stone Mountain is the largest exposed granite face in America and is a national treasure, offering a variety of activities to the visitors that frequent the 825 foot granite rock. It is a place of peace and tranquility offering the passerby a reflection of the past, family entertainment for the present and hope for the future. For more information about the various activities at Stone Mountain, visit their official website at http://www.stonemountainpark.com/ or contact them at 1000 Robert E. Lee Blvd, Stone Mountain, Georgia, 30083. (800-401-2407).
-By David Chaltas