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Carved in Stone The History of Stone Mountain By David B. Freeman Mercer University Press, 1997 200 pp. Cloth, $32.95 Reviewed by John M. Coski, historian at the Museum of the Confederacy in Richmond, Virginia. Coski is the author of CapitalNavy: The Men, Ships, and Operations oftheJames River Squadron and contributed to A Woman's War: Southern Women, Civil War, and the Confederate Legacy. He has written and lectured widely on die Confederate memorial period and on the history and symbolism of the Confederate battle flag, including a photo essay for Southern Cultures. A heroic monument to the Confederacy first envisioned in 1914 and finally dedicated in 1970 presents an ideal opportunity to explore the Lost Cause in twentiethcentury America. Inexplicably, freelance historian David B. Freeman fails to seize this opportunity in his history of Stone Mountain, Georgia. Instead, Carvedin Stone is a minimally interpretive narrative history ofthe granite monolith, the village, and the memorial known as Stone Mountain. The author 's purpose is to write a definitive history -"to set the record straight"—about the often controversial mountain. Based on research in official records and newspaper accounts and featuring fifty full-page black-and-white photographs, Carved in Stone fulfills the author's documentary purpose, but it only hints at the mountain 's significance for the study of southern cultures. Rising 800 feet above the surrounding north-central Georgia hills, Stone Mountain was a landmark for Native Americans and European setders, a resort, and a source ofbuilding stone before it assumed its place as the "Southern Mount Rushmore." The mountain's vertical north face virtually begged for a monumental sculpture, and it was Helen C. Plane, an eighty-year-old widow ofa Confederate soldier and an active member of the United Daughters of the Confederacy (udc), who proposed transforming it into a monument that would oudast all the others dedicated to Confederate heroes. The saga ofStone Mountain was epic in direct proportion to the ambitions of its visionaries. Sculptor John Gutzon de la Mothe Borglum captured the imagination of the udc sponsors with a proposed relief sculpture of nearly 1,000 figures featuring the only three figures to be started or completed: PresidentJefferson Davis and generals Robert E. Lee and Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson. 102 Reviews Complementing the colossal relief sculpture was a grand colonnaded memorial hall hewn out of the mountain's base. Typical ofmany Confederate memorial projects, Stone Mountain was delayed by financial problems and organizational schisms. Compounding these was the ultimately fatal rift between the stubborn Borglum and Hollins Randolph, the powerful president ofthe Stone Mountain Confederate Monumental Association (smcma). Before being fired and becoming persona non grata in Georgia in early 1925, Borglum and his crew finished the figure of Lee, which was unveiled with great fanfare on 19 January 1923 (which Freeman erroneously identifies as the general 's centennial birthday). In March 1928 Borglum's Lee was blown from the mountain, replaced with the work of another sculptor, Augustus Lukeman, unveiled on 9 April 1928. Lukeman's work remained unfinished and virtually untouched for thirty-five years as the smcma went down in a blaze oforganizational and financial ignominy. Only when the state of Georgia took over the project and the property in the late 195os was the monument completed by yet another sculptor, and Stone Mountain became an enormous success—as a popular amusement park. The story told here is an engaging one. Carving even three equestrian figures into a sheer rock face was a complex challenge, and Freeman relates clearly how Borglum and his successors met the challenge. Carvedin Stoneis a story oftechnical achievement amid often comical organizational chaos. Freeman is not oblivious to Stone Mountain's wider social and cultural ramifications . The monument project was born almost simultaneously with the release ofD.W. Griffith's film Birth ofa Nation and the revival ofthe Ku Klux Klan (???) at a ceremony held on Stone Mountain. The mountain's owner, Sam Venable, was a Klan activist; the principal figures in the project, including Gutzon Borglum, became members; and Helen Plane suggested adding figures of 1 860s klansmen to the sculpture. Contrary to contemporary belief, however, Freeman asserts that the monument was not a...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1534-1488
Print ISSN
1068-8218
Pages
pp. 102-104
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-04
Open Access
No
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