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Saturday, August 26, 2017

The Story of The Chester Confederate Soldiers Monument

Chester Confederate Soldiers Monument in downtown Chester, SC.
 
The Story of the Chester Confederate Soldiers Monument
What It Took To Build A Memorial For The Southern Dead 

By: C.W. Roden 

Few people today really understand the personal sacrifices that were made in order to build a Confederate monument after the end of the War Between The States (1861-1865).

Many of the hundreds of Confederate monuments seen in Southern towns today were not erected until decades after the end of the War. This did not mean that Southerners were reluctant to honor those who fought and died for Southern independence, or the defense of their homes from invasion. Far from it. 

Nor were most Confederate monuments erected at the time as a means to put an exclamation point on post-Reconstruction Era Jim Crow laws against racial minorities, as some agenda-based "historians" today would claim.

Much of the Southland had been devastated by four years of terrible fighting and all sections of Dixie faced desperate economic conditions. Negotiable cash was scarce since the Confederate money used by the Southern people was not totally worthless. The money needed to build appropriate monuments to the war dead was hard to come by in a region now so poor that even money for the most essential commodities of everyday living was scarce.  

Even when the economic conditions became better a couple of decades later, the monuments erected represented years of saving, sometimes from donations as small as mere pennies. 

Each Confederate monument has quite a story behind them. A personal story not just about the fallen Confederate dead, or a statue of a Southern officer; but about the pride and the spirit of remembrance of the Southern people who were responsible for their construction. 

A particular interesting story is the erection of the Confederate soldiers monument in this blogger's hometown of Chester, South Carolina. It is a very interesting story about a monument that took nearly forty years to be constructed through the hard work of several people and the spirit of remembrance felt by the citizens of the Chester community, many of whom lost husbands, brothers and sons on battlefields in Virginia, Georgia, Tennessee, and South Carolina's coasts. 

The idea for the monument began the very year the War ended in 1865, when pupils of Miss Ellen Elmore's School undertook an effort to raise funds by putting on theatricals to build a Confederate monument to honor the soldiers who served from the Chester District. However, with very little money available locally and the small amount the students collected was used to mark the graves of Confederate soldiers at nearby Evergreen Cemetery. 

In 1870, the first serious movement to build a monument began by one Miss Mary Ellen McKee, but due to the impoverished conditions and lack of money, this movement likewise failed to raise more than a few dollars. 

In 1890, another Chester woman, Mrs. Maude McLure, took up the task and by a theatrical performance raised $200.00 However, she too became discouraged and later turned the money over to the city for a park. 

The idea of an appropriate monument for the honored Confederate dead did not die though. Ten years later in 1900, Mrs. Julia Killan Campbell, then president of the Chester Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, took up the task. She personally staged and directed another theatrical performance called "Under The Southern Cross" which used local talent and raised $125.00. This was the first money raised in this effort to build a monument. It was slow work to increase the fun and many discouragements were met, but the UDC were dedicated and untiring in their efforts. 

By February 1904, they have $300.00 on interest, and decided to ask the cooperation of the Walker-Gaston Camp United Confederate Veterans. At their March 1904 meeting, the old veterans agreed to help and appointed a committee. The Walker-Gaston Camp raised $372.00. 

The UDC gave many entertainments to raise funds and on January 1, 1905, had in the treasury $416.52.

The committee then decided to make a strenuous effort to build the monument by popular subscription, asking men, women and children of the community to contribute. The response was overwhelmingly positive by the people of Chester. Most of the donations were small -- including pennies donated by children -- and came largely from a poor folks, including African-American citizens. Regardless, the overwhelming support for the building of a monument to the dead. By April 1, 1905 the treasury had a grand total of $2,072.75.

A contract was then made and given to the McNeel Marble Company of Gainsville, Georgia. 

On May 10, 1905, a large crowd gathered for the laying of the cornerstone, one of the largest crowds ever assembled in the town of Chester at the time.

Placed inside the cornerstone were things which symbolized the true diversity of Southern-Confederate heritage. Among the items were:

The roll of honor of the Calhoun Guards; Chester Blues; Chester Guards; Co. L 5th Regiment SC Volunteers; Walker-Gaston Veterans; Co. H 24th SC Volunteers; Co. B 4th Regiment SC Volunteers; Co. A SC Reserves; Co. D 17th Regiment SC Volunteers; and Co. A Lucas Battalion. 
A list of the 6th Regiment Band.
A sketch of the Confederate States of America. 
A box of gun and pistol caps used during the War.
Copies of SC Newspapers: The (Columbia) State, The (Charleston) News & Courier, The Chester Reporter, and The Lantern. 
A manual from the Chester Presbyterian Church.
A sketch of the life and service of Samuel Priocleau Hamilton
A sketch of Confederate Veteran Allen De Grafferreid Kennedy.  
The veterans cards of S.J. Lewis, William Lee Davidson, Colonel E.P. Moore, and J.A. Owen. 
A list of Surgeons and Assistant Surgeons from Chester County.
A sketch of Dr. S.C. Babcock, Confederate Surgeon. 

A copy of The Life of Dr. S.C. Babcock, Confederate Surgeon.
Sketches of "Big Tom" Drummer and John Wilson, two African-Americans who served as cooks in the Calhoun Guards throughout the War.
The roll of the Calhoun Guards' regimental officers. 

A poem dedicated to the Daughters of the Confederacy by Mr. Burr J. Randall. 
A sketch by Lizzie Graham McFadden of work inaugurated by her father, Mr. James Graham and assisted by the ladies of Chester who organized into committee to feed the Confederate soldiers who passed through the town. 
A sketch of William Middleton McDonald Jr.
A letter from Chester Mayor William H. Hardin to the Confederacy with the names and signers of the Ordinance of Secession. 
A letter of thanks to the Daughters of the Confederacy for the work they did building the monument to the soldiers of Chester County signed by the members of the city council. 
The memoirs of Captain William Dunovant sent to Miss Adell Durovant of Houston, Texas. 
A photograph of Edmund Ruffin of Virginia who was said to have fired the first shots at Fort Sumter.  
A yearbook of the Palmetto Book Club. 
A sketch of how Mrs. Margret Hemphill Gaston organized the Memorial Association and helped prepare bandages for wounded soldiers. 


The laying of the cornerstone for the Confederate Soldiers Monument in downtown
Chester was a big event in 1905. People from all over the county including
white and black residents and aged Confederate Veterans gathered, standing
on buggies, sat on balconies, or hung out of windows. Note the block
and tackle near the center of the photograph and the group of
UDC ladies gathered at the center.
(Photograph courtesy of the Chester County Library)


The Chester Confederate Soldiers Monument was unveiled before another large crowd of county residents and Confederate Veterans at 6:30 PM EST on the evening of June 27, 1905. 

The forty foot high obelisk is made of marble and Georgia granite stands today at an intersection in downtown Chester where members of the Calhoun Guards and the Chester Blues (two South Carolina Confederate units) swore their oaths to defend the State of South Carolina in May of 1861. Displayed on the top of the monument are five granite cannon balls, and around all four sides are marble slabs. On two of the slabs are carvings of crossed swords and rifles. On the third slab, facing SC HWY 9, is the main inscription which reads:

This Monument Guards The Memory
Of The Men Of Chester District
Who Obeying The Call Of Their State
Died For The Confederate Cause
1861-1865.
Time May Crumble This Monument To Dust
But Time Cannot Dim Their Glory.
Their Patriotism, Their Valor, Their
Faithfulness And Their Fame Remain
Forever The Heritage Of Their
Countrymen.


Main inscription on the North Side
of the monument.

The inscription on the final slab is a quote made by Judge William A. Brawley, a Chester resident of that time:

"Their Fame Increases
Like The Branches Of A Tree
Through The Modern Courses
Of Time."

Inscription on the South Side
of the monument.


Today the Confederate Soldiers Monument stands in the same spot where it was erected in 1905 along with one of the four refurbished Confederate Parrott Guns discovered buried in 1986. It has stood there over many important events in the history of Chester and through both good and bad Southern history. The stories that monument could tell if it could talk might almost be as exciting as the story of the efforts made to build it, and the men and boys who fought and died that it honors. 

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