Virginia State Memorial, Bronze sculpture by
F. William Sievers
Located along West Confederate Ave. (see Google map link at bottom of page)
(hover over the lower right corner of photo and a magnifying glass icon will appear. Click on the icon to enlarge the photo)
Virginia State Memorial
June 8, 1917
Sculptor of bronze work:
F. William Sievers
Bronze casting: Tiffany Studios,
Van Armringe Co.
The idea of a monument at Gettysburg to honor the men of Virginia that fought at Gettysburg was first addressed on January 8, 1908. Governor Swanson at the occasion of a meeting with the General Assembly would mention “A more glorious exhibition of disciplined valor has never been witnessed than that shown by the Virginia troops at the Battle of Gettysburg. The heroic achievements of our troops in that fierce battle have given to this Commonwealth a fame that is immortal, a luster that is imperishable. I recommend that an appropriation be made to erect on this battlefield a suitable monument to commemorate the glory and heroism of the Virginia troops.”
With these words work began to secure a design and a sculptor that could turn these “heroic achievements” into granite and bronze. On March 15, 1910 a contract was secured with sculptor F. William Sievers and he would toil for over six years to create the bronze works on the monument. In 1914 the group of figures about the base was completed in plaster, put on public exhibition for one day and sent to the foundry. It would later be placed on the granite pedestal already in place.
The equestrian statue of General Robert E. Lee mounted on Traveler would be completed in the spring of 1916. Delays in the transportation of the plaster cast made its completion so late in the year the dedication was delayed until 1917.
Many visitors are not aware that the Van Armringe Co. would construct the granite pedestal and it would be dedicated June 30, 1913 during the 50th reunion of the battle of Gettysburg.
Virginia Memorial Dedication Day June 8, 1917 as viewed from the speakers platform. (the platform was located where the current parking area is located today) Cadets from the Virginia Military Institute can be seen in the foreground.
Then Governor of Virginia Henry Carter Stuart would comment during the dedication of the memorial "It is fitting that we erect here this noble effigy of our great Captain surrounded by the memorials of men who fought and fell fifty four years ago. This imperishable bronze shall outlive our own and other generations. We who stand here today shall pass into the beyond, leaving what legacies we may of duty done or ideals sustained; moon and stars shall shine upon his face of incomparable majesty; the dawn shall gild it with splendor of sunrise; the evening shadows shall enfold it in their gentle embrace; and until the eternal morning of the final re-union of quick and dead, the life of Robert Edward Lee shall be a message to thrill and uplift the heart of all mankind."
The week of the dedication saw the United Confederate Veterans holding a reunion in Washington D.C. as this original program from the event indicates.
Noted on the event program, trains were arranged to bring veterans to Gettysburg to view the dedication of the Virginia Memorial on June 8.
Sculptor F. William Sievers
(1872 - 1966)
One of the challenges faced by Sievers was he had to sculpt not a monument to a victorious army and its leader, but a defeated army. So this grand memorial was dedicated to the valor of Virginians and their tenacity for a cause they believed in. And General Lee, atop the monument, is shown as many of us remember him as a man of great poise and dignity.
Sievers superb sculpting abilities can be seen on both of the bronze sculptures. The bronze of Lee and Traveler atop the monument is considered one of the finest ever done of the General. The seven bronze figures at the base of the monument have more details than any other monument on the battlefield. It is a pure work of art as it also captures the common soldier, the man in the fight as he stands side by side with those fighting for a common cause.
The clay model of Lee completed by Sievers, depicts Lee as a calm but confident leader.
On January 16, 1945 the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported on an interview done with the sculptor. Sievers commented: "To interpret properly any man, hero or otherwise you have to understand the character of the man, much like an actor interpreting the role of the person he is to portray."
Seivers indicated that he had always read everything he could find on the man he is to model long before he attempted to express the man's character through the medium of clay.
The state of Virginia made a statement that they demanded the finest for their memorial as both bronze statues were cast by Tiffany Studios in New York.
A warning from nearly 100 years ago!
As one can see by the above photograph the sword blade is gone. Vandalism is present at many battlefield parks. Thats why visitors should never climb monuments, cannon and stone walls on the battlefield.
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