It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.
Ashe County Veterans History Project: North Carolina Confederate Women’s Monument
West panel: Soldiers return home following the war’s end. Depictions on these paired panels—with five of eight soldiers surviving the conflict—approximate the Tarheel State’s Civil War death rate of nearly 35% of its soldiers.
Anson County Confederate women’s monument. Funded by Confederate veteran William Alexander Smith and dedicated September 22, 1934, on the courthouse grounds in Wadesboro. The vase is inscribed “To Our Mothers from Anson Chapter United Daughters of the Confederacy 1934.”
North Carolina Conferate Women's Monument
North Carolina Confederate Women’s Monument
“My Dear Colonel: I have been thinking for a long time that the State would never build a Woman’s Confederate Monument,” veteran Ashley Horne wrote to North Carolina Secretary of State J. Bryan Grimes in December 1911. The successful farmer and businessman, who had earlier sought the Democratic gubernatorial nomination, was frustrated. For eight years, the United Confederate Veterans (UCV) tried to erect a series of memorials—identical monuments on the capitol grounds of each former Confederate state honoring Civil War-era Southern women—but after rejecting more that 70 submissions from prominent sculptors, the bickering men remained far from their commemorative goal.
Horne, who had carried official news of General Robert E. Lee’s surrender at Appomattox to Generals Joseph Johnston and William Sherman in North Carolina, declared to Grimes, “I have decided to build this monument myself,” offering “about ten thousand dollars” if the state would provide a location, “selected with your assistance,” near the capitol. Seven months later, a committee of five men and one woman approved a design submitted by Augustus Lukeman, a Paris-trained sculptor, for North Carolina’s “Memorial to the Women of the Confederacy.”
Aging veterans wished to honor Southern “women of the 60s,” mothers and wives who had cared for sick and wounded soldiers through four years of war, reburied the Confederate dead in “proper” graves with dignified ceremonies following Appomattox, aided infirm veterans, and raised monuments honoring the “men who wore the gray.” These ladies passed their values to daughters and granddaughters, women with no personal recollection of the war or Reconstruction, who then brought physical Confederate memorialization to its zenith early in the 20th century.
In contrast with the Ladies Memorial Associations and United Daughters of the Confederacy, groups which raised hundreds of monuments honoring Southern soldiers, veterans’ efforts to erect a handful of women’s commemorations foundered. Proposals for a common design, even those approved by committee, were ridiculed by the wider UCV membership. One tentatively adopted design—a classically robed woman holding an unsheathed sword in one hand and a furled Confederate flag in the other—was derided as a “brawny Southern Amazon…brandishing an antique sword which she grips by the blade and not by the hilt.” Proposed inscriptions evoked controversy as well. One prominent editorialist denounced the submission’s prominently engraved motto, “Uphold Our States Rights,” as inappropriate since “our women are not in politics.”
Lukeman’s monument, financed by Horne, proceeded smoothly, however, and was unveiled June 10, 1914. The sculpture features an older, plainly dressed woman seated with a large book open across her lap, her right hand holding several pages as if turning them. She appears dignified yet sad as she gazes toward a well-dressed boy kneeling beside her, an eager youth grasping a sheathed sword and looking to the left. Two figures, side-by-side and similarly sized, can create artistic tension. The talented sculptor likely sought this unease, intensified by the figures not looking at each other or at a common point, perhaps each contemplating the war’s legacy differently.
Where—and who—is the third figure which might provide balance and visual harmony? Is it the child’s father? The woman’s husband or son? Is the “missing man” one of the nearly 40,000 North Carolina soldiers who perished during the Civil War, whose name might be inscribed in the book resting on the woman’s lap?
Paired bas-relief side panels and the commemoration’s location are symbolic as well. One bronze plaque, facing east toward the rising sun, features a woman encouraging eight soldiers, young men girding to defend their state and a newly formed nation. One man wields a sword as his spirited steed rears up on its hind legs, an ominous omen as soldiers sculpturally depicted astride rearing mounts generally represent men killed in battle.
On the monument’s opposite side, illuminated by the setting sun, five men and an emaciated, riderless horse return home. One man’s arm rests in a sling, while a once-grand flag has been reduced to a tattered scrap of cloth. Two women meet the survivors; one embraces a returning soldier, the other reaches for a withered corpse cradled in the arms of a comrade.
The pedestal is inscribed “To the North Carolina Women of the Confederacy,” while the back reads, “Presented to the State of North Carolina by Ashley Horne Erected 1914.” The monument’s location, on the south side of Capitol Square, places the sculpted individuals with their backs figuratively and literally turned to the north. Two granite benches, placed on each side of the pedestal by architect Henry Bacon, complete the installation.
Daniel Harvey Hill, Jr., president of the state’s agricultural college (today’s North Carolina State University) and son of a three-star Confederate general, was the dedication’s keynote speaker. He extolled “the spirit, the character, and the deeds of the North Carolina women of the Confederacy,” describing how war-era women “meted out encouragement and help” to a “husband promptly volunteering,” but if enlistment was delayed, she would respond, “I know how to live as the widow of a brave man, but I do not know how to live as the wife of a coward.”
Ashley Horne’s grandson ceremoniously unveiled the monument then Governor Locke Craig accepted it on behalf of North Carolina. But the memorial’s benefactor was not present. The man who, two-and-a-half years earlier, had despaired that a monument to North Carolina’s women of the Confederacy would never be raised, did not live to see his gift dedicated. Ashley Horne died October 22, 1913.