Last state dedicates monument in park

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, October 23, 2001

Sarah Bowers, president of Kentucky’s Vicksburg Monument Association, vice president Daniel Lee, left, and project coordinator Thomas Fugate unveil the Jefferson Davis sculpture at the Kentucky Monument dedication Saturday.(The Vicksburg Post/MELANIE DUNCAN)

[10/21/01]Twenty-seven flags fluttered in a sunny breeze Saturday at the Vicksburg National Military Park as cannons fired over the site where soldiers fought in the 47-day-siege for the city.

As men in blue, wool uniforms of the Union Army played “My Old Kentucky Home,” the one flag that had been missing from the battlefield park for 102 years was presented before about 700 people who had gathered to witness the ceremony for the last state monument to be dedicated here.

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Others in the gray, wool uniforms of the Confederacy presented other flags.

“The sons of Kentucky are honored at last now,” said Kentuckian Sarah Ann Bowers.

Known by many people from her home state as the “women in the hat,” Bowers wore a cobalt blue dress and the matching bonnet that helped earn her the nickname for her constant solicitation of funds to help erect the monument.

She began her quest three years ago after first visiting the national park and discovering that there was no monument for the more than 10,000 Kentucky soldiers who fought here. Bowers since has worked through the state’s Legislature, veterans’ groups and private donations to change that.

“Today, we are here to remember those who fought and died here too long forgotten,” Bowers said as she stood in front of the life-size, bronze statues of Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis draped in blue and gray clothes.

The two men, who were born in Kentucky within 100 miles of each other and less than a year apart, would go on to serve as presidents of the Union and the Confederacy. Just as Lincoln and Davis represented opposite side, many of the Kentucky soldiers who died in Vicksburg fought on opposite sides.

“I always wondered if some of them looked down the barrel of a gun and saw a neighbor or a friend,” said Dr. James Klotter, a Kentucky state historian.

The two statues depict Lincoln and Davis as statesmen with both holding their hats at their sides. While Lincoln holds the lapel of his jacket with his other hand, Davis rests his left hand on the end of the sword at his side.

The statues stand in the center of a brick replica of the Kentucky State Seal with the motto “United We Stand; Divided We Fall.” Behind the statues engraved in a wall are the names of the Kentucky units that fought in Vicksburg and quotes from the presidents.

The original concept for the monument had been for the statues to depict the two presidents as reaching out to shake hands, but Kentucky state Rep. Stephen Nunn, who co-sponsored funding from the state, said the design was changed because many people felt it was unrealistic.

“Some would have preferred them standing back-to-back, pistols raised, ready for 10 paces,” Nunn said. “Many of them are here today.”

Kentucky became the last of the 28 states with citizens participating in the siege to place a monument when Bowers, Nunn and others who helped get the monument built pulled off the cloths that covered the statues.

“The Kentucky monument will be here in perpetuity to remind people of the sacrifices of the people of the Blue Grass State,” said park superintendent Bill Nichols who accepted the monument on behalf of the park service.

For her part in building the monument, Bowers was recognized by Kentucky and Vicksburg.

Kentucky’s adjutant general, Brig. Gen. D. Allen Youngman, presented her with the Distinguished Service Medal from Kentucky Gov. Paul Patton. And Vicksburg Mayor Laurence Leyens presented Bowers with a key to the city and a proclamation from the city board.

The monument is near Fort Garrott, on a site designated for Kentucky when the park was created by Congress in 1899. It is on the South Loop, which is across Clay Street from the park entrance.

There is no access road leading directly to the monument, which is accessible only on foot, an oversight mentioned by some of the speakers at the ceremony.

“We’re still working on that,” said Kentucky State Rep. Barbara Colter, who co-sponsored the funding for the monument with Nunn.

Kentucky provided $250,000 for the monument and the dedication events Friday and Saturday. Private donations raised by Bowers and the Vicksburg Monument Association netted an additional $19,000.