Experts in for park restoration effort|[5/10/06]

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, May 10, 2006

A Maryland group is paying to preserve a Vicksburg National Military Park monument to a Civil War officer killed near here 143 years ago Tuesday.

As a side benefit, the $5,000 grant from the Maryland Military Monuments Commission is also helping train staff for future maintenance.

The statue of Maryland native and Confederate Brig. Gen. Lloyd Tilghman is one of the more dramatic in the battlefield. It is also nearing an anniversary, having been erected 80 years ago Friday.

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The experts on the rewaxing job are Dr. Dennis Montagna of the National Park Service’s regional office in Philadelphia, Pa., and conservator Ronald S. Harvey of Tuckerbrook Conservation in Lincolnville, Maine.

Montagna said he’s an art historian by training and that he got the idea for the project while visiting the VNMP several years ago.

Tilghman, depicted standing with his arms spread in front of his rearing horse, died when struck by cannon fire in the Battle of Champion’s Hill, a pivotal battle in the Vicksburg campaign fought near Raymond.

The Maryland Military Monuments Commission has been in operation about 15 years and its mission is to preserve or restore military monuments to Marylanders &#8220wherever you may find them,” Montagna said.

The project began Monday and was expected to be complete by Friday.

VNMP employees Garry Lee and Bendel White were doing most of the waxing as they were being trained in the technique by the experts. The technique can be applied to other monuments and plaques in the park, Montagna said.

&#8220There’s so much bronze here,” Montagna said.

If such waxing is not done by park maintenance staffs it must be done by outside firms and is &#8220prohibitively expensive,” Harvey said.

In the process, two coats of the same kind of wax are applied, the first using a propane torch and small brush and the second with wax applied cold and flame-polished.

The workers had applied most of the base coat Tuesday.

&#8220From here on out it’s just keeping an eye on it – just touch-up,” Montagna said of at least the next several years.

To wax the entire statue and base would take about three to four quarts of wax, Harvey said. The wax melts at an average of about 175 degrees, he added.

VNMP was established by Congress in 1899 to commemorate the 1863 Vicksburg campaign. The campaign included battles in west-central Mississippi at Port Gibson, Raymond, Jackson, Champion’s Hill, Big Black River and 47 days of Union siege operations against Confederate forces defending the city of Vicksburg until the city fell on July 4.