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« Troublemaker says so long | Main | Influencing the influencers »

Dec 07, 2005


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I saw the the photographs in the N&R today of the Pearl Harbor attack and could only imagine what those soldiers went throught that day. My hats off to the ones who fought that day and are still living! They must all be in their 80's now and will not be around much longer.


Ed, there are some surface similarities between your man Greene and Grant, but they are products of very different eras. In a talk I heard a few years ago, published here, Dennis Montagna puts some fascinating context onto the Grant memorial: By 1903 the country had had enough of peaceful-looking civil war soldiers. It was time to look warlike again.

Writes Montagna, "During the years that immediately followed the Civil War, many Americans had embraced a progressive doctrine, suggesting that as a culture reached a higher level of civilization, the barbarity of warfare would become anachronistic. They reasoned that the increasingly complex social organizations of production and commerce would lead to the dominance of the rational modern man who would be able to solve disputes peacefully. By the end of the century, however, a competing view challenged this optimistic one. Many worried that modern culture would become overcivilized. They feared that the disappearance of a warrior mentality would render the nation helpless to defend itself should that need arise, and that increasing cosmopolitanism would lead to national impotence. . . ."

The Slate photo-essay is interesting also for the way the author criticizes modern memorials for seeming like museum exhibitions. U. Va. professor Dell Upton has a theory: The contemporary U.S. is more pluralistic than it was during the days of a Greene or a Grant memorial. More voices have a chance of being heard. Consequently there is less control of the message, which leads to a stronger compulsion to control it. That, he believes, is "why contemporary monuments talk so much."


On second thought, though Greene and Grant were themselves of different eras--different wars and all that--the Greene statue is of the same era as the Grant. They both came out of an early 20th c. frenzy of monument-building. Grant's was part of a larger effort to reposition the memory of the Civil War, to put its heroes (military leaders and common soldiers) on par with the heroes of the Revolutionary War, part of a larger movement of national reconciliation. So despite the differences in their actual places in history, there is a kind of sameness to them. They're both symbols of American military pride and resolve. Catherine Bishir has written interestingly about this monumental era in North Carolina.


1975'ish I did a Boy Scout cleanup project around that monument... I always like stopping in there when I cut through town.

Powerful indeed.


In the manoeuvering that preceded it, in the strategy that compelled it, in the heroism that signalized it, and in the results that flowed from it, the Battle of Guilford Court House is second to no battle fought on American soil...

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