14 Apr Veterans memorial statues mark 150th anniversary of end of Civil War

Brazos Valley, Texas has gained two new veterans memorial statues in commemoration of the American Civil War. They depict soldiers on opposing sides, and were unveiled in a ceremony on Thursday attended by about 200 people. Most importantly of all, rather than reminding onlookers of the indignity of slavery, the statues paid tribute to Union and Confederate soldiers’ shared belief in democracy.

The Civil War Memorial Dedication took place at Brazos Valley Veterans Memorial in College Station, and struck a tone of respect for all 3.2 million of the freed men and slaves who fought in support of what historian T. Michael Parish described in his keynote address as a “fundamental devotion to democracy”.

The Baylor University history professor added: “Civil War soldiers understood they acted and performed on behalf of the people. They, along with their commanders, were subordinate to the people’s authority.”

The two life-size bronze veterans memorial statues were created by Navasota artist J. Payne Lara, and were revealed on the 150th anniversary of the date the Civil War was concluded at the Battle of Appomattox. The statues are depicted in a manner that symbolizes the soldiers’ return home after hostilities, the Confederate soldier heading south and the Union soldier, north.

Retired Lt. Gen. Randolph House commented in his opening remarks that the positioning of the soldiers reflected fears about an unconfirmed future and the regret of a wartime experience that would never be forgotten.

As project leader and BVVM board member Steve Beachy stated ahead of the dedication, “We wanted to focus on the end of the war. [The soldiers] that survived had to go home and rebuild their lives and then help rebuild the country.”

This pair are, of course, far from the first veterans memorial statues to grace Veterans Park, simply being the most recent additions to a half-mile trail on the Lynn Stuart Pathway that has memorials commemorating 200 years of conflicts faced by the United States.

The war that these two new statues are dedicated to may be more than a century old, but Parrish was keen to emphasize its continuing relevance to the 21st century United States, expressing his hope that students would attend and “gain a better understanding and appreciation for veterans”.

He added: “And I hope that they understand why the Veterans Association unveils Civil War memorial veterans that need to be honored – not only living veterans, but veterans who are passing away and have long since left the scene.”

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