Creating a Confederate Kentucky: The Lost Cause and Civil War Memory in a Border State

By Anne E. Marshall | Go to book overview

7
A Manifest Aversion to the Union Cause
WAR MEMORY IN KENTUCKY, 1895–1935

In July 1895, only months before the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) encampment came to town, Louisville’s Confederate community unveiled its monument to the southern dead. The massive seventy-foot statue crowned with an eight-foot-tall bronze infantryman was the product of an eight-year effort by the Kentucky Women’s Monument Association, a group headed by a group of elite Confederate women. To fund its endeavor, the monument association hosted many social events, including “lawn fetes,” bazaars, a “kindersymphony,” and even a stage production of Ben-Hur, based on the novel by Federal army general Lew Wallace. Although the fund-raising events featured clear sectional overtones, an 1890 article in the Louisville Courier-Journal urged all Louisvillians to attend one of the association’s musical programs, casting the effort to build the monument as one of civic pride. “This is one of the few cities of its size which has no commemoration of the civil war,” stated the newspaper. “Those in charge of the movement to erect the monument should receive public support not simply for that cause, but further with the idea that they will arouse a public spirit in the city that will lead our people to erect other monuments.”1

Only a year later, more than 3,500 people gathered in Nicholasville, Kentucky, a small town just south of Lexington, to dedicate a more modest Confederate monument. Jefferson Oxley, a Confederate veteran, and his fellow members of the Jessamine County Memorial Association had initiated their effort in 1880. After sixteen years of low-yield fund-raising, they scraped together the nearly $1,500 necessary to purchase an unclaimed bronze figure of a Union soldier that a monument company sold them for a reduced price. In a move that could be seen as representing the course

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