Civil War monuments

My dad has heard this about the common Civil War monuments featuring a statue of a soldier: that in Northern places the soldier faces south, and in Southern places the soldier faces north. Is this something that generally actually holds true, or just something made up by whomever my dad heard it from?

Just thinking of the Civil War monuments in Philadelphia, three are facing east, two north and two south. There are probably a few others I’m not recalling at the moment. The one I recall vividly enough in New Orleans does face north… but this makes little sense in that the US Navy came UP the Mississippi to take the city. Lincoln faces east in the Lincoln Memorial (not sure if that counts).

From this limited sample I come to the conclusion: “Probably an urban legend.”

Of the ones I can remember in MA growing up, 1 faced SE, 1 N, 2 E. The Sodiers and Sailors Memorial Arch in Hartford has statues in each direction.

Non-scientific survey, to be sure, but I wouldn’t put much faith in this “truth”.

I used to live on the corber of Momument Avenue and The Boulevard in Richmond, VA. FYI Monument Avenue has a number of statues of Confederate “heroes” in traffic circles along moajor intersections. Outside my window was a statue of Stonewall Jackson.

The Generals who survived the war face south, as they came home. The ones who died face north.

As I wrote the OP, I could only think of one monument, the one in Dayton, which faces south. Just now I realized that there is one here in Delaware, Ohio that faces east, and I must have seen it a zillion times in the past few weeks. :smack:

Anyway, unless the several counterexamples given in this thread are isolated cases, I’ll accept that what my dad heard is probably not really true.

Thanks for the replies.

The Confederate verterans memorial on the courthouse lawn in my hometown faces south, because that’s the direction the courthouse faces. The memorial originally faced east before it was moved to the courthouse lawn – it was the centerpiece of a little park, which was razed to make room for an office building in the 1930s.

The G.A.R. monument in East Harness Buckle, a life size Union soldier boy sort of advancing at the alert, faces North.

I think that the big equestrian Stonewall Jackson in Charlottesville, VA, faces South – it is outside the Albemarle(sp?) County Courthouse and a fair remove from UVA.

The belief that towns’ statues of Confederate soldiers were deliberately placed so that these figures would face north, eternally at the ready to take up arms against an invading enemy, was often attached to the monument to Confederate dead in my North Carolina hometown. (Indeed, “Silent Sam” happens to face north, as does his comrade in the small town to the south in which I now live.)

Trouble is, as others have already noted, there’s no uniform truth to this rather romantic notion.

This question came up in a Boston Globe column (“Ask The Globe,” 21 January 1991, Pg. 24). William Miller, managing editor of Civil War magazine, answered that statues of Union soldiers and Confederate soldiers were not uniformly positioned so that they would be facing south and north, respectively. Miller reported that the decision on the placement of these monuments was dependent on the organizations that commissioned the work and on the sculptors themselves. He goes on to say that you need look no further than to Richmond’s Monument Avenue for a dismissal of the claim. (snopes also briefly touches on this more strict belief that statues of specific Confederate figures who died in war face north and those who later died in peacetime face south. It’s smack dab in the middle of this page).

In Lynn Haven, Florida (adjacent to Panama City) there is a monument to Union soldiers which faces north.

The Lynn Haven Monument

The monuments in Gettysburg are along the battle lines, facing each other, just as the two sides did during the original battle. For the most part, the northern monuments face west, and the southern monuments face east.

Maybe the one facing east was badly wounded at the end of the war. :stuck_out_tongue:

Interesting. The Lynn Haven monument reminds me a bit of another claim sometimes said of Civil War memorials: that – because of some unfortunate, last-minute error – somewhere in some small New England town there’s a monument topped by a statue of a Confederate soldier, and somewhere in some Southern town there’s a monument topped by a the statue of a Union solder.

The legend usually goes that in its hurry to fill orders commemorating war dead, a monument-making firm (or sometimes merely a stone carver) inadvertently muddled up the requests and sent out the wrong memorials. None of the townsfolk of either town ever seems to notice until some later date that the soldier perched high atop the monument looked vaguely out of place. Sometimes, though, we’re told that that the group set to erect the monument discovered the error at the last moment, but – since by that time it was too late to have the correct monument delivered – in the end decided to keep mum about this switch.

The legendary “York/Kingstree” swap is retold here (minus the identification as Kingstree, SC, as the southern town); a debunking appears in Tony Horowitz’s Confederates in the Attic (pp. 71-76) and here.

See Tammi Terrell’s post, which refutes your answer.

Hey! Dont feel bad. I went to the Univ. of Richmond, and I heard the same crap also.

The York monument was dedicated by Gov. Joshua Chamberlain. Don’t mistake Chamberlain for Joe Random Politician. He rose to Major General fighting for the Union Army, commanded the 20th Maine at Gettysburg defending Little Round Top, and won a Medal of Honor.

I think he might have at least questioned having the wrong soldier on York’s monument. As Tammi points out, it is the right one.

A picture of the York, ME monument, which includes a confusing wide-brimmed hat. The text says it’s really a Spanish-American War uniform.

The monument in my town has a soldier facing west and a sailor facing east, (because that’s toward the sea, or so local lore has the reason), and a statue of Athena on top of the plinth. The GAR section in the cemetery is ringed by carved stone cannons.

I’ve seen monuments at Civil War graveyards in Ohio that consisted of the trunk of a large oak tree with all the branches cut off, to symbolize the loss of a generation.

The Soldiers and Sailors Monument, smack dab in the middle of Indianapolis, honors service people in the civil war (and some other conflicts.)
As near as I can figure, none of the extensive statuary depicts any Confederate soldiers or sailors, facing any direction. It’s not that our grandfathers didn’t respect the Confederates, but none of them lived here. I’ve seen the names in bronze of all the Hoosier civil war dead. They were all on the Union side, so that’s who the monument depicts.