Misspelling (Formerly) Etched in Stone!
by Jonah Begone
My article about the former monument is at the end. This is a letter I got 3/30/00. A great improvement! - Jonah
Please allow me to introduce myself, Wendy Lee Oliver, Public Relations Director, for Sayler's Creek Reenactment and Preservation Committee, Inc.
The Sayler's Creek monument now has a wonderful new text on it. The committee also felt that the old one was ridiculous and not historically correct.
The new text on it reads as follows:
Confererate and Union
Soldiers Who Fought In
The Surrounding Hills With
Great Honor And Perserverance
On April 6, 1865
During The Three Engagements
Each Regiment Participated
With Valor and Fraternity.
In What Was The Last
Major Battle Of The Civil War
Dedicated By The
Sayler's Creek Reenactment
And Preservation Committee
This is on the front. Then on the back we put.
Battles Of Sayler's Creek
April 6, 1865
Has The Army Been Dissolved"
General R. E. Lee
US: 442 CS: 3,400
US: 172 CS: 2,600
Lockett's Farm (Double Bridges)
US: 536 CS: 1,700
Totals Include Killed, Wounded,
Missing and Captured
It will be really wonderful this year and bigger then any others at Sayler's Creek so far.
Thank you for your concern over the old text on the monument.
Your Humble Servant
Wendy Lee Oliver
Public Relations Director
In the course of my meanderings across the country I've seen many battlefield monuments and memorials. The only one, however, that I could accurately describe as "silly" is the one plunked down on the Sayler's Creek battlefield, near Farmville, Virginia (about an hour west of Richmond and an hour east of Appomattox). I call it the "Tombstone of the Quasquicentennial."
If you haven't seen this gem, here is what it says:
WHO MADE THE ULITMATE SACRIFICE
IN THIS PLACE - THOSE WHO DIED
IN HASTILY BUILT TRENCHES, AND
THOSE WHO ATTACKED THOSE
TRENCHES. IN THE HORROR OF
THOSE FINAL HOURS BEGAN THE
REALIZATION OF MANY LIBERTIES
WE ENJOY TODAY.
This thing was erected and dedicated at the conclusion of the Quasquicentennial (125th) anniversary battle of Sayler's Creek, in April 1990. There are a number of things about it I would like to call to your attention:
1. Note the mispelling of "ultimate," carved in stone for future generations to appreciate.
2. Note also the awkward grammatical construction of the inscription (the use of the word "those" four times in two sentences, for instance, or the reference to "hastily built trenches" instead of "hastily dug trenches").
3. There's an engraving of an arm holding a musket in the upper left hand corner and the unexplained (and poorly executed) little hand holding the hankie at the upper right hand corner; this must look odd to those not aware of the Federal's invitation for the Confederates to surrender before the final assault. Perhaps a valid conclusion for a member of the public to draw is that one side went into battle with rifles and the other with hankies. (Hey, if you think this is far-fetched remember that this is the same bunch who regularly asks reenactors questions like, "Is that a real fire," and "Do you use real bullets?")
4. Note the political overtones of the inscription: The men who "died in hastily-built trenches" get first mention. Who won the battle? It's not obvious from the inscription. This is a monument for, by and about reenactors and reenacting. (Specifically Reb reenactors and reenacting.)
5. The inscription makes the odd suggestion that "the realization of many liberties we enjoy today" began at Sayler's Creek. How so? Name one. And were the Confederates at least partially responsible for these? (I don't think so.)
6. The fact that at the time reenactment units paid $7.00 per person to attend Sayler's Creek is interesting in that they didn't get firewood or straw; perhaps it was 3100 event participants who made the "ulitmate sacrifice" - reenacting without amenities! Was their preregistration money used to pay for this ridiculous monument instead?
Anyway, if you find yourself near Farmville, VA, drop by and look at this thing. Like the famous "flag film" at the New Market battlefield, it has to be seen to be believed.