This year marks the 100th anniversary of the completion of a Lookout Mountain landmark – the New York Peace Memorial at Point Park.
On Nov. 15, 1910, a crowd of several hundred veterans of both the Union and the Confederacy gathered at the site to dedicate and praise both the artistic and symbolic qualities of the giant monument.
The memorial had been built to commemorate the historic “Battle Above the Clouds” on Lookout Mountain in November 1863, a successful victory for the Union led by Gen. Joe Hooker.
Ninety-five feet high and made of pink granite and Tennessee marble, the monument was designed with a bronze statue at the top and featured a Northern and Southern soldier shaking hands.
Also drawing attention that dedication day was former Maj. Gen. Daniel E. Sickles, one of the featured speakers. A Medal of Honor recipient for his war effort, he was also notorious in historical annals for personal and professional indiscretions.
However, at the time of his visit, he was simply a 91-year-old former Union officer who was saluted and revered for his past military service.
When the New York monument was dedicated, Chattanoogans and Civil War veterans were quite familiar with such events.
After Congress had authorized the Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park in 1890 and the park was officially dedicated in 1895, numerous markers were unveiled throughout Chattanooga in honor of veterans of various states.
And Civil War veterans of both sides had attended plenty of the events and other reunions in Chattanooga and would continue to do so into the 1930s.
The 50th anniversary of the Civil War had not passed as of 1910, so the Civil War veterans at the time were approximately 15 years younger than the World War II veterans of today.
For the 1910 event, the railroads had offered special rates for New Yorkers to travel down to Tennessee. Chattanooga also took on a special air of excitement as many visitors found room and board in the various hotels and in homes.
Besides taking tours of Chattanooga, the New York delegation and other veterans were treated to a special program at the Lyric Theater on Monday, Nov. 14. The Lyric stood at Sixth and Market streets, where the recently razed Electric Power Board building was later located.
Taking part in this event was U.S. Sen. James B. Frazier of Chattanooga, who had previously been governor of Tennessee. Mayor T.C. Thompson – who had witnessed first-hand Gen. William Sherman’s Union Army marching through South Carolina as a child – also spoke, and soprano Sada Doak entertained with stirring renditions of “America” and “My Old Kentucky Home.”
The next day was the monument dedication event, and most of the participants traveled up to Point Park on the Incline Railway, which had opened in 1895. A few members of the official delegation also rode to the top of the mountain via that new form of transportation called the automobile.
As they approached Point Park, the spectators walked through the castle-like stone entrance that had been constructed in 1905 and was designed by local engineer E.E. Betts after the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers insignia.
When the dedication began, nearly 3,000 people were reportedly present. The highlights included music by the 11th Cavalry Band and the Chattanooga Quartet, and speeches by Gen. Sickles and others.
Gen. Sickles, who was chairman of the New York State Monuments Commission, had lived a checkered life, historical sources say. He had once escorted a known prostitute into the New York State Assembly Chambers and had shot and killed the son of national anthem writer Francis Scott Key for having an affair with Sickle’s wife.
Some also said he did not follow orders at Gettysburg. He did later receive the Medal of Honor for his actions there, although he lost a leg from a cannonball.
In 1910, all that the spectators and local press were focusing on were his encouraging words at Point Park regarding reconciliation between the North and South.
“This monument is not here to celebrate a victory,” he said. “It says to the men of the South, ‘Let us embrace you.’ And it is emblematic of peace between us forever more.”
The gathering concluded with a vaudeville event at the Chattanooga Golf and Country, a United Daughters of the Confederacy ball, and a visit to Fort Oglethorpe the next day.
These days, most visitors to Point Park are likely more captivated by the stunning view off Lookout Mountain.
But 100 years ago, all eyes were focused on the large monument.