General A.P. Stewart Bust Has Been On Courthouse Lawn Nearly A Century

Thursday, August 24, 2017 - by John Shearer

With the mid-afternoon sun shining on it, the bust of Confederate Lt. Gen. A.P. Stewart stood out on the south side of the Hamilton County Courthouse lawn Wednesday.
 
As a result of actions around the country to remove or move Confederate statues following recent violence in Charlottesville, Va., over the Gen. Robert E. Lee statue there, a proverbial spotlight might soon shine on the Stewart bust, too.
 
Whether it will be like many of the other memorials and become a statue’s equivalent of being unemployed remains to be seen.

 
The NAACP has already called for its removal from the courthouse lawn. This comes as divided discussions and decisions over the removal of Confederate monuments – which have being going on in places like Memphis for several years – have escalated in many places in recent days.
 
A look back at the history of the Stewart monument dating back to before its 1919 dedication tells of a man who was a friend of Chattanooga as much as a hero. Primarily because Gen. Stewart lived here after the war, he was embraced by Chattanoogans at the turn of the 20th century.
 
Although Chattanooga had supporters of both the Union and Confederates during the Civil War, the Confederates were soundly defeated in the 1863 battles of Chattanooga after Chickamauga, so its supporters had no other generals of local significance to embrace.
 
Of course, the Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park is full of markers and monuments to men, brigades, regiments and armies from both sides, including Wilder Tower in honor of Union Col. John Wilder at Chickamauga Park.
 
The Stewart bust was dedicated on April 22, 1919, amid a crowd of about 500 people, and had been in the planning for some time. It was a gift from the local United Daughters of the Confederacy chapter named in his honor.
 
Everything about the statue dedication had a women’s theme as much as a Confederate one, including who the sculptress was.
 
Gen. Alexander Peter Stewart was born in 1821 in Rogersville, Tn. He attended West Point and, upon graduation, met his wife, Harriet Byron Chase, while in Connecticut.
 
Although an anti-Secessionist Whig, he joined the Confederate Army after the war broke out. He was wounded at Chickamauga, but later fought in Atlanta and Franklin around Nashville.
 
He later became an insurance executive and then the chancellor of the University of Mississippi.
 
Beginning in 1890, he became a commissioner of the Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park. According to some old newspaper stories found at the Chattanooga Public Library, he was among the early advocates for a park to preserve the memories of the local battles along with people like former Union officer Henry V. Boynton, who received the Medal of Honor at Missionary Ridge.
 
Chattanoogan H. Clay Evans was also considered maybe the earliest outspoken advocate of a park.
 
As Gen. Stewart moved to Chattanooga to make plans for the park, which was dedicated in 1895, he was a stickler for replanting trees in areas where woods had been, even if they had since been cleared for farm land.
 
The old articles say that, while he was in Chattanooga for probably more than 10 years from the early 1890s through about 1905, he lived at several places. They included the Park Hotel (apparently one that predated the current one near the courthouse), at Chickamauga, and at the home of friend Moses H. Clift.
 
Mr. Clift was a local attorney who lived in a now-razed residence on McCallie Avenue, where the mid-century former Interstate Office Building stands just west of First Presbyterian Church.
 
Gen. Stewart’s wife died at the residence of Mrs. Euclid Waterhouse at 451 Park St. in Chattanooga on Jan. 4, 1898. She had reportedly been in ill health since being overcome at a Confederate gathering in Nashville the previous June.
 
Gen. Stewart himself had been injured in a train accident back in 1893.
 
His wife was said to be active in the Cumberland Presbyterian Church, which locally had a church at Frank and Sycamore streets, in an area near the Tennessee River between the current Main Street and Cameron Hill.
 
Gen. Stewart at least for a period had a park commissioner’s office in the old Customs House/Post Office building off 11th Street.
 
He was considered a gentleman who, at least while in Chattanooga, was said to be quite interested in literature. He was also an avid historian of the Civil War, as one might expect.
 
While he was here, the UDC chapter was named in his honor.
 
He left Chattanooga about three years before his death on Aug. 30, 1908, in Biloxi, Miss. The train carrying his body was scheduled to pass through Chattanooga on the way to burial in St. Louis, Mo.
 
The only other Confederate lieutenant general still living at the time of his death was Gen. Simon Bolivar Buckner.
 
Several years after Gen. Stewart’s death, plans were made to create the bust in his memory as a gift by the UDC chapter. Chosen to be the sculptress was Belle Kinney Scholz, formerly of Nashville and also a resident during her life of such places as Baltimore and New York City.
 
This woman who was the sister of Mrs. Herman Renner of Chattanooga and also lived in the Scenic City in the mid-20th century also designed such statues as those of Andrew Jackson and John Sevier in the National Statuary Hall collection at the U.S. Capitol.
 
The Stewart bust – which was set in bronze in the Tiffany studios in New York – was originally scheduled to sit in the rotunda of the courthouse.  However, when the 12,000-pound marble base was delivered, building architect R.H. Hunt and others realized the base and the 2,000-pound bust could not fit safely on the floors of the building.
 
A decision was then made to place it outside, facing south.
 
When the ceremony was held that April of 1919, the Chattanooga area was ablaze in spring greenery. The women also decorated the courthouse lawn even more beautifully for the event.
 
“It was a woman’s occasion,” the Chattanooga Times said the next day.
 
Women participating in the program were young Gloria Lamb, who pulled the ribbon to unveil the bust, as well as Mollie Kavanaugh, Mrs. C.A. Lyerly, Mrs. Frank Powell and UDC Stewart chapter president Mrs. Ed Watkins. Mrs. A.C. Stewart of St. Louis, the daughter-in-law of Gen. Stewart, also attended.
 
This was all a few months before any of these women could vote.
 
Men, of course, also took part. World War I had just ended, and at least one veteran of that war along with Union and Confederate veterans and descendants of veterans attended.
 
Speakers included Dr. Jonathan Bachman of First Presbyterian Church, who delivered a prayer; former Chattanooga mayor T.C. Thompson; County Judge Sam Conner, the son of a Union veteran; and Maj. Phil Whitaker, who spoke about the Chattanooga contribution to World War I.
 
Mayor Thompson also compared the Confederate cause to the recent one of America in Europe during the Great War.
 
“But remember, our boys at Chateau-Thierry, Argonne and other places at the front were fighting for the principle of self-determination – for the right to govern ourselves,” he said.
 
The program concluded with a prayer by Dr. I.D. Steele and the singing of “Dixie.”
 
After the dedication, the bust began standing at the courthouse as a quiet observer of all that took place in downtown Chattanooga.
 
It was there when the Tivoli and Memorial Auditorium opened in 1921 and 1924, when the first Krystal opened at 7th and Cherry streets in 1932 to feed hungry Chattanoogans during the Great Depression, when downtown celebrated the end of World War II in Europe, and when Chattanoogans’ collective hearts broke following a 1971 racial riot after the cancellation of a concert by Wilson Pickett.
 
And it was there when Chattanooga began embracing all its citizens more fully with the renaming of Ninth Street into M.L. King Boulevard in 1981.
 
But with the wave of actions currently sweeping the nation, whether it will have a front-and-center view for the next chapters of the city’s history will likely be looked at sooner rather than later.
 
Jcshearer2@comcast.net


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