General Robert E. Lee Monument
The General Robert E. Lee Monument in Marianna (Lee County) is a commemorative sculpture erected in 1910 by the D. C. Govan Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy to remember local men who had served in the Confederate army during the Civil War and to honor the man for whom Lee County was named.
The Arkansas General Assembly created Lee County in April 1873 from parts of Phillips, Monroe, St. Francis, and Crittenden counties at the behest of William Furbush, an African-American Republican legislator representing part of Phillips County. It is likely that he chose to name the county after the Confederate leader of the Army of Northern Virginia to gain favor with the politically powerful Democrats in the region.
After the turn of the century, the D. C. Govan Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy (named for Confederate general Daniel Chevillette Govan, who owned a plantation in Lee County) decided to raise money to erect a monument to honor local men who had served in the Confederate armed forces, as well as the man for whom the county was named. They turned to the McNeel Monument Company of Marietta, Georgia, which produced many of the Confederate monuments in the South, to create the memorial.
The base of the monument is twenty feet tall and topped by a six-foot-tall statue of Robert E. Lee. The south face is inscribed “FIDELIS / FORISSIMUS / 1861(separated by crossed flags) 1865 / ERECTED BY D.C. GOVAN CHAPTER / U.D.C. / NO BRAVER FOR A / BRIGHTER LAND HAD / A CAUSE SO GRAND.”
The east side reads “THEIR MEMORIES E’ER / SHALL REMAIN FOR US: / AND THEIR NAMES, BRIGHT / NAMES, WITHOUT STAIN / FOR US / OUR HEROES IN GRAY.” It also features a protruding cannon barrel that poured water for what was originally a fountain feature.
The north side is inscribed “UPWARD, ONWARD, NO / RETREAT, THEY STRUGGLED, THEY / TOILED, THEY CONQUERED / DEFEAT, / THOSE MEN WITH THEIR / THINNING LOCKS OF / GRAY. / GOD BLESS THOSE BOYS / OF THE SIXTIES, OUR / VETERANS OF TODAY!”
The west side also features a protruding cannon barrel and is inscribed “DEAD HEROES! DID WE / HEAR ONE SAY? / DEAD, NEVER! THEY WILL / LIVE FOR AYE / IN HEARTS OF LOVE; / ON HISTORY’S PAGE / THEY’LL LIVE THROUGH / EVERY COMING AGE / THEY’LL LIVE WHILE / VALOR’S DEEDS ARE SUNG / IN PRAISE FROM THE HEART / AND TONGUE.”
The Govan Chapter paid between $3,000 and $3,600 for the monument, and in late November 1910 the local newspaper reported that McNeel personnel were placing in the City Park a monument “which is adorned by a life-sized stature [sic] of the chieftain of the Confederacy, Gen. Robert E. Lee.” The newspaper opined that the project “represents a labor of love, the expression of a sentiment that is appealing to all southerners, the commemoration of heroic deeds that have made their indelible imprints upon the history of the world,” but added that “the ladies of the chapter have incurred a great indebtedness in this undertaking” and urged readers to make donations to pay for the statue.
The General Robert E. Lee Monument was unveiled on a frigid December 8, 1910, but the Lee County Courier wrote that the cold “did in no way dampen the ardor and loyalty of the old veterans or the sons and daughters of the Old South nor did it prevent them from turning out in large numbers to witness the unveiling of the Lee statue.” The ceremony was reportedly “impressive in its simplicity and expressive in its solemnity” as F. N. Burke gave a brief speech praising Lee and the veterans. The Courier reported that “the statue was unveiled as the band played Dixie and when the form of the South’s chieftain in its serenity, majesty and grandeur appeared a shout went up from the impulsive young while the heads of the older were bowed in reverence and their bodies swept by the emotions of memory.” The General Robert E. Lee Monument was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on May 10, 1996.
For additional information:
“The Confederate Monument.” Supplement to the Lee County Courier, November 19, 1910, p. 21.
Dodson, Mrs. Thomas F. “Confederate Monuments and Markers in Arkansas.” Arkansas Division UDC, 1960.
“Lee Statue Unveiled.” Lee County Courier, December 10, 1910, p. 1.
Logan, Charles Russell. “Something So Dim It Must Be Holy”: Civil War Commemorative Sculpture in Arkansas, 1886–1934. Little Rock: Arkansas Historic Preservation Program, 1996. Online at http://www.arkansaspreservation.com/News-and-Events/publications (accessed July 12, 2018).
Slater, John. “General Robert E. Lee Monument.” National Register of Historic Places registration form. On file at Arkansas Historic Preservation Program, Little Rock, Arkansas. Online at http://www.arkansaspreservation.com/National-Register-Listings/PDF/LE0100S.nr.pdf (accessed July 12, 2018).
Mark K. Christ
Arkansas Historic Preservation Program
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