'Passing of Honor'

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Monument honors sacrifices, honor seen at Shiloh

The Jackson Sun, Jackson, TN - Saturday, June 4, 2005


SHILOH - They had stood side-by-side for nearly two hours in the suddenly-summer sun. Two Tennesseans, one in gray and the other in blue; one the descendant of free men, the other a descendant of slaves.

Photos by JUSTIN VENEMAN/The Jackson Sun - Visitors gather around a monument titled 'Passing of Honor,' which was dedicated Friday at Shiloh National Military Park. Civil War re-enactors stood as an honor guard around the monument before its unveiling.

Yet as they peered up at the just-unveiled bronze and granite memorial honoring those Tennesseans who fought and died on this ground in April 1862, they could only stare in awe and smile in mutual satisfaction.

''I see sacrifice,'' said Clarksville resident Brent Dukes, who portrays a lieutenant colonel in the Tennessee Valley Battalion of Confederate re-enactors. ''So many men who sacrificed for what they believed in.''

''Honor,'' said Thomas Johnson, of Murfreesboro. He is a re-enactor in the U.S. 13th Regiment, a unit of African Americans mustered in Tennessee in 1863. ''No matter what side, these men fought with honor. The more I read of history, the more I know that.''

They were among nearly 2,000 who came this Confederate Memorial Day for the unveiling of Tennessee's first official memorial to the more than 14,000 men who fought, and nearly 3,200 who died, on both sides of the line in one of the bloodiest battles in U.S. history.

The statue, sculpted by Texas artist Gerald L. Sanders, is called ''Passing of Honor'' and depicts a grizzled sergeant gently taking a Confederate flag from the hands of one dying soldier, while another stands guard over the pair.

''The man standing speaks by his posture. The sergeant speaks, as does the dying flag carrier,'' Sanders said. ''They all speak to us of what happened here.''

Gov. Phil Bredesen, one of a small group of political figures who spoke at the gathering, said of the monument, ''It is critical that we remember what happened, by visiting and learning from places like Shiloh.''

He also hearkened to the park's dedication more than 100 years ago, when ''veterans of both sides came in a spirit of reconciliation and healing,'' and hoped this monument would continue that spirit.

Franklin resident Deanna Riley Bryant, state president of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, was in tears as the $250,000 monument was finally unveiled. It capped 15 years of work by her organization as well as the Sons of Confederate Veterans, the state and federal governments and a committee that included dozens over the years.

''So many people worked for this day to honor so many of our ancestors who fought to defend their homes,'' she said. ''And when the war was over, many came back, rebuilt their homes and lives - and their descendents fought side by side with descendents of federal soldiers to protect this country we all love.''

Kim Parker Davis, whose family built Parker's Crossroads, where another Civil War battle was fought, used her ornamental fan for a most utilitarian reason - trying to stay cool in the hoop skirt she wore. Her smile was one of satisfaction.

''Final respect for these men from the state they defended,'' she said of the monument.

Dukes was one of several re-enactors who made up an honor guard that stood at the monument overnight. ''It's not something officers do in any war - but I wasn't going to pass up this chance,'' he said. ''To be here, with the stars shining above and candles lit near the statue, it was as if it came to life.''

Johnson has become an avid collector of memorabilia from that era, including a pair of slave shackles and a quilt sewn by the wife of Gen. J.E.B. Stuart.

''Hers is a fascinating story: Married to a Confederate general, and a father who was a general in the Union Army. To own it is a great, great honor,'' he said. ''And though my wife has asked why I would want slave shackles, I tell her that it's one of the stepping stones that led us to where we are now. They're all stepping stones.''

State Rep. Steve McDaniel, R-Parker's Crossroads, spent time with Tennessee National Guard Gen. David E. Greer and talked of their great-great-grandfathers who were both wounded at Shiloh, yet recovered in time to serve again.

McDaniel, who chaired the monument's planning committee, said, ''I'm in awe of what is finally here. This honor is long overdue.''

A dedicated re-enactor with the Parker's Crossroads Battlefield Association, McDaniel also knew he had a far more comfortable day in his all-season wool worsted than in the gray wool the rest of the unit wore - and the speaker's podium was in the shade, to boot.

''Don't worry,'' Davis said with a laugh. ''We have our association benefit chili cook-off next weekend. He'll be back in uniform, and we'll make sure he cooks.''

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