The Confederate monument in Chatham was many years in the making. Plans were begun in 1879 by the Memorial Association and were carried to conclusion by the patriotic women of the Rawley Martin Chapter, United Daughters of the Confederacy.
It was erected as a memorial to the Chatham Grays of Company I, 53rd Virginia Regiment, Armistead's Brigade, Pickett's Division, Army of Northern Virginia, and their comrades in arms of Pittsylvania County and the Southern Confederacy.
The monument is said to have cost about $2500, raised over a period of about 18 years by contributions, box parties and public subscription.
It was a hot June day in 1899 when more than 4,000 people gathered in Chatham for the unveiling of the statue-monument. The festivities began at 10:30 in the morning with a parade led by Chief Marshall J. Hunt Hargrave and his aides, Mr. F. J. Wooding, Mr. T. Langhorne Whitehead, and Mr. H. C. Coles. These distinguished gentlemen were followed by the Reidsville, North Carolina Band and 100 Confederate veterans on foot.
Also in the procession were carriages carrying thirteen young ladies, each representing a state in the Confederacy, officers and members of the U.D.C., and members of the Memorial Association.
The exercises were begun by the Reverend Chiswell Dabney, a prominent Confederate veteran, who offered a fervent prayer. After a musical selection from the band, Dr. Rawley Martin, for whom our U.D.C. Chapter is named, arose and presented the speaker, Senator John W. Daniel, a great orator, who was the guest of the Honorable Claude Swanson.
One of two images of the courthouse taken in 1941 by Thomas T. Waterman (Library of Congress).
Senator Daniel spoke for more than two hours to a most attentive audience, many of whom could not hear him. He commended the women of Pittsylvania County for their act in rearing this monument and declared that another monument — one to Southern Womanhood — should be placed beside the one about to be unveiled. After the applause had subsided, the draperies were removed by the Misses Ada Carter, Rebecca Tredway, Annie Whitehead, and Nelly Martin.
A Confederate soldier of Italian marble crowns the top of the 23-foot-high monument, and the base of rough granite is 8 feet square. On the shaft's front is inscribed near the top, “1861 — Virginia — 1865,” while near the base the coat of arms of Virginia stands out on the polished granite and the inscription reads, “Confederate Dead.”
The inscription on the south side designates that the monument is in memory of Company I and their Comrades-in-Arms of Pittsylvania. On the north side are these words: “We crown the heroes of the past with the laurel wreath of memory,” and on the rear side: “Oh, tell the listening worlds afar of those who died for truth and right.”
The statue was presented under the auspices of the Rawley Martin Chapter, with Mrs. W. C. N. Merchant serving as treasurer for the project. Incidentally, Mrs. Merchant, now deceased, was one time President-General of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, and she was at the time of the monument's dedication the secretary of our chapter.
A wreath is placed on this monument every May 30th by members of the local chapter as a token of esteem and in everlasting recognition of the loyalty and devotion of those who served the Cause.
This webpage is sponsored by Mitchells Publications.
Article text copyright © 1963 The Star-Tribune, Chatham, Virginia (use permitted).