Craig Confederate Monument is still meaningful today
NEW CASTLE – There is an old saying that the more things change, the more they stay the same. The statue in the yard of the Craig County Courthouse in New Castle has been standing the same for 100 years, this year.
Begun as a project of the Craig Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy and erected in 1912 by John Pendleton, Ed Craft, and Nelvin Davis, the monument was dedicated to the soldiers of Craig County who fought for the Confederacy – about 1,000 soldiers in all.
These men and boys were fighting for some of the same ideals we hold dear today: home, family, state’s rights against overpowering federal control, and economic stability. George Eliot wrote that a human life should be well rooted in a native spot of land. These men, well rooted in Craig County, fought so they could live the same way their fathers did before them.
Most of these men from Craig County were not slave owners and did not live on plantations. They were simple folks who lived on small farms in the hills. They left their homes and families to fight for their way of life and for each other.
In that respect, the county has not changed much: we would still fight to defend each other and our way of life. But in the 1860s, these men fought from First Manassas to Appomattox in some of the bloodiest and most hard-fought battles this country has ever seen.
They suffered loneliness, boredom, fear, worry, freezing temperatures, starvation, physical ailments, and sicknesses of all kinds. But the fight was important enough to them to endure these hardships because they wanted the freedom to say how they would live their lives on their own land, in their own homes.
We walk past the courthouse today and never consider the true meaning of the monument or the men to whom it was dedicated. The Civil War affected Craig County greatly.
Think about the men who fought in it. There were Sarvers, Huffmans, Looneys, Caldwells, Martins, Elmores, Abbotts, McPhersons and Lees, to name a few. These are the same people whose descendants are still our neighbors, friends, and pillars of our community.
To look in their faces is to see the independent spirits of the men who fought that war a few generations ago. No, it wasn’t very long ago. There are people still alive today who knew confederate soldiers.
My 95-year-old grandmother remembers three Civil War soldiers who lived on Main Street: Mr. James Patterson Martin who lost an arm at Gettysburg, Mr. Tom Surber who lived in a log house and had a shoe shop, and Mr. Clifton Elmore who later worked at the post office in New Castle.
So let’s all take a second look at the monument the next time we walk past. Tell your children what it means and what it stands for to the people of our county.
This Memorial Day, on Monday, May 28, at 10 a.m. there will be a ceremony at the monument to honor not only Craig County’s Civil War soldiers, but all soldiers who have fought for our country in every conflict. A special wreath-laying ceremony will mark the 100th anniversary of the Confederate statue. Hope to see you there.
– by Bill McClanahan
Part I in a series about Craig County’s role in the War Between the States, a joint effort of the 150th Civil War Committee and the Craig County Historical Society. Writer Bill McClanahan included information from his grandmother, Elizabeth Pendleton McClanahan.