The Ugliest Civil War Monument?

I’ve come across a series of reports concerning acts of vandalism against Confederate monuments this past week; over the past several years I’m aware of acts of vandalism against a series of monuments at Gettysburg, with others being damaged due to one reason or another.  This, unfortunately, is nothing new, especially to people who are familiar with the history of Grant’s Tomb over the last half-century: only through the efforts of some people, including my friend Frank Scaturro, has the tomb begun to capture its former dignity.

But then there are some monuments which in themselves are eyesores.  Some require interpretation to place them in a more appreciative context; in other cases, the monuments simply are not attractive, and in a few cases they are comically bad.  That includes the one pictured here.

I visited Nashville back in 1998 to look at Vanderbilt University.  I was aware that a new statue to Nathan Bedford Forrest had recently been erects, and that it was the subject of some controversy.  Now, Forrest has always been a controversial figure, so you could expect some debate about his legacy whenever his name surfaced.  In this case, however, the discussion also involved the design and placement of the monument in question.

Thus, before I prepared to leave, I had to see the monument in question, and Andrew McMichael took me to see it.


I must say that I’ve never felt so conflicted about such a piece of bad art.  Simply put, it was the ugliest statue of a Civil War figure that I have ever seen.  It looked like a badly-rendered version of a video game character.  And yet it seemed so appropriate that it portrayed Nathan Bedford Forrest.  I’m still wondering whether Dixie Outfitters made a t-shirt honoring the monument.

There is no need for vandals to target this monument.  It does the job perfectly well all by itself.

I know that other people have their favorite monuments to deride, most notably the Longstreet Monument at Gettysburg, where there are detractors as well as admirers.  There’s s spread of renderings of Abraham Lincoln across the nation, some of which are aesthetically questionable.  But none of them come anywhere close to this rendering of that devil Forrest, at least in my mind.

You’re free to disagree, of course … but if you do, then tell us what you think is the ugliest Civil War monument out there.  The comments section is open …

27 thoughts on “The Ugliest Civil War Monument?

  1. Jeff Davis December 17, 2011 / 11:13 am

    Yep. That definitely got beat with a ugly stick.

  2. James F. Epperson December 17, 2011 / 12:04 pm

    I don’t think there is any question at all—the damn thing is not just ugly, it is UGLY!

  3. Eric Wittenberg December 17, 2011 / 12:36 pm

    This thing looks like a Bedford Forrest action figure. It’s the ugliest damned thing I have ever seen, and the fact that it’s right alongside I-65 means you can’t miss it if you try.

  4. Shao Ping December 17, 2011 / 12:54 pm

    It’s worth noting that it is on private land and the sculptor was Jack Kershaw, best known as a lawyer who defended Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassin.

    • Andy Hall December 18, 2011 / 8:13 am

      I’m idealist enough that I try to draw a bright line between the actions of criminals and the attorneys who defend them; even those accused of the most heinous crimes deserve a robust defense. It’s the way the system’s supposed to work.

      That said, there are plenty of other reasons not to mourn the recent passing of that rancid old segregationist, Jack Kershaw.

      • Shao Ping December 18, 2011 / 10:39 am

        You’re right. It was a cheap shot, especially when are other, legitimate reasons for disliking him. Also, dang you for pre-empting me with (better) links again! (you did it before on the Harper’s Weekly photos)

  5. Will Hickox December 17, 2011 / 2:31 pm

    I love this monument. It’s so ugly it actually hinders the neo-Confederate cause.

  6. Margaret Blough December 17, 2011 / 2:37 pm

    I’m always cautious on monument popularity contests and usually avoid them. As a lover of the Longstreet monument, which I followed from when it was a little baby maquette, I am acutely aware that opinions about it differ and differ strongly. I also am aware that monuments that I truly loathe are beloved by others (Louisiana monument at Gettysburg, anyone?). Having said that, the Forrest monument is the most butt ugly thing I’ve ever seen. It’s not even interestingly ugly. It’s cheap and tacky and looks like it was made from the same material as the riding toys in a children’s playground, only the latter are much more attractive. It looks like the sculptor tried too hard to be different.

    • Andy Hall December 18, 2011 / 7:57 am

      It’s fiberglass, like all the great sculptures going back into antiquity. You know the saying, nothing says class, like fiberglass™.

  7. Aaron Kidd December 17, 2011 / 3:30 pm

    I do not like that statue because it makes the General look ugly. How dare you say that it appropriately portrays him. If anything it’s a disgrace to him.

    • Aaron Kidd December 17, 2011 / 8:31 pm

      I have thought about the statue and reconsidered my opinion. Even though it may not be visibly appealing, it was made to honor him, and for that I love it.

    • Khepera December 18, 2011 / 10:25 am

      It does appropriately portray him. He was an ugly person. The monument may be a disgrace to him, but he was a disgrace to humanity.

  8. Roger E Watson December 17, 2011 / 3:48 pm

    Somebody commissioned it (paid $$$). Someone designed it. Someone approved it.

    WHAT WERE THEY THINKING !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • Andy Hall December 18, 2011 / 8:07 am

      Private land, private money, private Forrest fetish. It’s provided years of entertainment value, though probably in a way unintended by Jack Kershaw. What’s not to love?

      More seriously, I don’t think I’ve ever seen an object, display or product that’s done in the name of “heritage” that’s been proactively denounced or boycotted by those who’ve designated themselves protectors of the Confederacy’s reputation. Foolishness like this or this does far more damage to the reputation of the Confederacy and its symbols than whether or not flags are displayed at the Pelham Chapel.

    • Bob Huddleston February 11, 2012 / 10:39 am

      That does come in second to the NBF statue!

  9. Tony Gunter December 17, 2011 / 6:22 pm

    Nowhere near as bad, but this one was always my least favorite in Vicksburg:

    I like the design of the VNMP monument to African Americans, but the size of the monument (not much larger than a living-room centerpiece) is a bit disappointing when compared to, say, the Illinois monument (big enough for several school buses of kids to stand inside reading the names of those who fell during the campaign).

    Perhaps most disappointing of all is not a monument, but the lack thereof. Scan the Union side of this list: the second most important player in the entire campaign is notably absent.

  10. Carl Schenker December 17, 2011 / 7:50 pm

    By coincidence, Sunday’s Wash Post has a review for the in-process Eisenhower memorial. Sounds awfully touchy feely and, understandably to me, not pleasing to at least some of the family. This is the first I have heard of this whole matter and thought it might be of interest to some. (Opening the photo gallery will give you a three-dimensional feel. CRS

  11. TF Smith December 17, 2011 / 10:11 pm

    It’s a joke, right?

  12. John Foskett December 18, 2011 / 8:55 am

    Well, that clearly laps what I thoight was near or at the top – Longstreet on the Christmas pony. This looks like the product of an art class in the local elementary school. The only positive is that it’s a rendition of Forrest and not of somebody else.

  13. Scott A. MacKenzie February 10, 2012 / 12:48 pm

    If you want to see a truly horrible statue, check out this one to Louis Riel, the famous Metis leader who fought against white Canadian rule in 1869 and again in 1885. This statue, commissioned in 1970, sat outside the Manitoba Legislature until 1995, when it was replaced with a more modest and respectful statue.

    Still, that Forrest Statue is simply awful.

  14. Laqueesha July 15, 2015 / 3:21 pm

    Well, considering its subject, I suppose it’s fitting the monument is ugly.

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