Friday, November 9, 2018

Veteran's Day spotlight: May Winston Caldwell and the Battle of Nashville

By Megan Spainhour

November 11th is marked on our calendars as a special day to take time to remember and commemorate those who have sacrificed so much for our country. Whether remembered as Armistice Day, Veterans Day or Remembrance Day, the day has a common ground around the world to honor, memorialize, and celebrate military veterans in their heroic and valiant efforts.

This Veteran’s Day, we shine a spotlight on a scrapbook in our collections at the State Library and Archives; the scrapbook of May Winston Caldwell. May Winston Caldwell, born in 1855 in Nashville, was a prominent leader, homemaker, writer and highly active in the historical societies in the area. She was married to businessman James E. Caldwell. When she wasn’t busy maintaining her home “Longview” in South Nashville or caring for her ten children, she served as president of the Ladies Battlefield Association. It was this association, led by the passion and spirit of May Caldwell, that a monument was erected in Nashville to honor those Tennesseans who fought in the Battle of Nashville on December 18, 1864.

Map showing the site of the Battle of Nashville, fought December 15-16, 1864.

The monument was crafted by well-known sculptor Giuseppe Moretti. It was dedicated on Armistice Day, November 11, 1927, and was meant to symbolize peace. The original site of the monument was located near Franklin Road and Thompson Lane in Nashville. However, after a tornado damaged the statue in 1974, it was restored, relocated and rededicated in 1999 at its present day location of Granny White Pike and Battlefield Drive. The original dedication in 1927 drew large crowds and prominent citizens, including Tennessee Governor Henry Horton, Col. Luke Lea, several veterans, and even an invitation to the President of the United States, Calvin Coolidge.

Sculptor Giuseppe Moretti at a marble quarry in Italy, he is standing next to a large chunk of marble presumably used in the monument.

On the base of the monument is inscribed “The Spirit of Youth holds in check the contending forces that struggled here in the first battle of Nashville, Dec. 16. 1864, Sealing forever the bond of union by the blood of our heroic dead of the World War, 1917-1918. A Monument like this, standing on such memories, having no reference to utilities, becomes a Sentiment. A Poet. A Prophet. An Orator to every passerby.”

Postcard photograph of Italian sculptor Giuseppe Moretti and wife Dorthea in front of their home, addressed to Mr and Mrs Caldwell. The photograph is signed "Merry Christmas and Very Happy New Year from Mr and Mrs G Moretti, 1933."

The base of the Battle of Nashville monument. Represented in the horses is the division of the north and the south, brought together by the spirit of youth.

May Winston Caldwell addressing the gathering at the dedication of the Battle of Nashville Monument, Nov 11, 1927.

Poem titled 'Taps' by Poet Laureate and former State Librarian and Archivist John Trotwood Moore, spoken at the dedication of the Battle of Nashville monument to the tune of ‘Taps.’

Battle of Nashville Monument at its original location on Franklin Road.

Battle of Nashville Monument seen on the side of Franklin Road, its original location before it was damaged by a tornado.

To learn more about this monument and the Battle of Nashville, visit the Tennessee Library and Archives and page through the May Winston Caldwell Scrapbook. The catalog entry for this item is found HERE.

The Tennessee State Library and Archives is a division of the Office of Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett

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