So I make a habit of drawing statues and in light of the ongoing discussion of the role & purpose of commemorative statues, I’ve documented some controversial pieces.
Today I finally decided to head to the Gen. Philip H. Sheridan Monument at the north end of Chicago’s Lincoln Park at Belmont Ave and Sheridan Ave. That statue was created by sculptor Gutzon Borglum, more about him later. My girlfriend was reluctant to accompany me but did so any how. More on that later.
The early years of the Civil War were not going well for the USA and Pres. Lincoln was often frustrated in finding commanding generals who in his words,”would fight.” Eventually he found and promoted three who had the knack for battle. Grant, Sherman, and Sheridan. Chicago has paid homage to these gentlemen in the naming of many locations and features. Lincoln Ave, Lincoln Park in which there is an equestrian statue of Gen. Grant, Grant Park wherein Lincoln’s statue can be found, Sheridan Ave, beside which stands Sheridan’s equestrian statue at the Belmont intersection. Just south of Chicago in Frankfort, a marker denotes the approximate burial place of Sherman’s famous warhorse, Sam.
Much attention has been drawn to the statues, parks, boulevards, and buildings, most erected long after the Civil War, honoring Confederate soldiers and statesman. I went to John H. Reagan High School in Austin, Texas, the former treasurer of the Confederacy. It has only recently had it’s named changed.
But let’s have a look at who some of the celebrated figures of the North were. Let’s take Philip H. Sheridan for starters. He was the North’s most successful Calvary officer, an equal to his famous Confederate counterpart, J.E.B.Stuart. It can be said that both men had a taste for combat. Sheridan employed scorched-earth tactics in the war including destruction of economic infrastructure and was instrumental in forcing Gen. Lee’s surrender at Appomattox.
After the war, Sheridan was appointed head of the Military Division of the Missouri to “pacify the Plains.” He applied his usual vigor unleashing the brutal talents of another Calvary officer known for his zeal, one George Armstrong Custer. Sheridan approved of the rampant slaughter of Bison as a means to starve out the native tribes of the Plains saying,”Let them kill, starve and sell until the Buffalo is exterminated”. Sheridan is also famous for his quip to Comanche Chief Tosawi that ,”The only good Indian he ever saw was a dead Indian.” That quote was the reason Giamila declined to go with me while I drew Sheridan. She relented when I assured her I would give a frank account of his record.
Sheridan was also sent to oversee the protection of Yellowstone Park and prevent the destruction of natural formations and wildlife and personally organized opposition to developers desire to sell off Park lands. Yellowstone’s Mt. Sheridan bears his name in tribute to his role in the Park’s development.
During the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, Sheridan was not only brought in to maintain order but utilized the bombing of certain structures to limit the spread of the fire in South Chicago. Hence some of the gratitude of the city of Chicago and Illinois, a state which lost 31,000 men fighting to preserve the Union.
Now as promised, more on the sculptor who created this memorial, one Gutzon Borglum. If his name doesn’t ring a bell, you’re most certainly familiar with his grandest work, the massive granite heads of presidents Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, and Roosevelt in the Black Hills of South Dakota. Yup, Mount Rushmore. That Gutzon Borglum. Before that, he got his first crack at large scale sculpture and mountain carving with a commission to honor Confederates Jefferson Davis and Generals Lee and Stonewall Jackson offered to him by the United Daughters of the Confederacy. In addition to those gentlemen he agreed to include a Ku Klux Klan altar in his plans for the memorial to acknowledge a request of Helen Plane in 1915, who wrote him:”I feel it is due to the KKK that saved us from Negro domination and carpetbag rule, that it be immortalized on Stone Mountain”. Ah Americans and their tricky history.
Clearly, Sheridan was a determined individual present during crucial times in our history and certainly a figure of mixed reputation. The most important dialogue before us is who are we as a nation and how do we move into the future with a clear eyed look to become a cohesive, cooperative society built on dignity, respect and honesty and capable of solving the immense challenges before us.
If this means we remove honorariums to figures whose exploits remind some of our citizens of their injury and sacrifice, or display those memorials in an institution with full context, that should be a doable task in fulfilling our obligation to our creed that all men are created equal 


Drawn with #fabercastellusa Basic Black Leather fountain pen and F-C Pitt Artist Pens including Pitt Big Brush White on Stillman & Birn Nova Series Beige sketchbook.

Gen. Philip H. Sheridan Monument

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