Today is the 151st anniversary of the 1st battle of Bull Run/1st Manassas, the Civil War’s first major battle in the Eastern Theatre. I went to the 150th last year, which was a brutally hot event. I had planned to go back there today but scattered rainshowers kept that from happening. This all means that I’ll niss seeing that incredible equestrian statue of Stonewall Jackson. Incredible… but not for being a monument to the place where Jackson earned his famous nickname. Incredible for looking like Jacskon and his horse fought the Civil War while using performance-enhancing drugs.
Dedicated August 31, 1940 (picture above is from that ceremony; the monument, moments away from being unveiled, is to the right inthe picture), the 78th anniversary of 2nd Bull Run/2nd Manassas (this battle took place 13 months after the “Stonewall” legend was born), the monument was the creation of Joseph Pollia (1893-1954), an Italian-American sculptor. Nothing against Old Jack, but seriously folks… the man looks like the Incredible Hulk in a Confederate uniform.
While it’s tempting to think this statue is neo-Confederate/Lost Cause melodrama run amok (insert finger down your throat here), I think it’s actually more about the Art Deco style consistent with the late 1930s/early 1940s period it was created in. To be sure, another example of an overly bulked-up man is the Man Controlling Trade pair of statues flanking the Federal Trade Commission Building in downtown Washington, DC. These were sculpted by Michael Lantz (1908-1988) and dedicated in 1942. Maybe the “PED” look was a compensation of the Great Depression or something: for those who don’t feel strong, here is a strong man to look up to.
So maybe the legend of “Mighty Stonewall” isn’t so farfetched. Standing like a stone wall, he has control of his horse… but those other two guys are struggling, which makes them “girlie men.”