This seems like an appropriate time to return Laura Gardin Fraser’s masterful Lee-Jackson monument to its pedestal opposite the Baltimore Museum of Art in Wyman Park. The sculpture shows the two Confederate generals together on the eve of the Battle of Chancellorsville in 1863. Stonewall Jackson was accidentally shot by his own men on May 2 and died on May 10.
Art provokes. This particular piece of art always provoked me whenever I passed it to whisper a silent prayer of gratitude for Jackson’s premature demise. His sister, Laura, a staunch Unionist, said she “would rather know that he was dead than to have him a leader in the rebel army” and I couldn’t agree more. He lost his arm and his life. Robert E. Lee, for three years a Baltimorean, lost his indispensable right-hand man.
One can’t help but think that the Battle of Gettysburg, just 56 days later, would’ve ended differently had Jackson been there. Many have lamented attempts to “erase” history. It was remarkable and rare that a woman like Ms. Gardin would receive a commission like this and she did a wonderful job creating a work that is both beautiful and provocative. It deserves to be back on public display on its original pedestal in Wyman Park opposite the Union Soldiers and Sailors Memorial.
Together, these two artworks represent a city that overcame deep ideological divisions, as today we strive to overcome divisions based on sex and race.