Why No 15th Alabama Monument at Gettysburg?

Joined
Oct 10, 2015
Messages
36
Location
Montgomery, Alabama
#1
As a boy who was born and raised in Montgomery, Alabama and learned to love the history of the War Between The States, I have spent many hours in historic Oakwood Cemetery, where many of our city's most famous citizens, like Hank Williams, Sr., are buried. Among the graves there is Col. William C. Oates, who famously led the 15th Alabama on repeated attacks against Joshua Chamberlin's 20th Maine at Little Round Top during the Battle of Gettysburg.

I'll be visiting Gettysburg for the first time next month and was eagerly hoping to visit a monument dedicated to Oates and his troops. I'm surprised to find that there is no monument to those brave Alabamians. After looking in my copy of "Gettysburg Requiem," a biography of Oates penned in 2006 by Glenn LaFantasie, I was even more surprised to find that Chamberlin used backchannels to object to a monument being placed while, at the same time, duplicitly corresponding with Oates that he welcomed a statue being erected.

Because there is no statue for Col. Oates, later Brigadier General Oates during the Spanish-American War, and his 15th Alabama, I'll not be visiting the Chamberlin statue atop Little Round Top during my visit to Gettysburg. If both sides of the battle can't be told and honored, I'll not be a party to praising only one.

The excerpt from "Gettysburg Requiem" explaining how the monument to the 15th Alabama was blocked from being built is below:

Little Round Top’s Missing Monument

Glenn W. LaFantasie

The disputes over a fitting and proper memorial at Ground Zero in New York City to honor the victims of the 9/11 attacks—not to mention controversies during the past decade about displaying the Enola Gay, the depiction of Franklin Delano Roosevelt on the Mall in Washington, D.C., and the National Park Service’s plans to build a new visitor center at Gettysburg National Military Park—reveal how Americans can often disagree vehemently over their public monuments to the past. This is nothing new. At Gettysburg, which displays the most monuments of any Civil War battlefield, the location and design of memorials have been contentious ever since the first ones were erected in the 1880s. But the nearly 2 million visitors who tour Gettysburg National Military Park every year are largely unaware of monuments that were proposed but never built. One such unraised monument on Little Round Top—to the 15th Alabama regiment—left its proponent, former Confederate Colonel William C. Oates, angry and bitter over how the park’s commissioners made their decisions about monuments. But it also left him profoundly sad. Oates had his personal, as well as his public, reasons for wanting a monument on Little Round Top. In the end, his unsuccessful effort meant that he and his men experienced defeat for a second time on that hill’s slopes—and both times the famous commander of the 20th Maine infantry, Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, played a crucial role in making sure Oates and his Alabamians gained no foothold on that hill.

Edited by moderator JerseyBart
 
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redbob

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#3
The closest satisfaction that you are going to get is the Alabama monument, which takes some looking for as it is on the far right of the Confederate line. One of the bones of contention was that Oates wished to place the monument where his brother fell which Chamberlain felt was too far up the hill. When you get to Little Round Top, remember that over 20 feet of fill material has been placed on the hill making it considerably less steep than it was in 1863. You also owe it to yourself to go to the top of Little Round Top, if for no other reason than to soak in the great view of the Valley of Death and to honor the memory of those from both sides that had that view as the last thing that they ever saw.
 
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cash

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#4
If the monument were to be placed in accordance with the rules established by the GBMA, a monument for the 15th Alabama would be right around where the Alabama Memorial is today.

Chamberlain had no problem with a monument. He disputed where Oates wanted to place it. Had Oates relented and agreed to place it, say, at the base of LRT, it would probably be there today, even though it would violate the GBMA rules.
 

lelliott19

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#5
"At the same time, Oates enlisted the services of Judge William R. Houghton of Birmingham—who had served in the 2nd Georgia during the war and whose brother Mitchell had served in the 15th Alabama—to write and publish a scathing attack on the monument policies of the battlefield commissioners after visiting Gettysburg in the summer of 1903.

After so much heat and controversy for more than a year, Oates finally decided in early July 1904 to visit Gettysburg and satisfy the commission’s insistence that he designate where he wanted his monument before receiving approval. On the evening of July 11, Oates —in the company of Congressman Wiley and two other friends, Judge and Mrs. R. B. Kyle, from Alabama (who happened to own a stonecutting company)—arrived in Gettysburg from Washington by train.
William R Houghton.JPG

Sgt William Robert Houghton 2nd Georgia Infantry, Toomb's/Benning's Brigade, Hood's Division, Longstreet's Corps, ANV (b. 22 May 1842 Heard County, GA; d. 30 July 1906 Birmingham, AL) http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=8287654
Mitchell Bennett Houghton 15th AL.JPG

Mitchell Bennett Houghton 15th Alabama, Law's Brigade, Hood's Division, Longstreet's Corps, ANV (b. 14 Sept 1844; d. 4 Nov 1925 Montgomery, AL) http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=65121276
Captain-Robert-Benjamin-Kyle-Company-A-31st-Alabama-Infantry-C.S.A.-Q2474.jpg

Col Robert Benjamin Kyle (R B Kyle) 31st Alabama Infantry, Barton's/Tracy's/Pettus' Brigade, Stevenson's Division, Stephen Dill Lee's Corps, AoT (b. 24 May 1826 NC; d. 7 Jan 1922 Gadsden, AL)
http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=88638884
 
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Mdiesel

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#7
Well Proud Alabamian if this is your first trip to Gettysburg I would suggest you see all that you can... But if your that upset over a 130+ year old disagreement between two ex-soldier politicians that's your business...

I'm not one who believes the hype of LRT being the key to Gettysburg & Chamberlain saving the Union flank from being "rolled up". It's been given far too much importance, IMHO. If the Confederates had actually taken that hill then what? They were tired & played out. But it was a hell of a fight!

That being my sentiment, I would however suggest that you actually lay eyes on the ground these Alabama soldiers & others fought so bravely on. I would encourage you walk it and get the "feel" of it! And I do mean "feel" it! I've been to Gettyburg many times & I'm telling you your only cheating yourself if you don't.

BTW the monument at "Vincent's Spur" is to the 20th Maine & not Chamberlain himself.

There is no Chamberlain Statue on LRT, & you might be interested to know its quite possible that Chamberlain himself may have thwarted the effort to place one. Here's an interesting link:

https://npsgnmp.wordpress.com/2014/...le-round-top-and-the-memorial-that-never-was/

Regards
Mike
 

cash

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#9
A
Because there is no statue for Col. Oates, later Brigadier General Oates during the Spanish-American War, and his 15th Alabama, I'll not be visiting the Chamberlin statue atop Little Round Top during my visit to Gettysburg.
Nobody visits the Chamberlain statue atop Little Round Top because it doesn't exist.
 

cash

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#10
Well Proud Alabamian if this is your first trip to Gettysburg I would suggest you see all that you can... But if your that upset over a 130+ year old disagreement between two ex-soldier politicians that's your business...

I'm not one who believes the hype of LRT being the key to Gettysburg & Chamberlain saving the Union flank from being "rolled up". It's been given far too much importance, IMHO. If the Confederates had actually taken that hill then what? They were tired & played out. But it was a hell of a fight!

That being my sentiment, I would however suggest that you actually lay eyes on the ground these Alabama soldiers & others fought so bravely on. I would encourage you walk it and get the "feel" of it! And I do mean "feel" it! I've been to Gettyburg many times & I'm telling you your only cheating yourself if you don't.

BTW the monument at "Vincent's Spur" is to the 20th Maine & not Chamberlain himself.

There is no Chamberlain Statue on LRT, & you might be interested to know its quite possible that Chamberlain himself may have thwarted the effort to place one. Here's an interesting link:

https://npsgnmp.wordpress.com/2014/...le-round-top-and-the-memorial-that-never-was/

Regards
Mike
Well said.
 

AUG

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#12
If you have a 15th Alabama monument even at the foot of LRT then shouldn't there be a monument for the other five Alabama and Texas regiments as well? As said above, I think in terms of how the park is already set up the Alabama state and Texas Brigade memorials fit that purpose well.

I respect Oates' plea for a monument to his fallen comrades (and his brother) and I would have no problem with one having been dedicated, but people tend to forget that the fight for LRT included more than just the 20th Maine and 15th Alabama....
 

JPK Huson 1863

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#13
I used to wonder about it too. On the re-telling, it can sure sound one sided. Believe it or not our member here who is host of the Chamberlain forum can relate the ' what happened ' story on the 15th Alabama monument far better than the several stories of conjecture out there. I say ' believe it or not ' because sometimes folks can misunderstand - just because a forum is dedicated to a Union general doesn't mean Confederate ' sides ' of events are presented poorly. @Seduzal answered a question I had on this exact point extremely well- in fact I finally understood what in blazes occurred.

Hope you do go see where the action occurred. It's incredible. All those men coming up from almost out of nowhere, the pitiful amount defending- and I mean the other regiments, too. When you see LRT it's impossible, thinking about just the Mainers and the 15th Alabamians. Really gives you chills standing right there, where it all happened- it would be such a huge, huge shame to miss it.
 
Joined
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Messages
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Location
Missouri
#14
As a boy who was born and raised in Montgomery, Alabama and learned to love the history of the War Between The States, I have spent many hours in historic Oakwood Cemetery, where many of our city's most famous citizens, like Hank Williams, Sr., are buried. Among the graves there is Col. William C. Oates, who famously led the 15th Alabama on repeated attacks against Joshua Chamberlin's 20th Maine at Little Round Top during the Battle of Gettysburg.

I'll be visiting Gettysburg for the first time next month and was eagerly hoping to visit a monument dedicated to Oates and his troops. I'm surprised to find that there is no monument to those brave Alabamians. After looking in my copy of "Gettysburg Requiem," a biography of Oates penned in 2006 by Glenn LaFantasie, I was even more surprised to find that Chamberlin used backchannels to object to a monument being placed while, at the same time, duplicitly corresponding with Oates that he welcomed a statue being erected.

Because there is no statue for Col. Oates, later Brigadier General Oates during the Spanish-American War, and his 15th Alabama, I'll not be visiting the Chamberlin statue atop Little Round Top during my visit to Gettysburg. If both sides of the battle can't be told and honored, I'll not be a party to praising only one.

The excerpt from "Gettysburg Requiem" explaining how the monument to the 15th Alabama was blocked from being built is below:

Little Round Top’s Missing Monument

Glenn W. LaFantasie

The disputes over a fitting and proper memorial at Ground Zero in New York City to honor the victims of the 9/11 attacks—not to mention controversies during the past decade about displaying the Enola Gay, the depiction of Franklin Delano Roosevelt on the Mall in Washington, D.C., and the National Park Service’s plans to build a new visitor center at Gettysburg National Military Park—reveal how Americans can often disagree vehemently over their public monuments to the past. This is nothing new. At Gettysburg, which displays the most monuments of any Civil War battlefield, the location and design of memorials have been contentious ever since the first ones were erected in the 1880s. But the nearly 2 million visitors who tour Gettysburg National Military Park every year are largely unaware of monuments that were proposed but never built. One such unraised monument on Little Round Top—to the 15th Alabama regiment—left its proponent, former Confederate Colonel William C. Oates, angry and bitter over how the park’s commissioners made their decisions about monuments. But it also left him profoundly sad. Oates had his personal, as well as his public, reasons for wanting a monument on Little Round Top. In the end, his unsuccessful effort meant that he and his men experienced defeat for a second time on that hill’s slopes—and both times the famous commander of the 20th Maine infantry, Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, played a crucial role in making sure Oates and his Alabamians gained no foothold on that hill.

Edited by moderator JerseyBart
I will echo what several here have already said, please don't rob YOURSELF of experiencing the fullness of what went on there over a squabble between ex soldiers and politicians 130 years in the past. Chamberlain isn't going to be mad and Oates isn't going to applaud, but you will have lost out on a great opportunity to learn from what you see up there. As someone said, I too walked the ground that the 15 Alabama did, all the way up over Big Round Top and down into the valley between the two Round Tops because I wanted to see for myself that gosh awful terrain they had to navigate after that grueling march to the battlefield, incredible! I was exhausted and sweaty and bug bitten and scratched, but I wanted in some small way to leave with an appreciation of what Oates men AND Chamberlains men did on that hill. Go see it all.

Some of the terrain on BRT.
IMG_0174.JPG


The approach of the 15th Alabama from the woodline in the distance to the far left of this pic and up BRT and finally to LRT!
IMG_0188.JPG
 

suzenatale

Sergeant Major
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Messages
2,378
#15
You know it seems to me Glenn W. LaFantasie changed his mind about that over time and now mainly blames the Park Commissioners. The only back channels going on were the commissioners trying to use Chamberlain to back them up on their decision.

LaFantasie says,
"Oates unsuccessfully tried to erect a monument to his regiment, the 15th Alabama, on the slopes of Little Round Top. He failed when the Gettysburg National Military Park Commissioners, who administered the park for the War Department, refused to approve his request"

http://www.historynet.com/a-brothers-regret-william-c-oates.htm

And yes, as others have stated, the Chamberlain statue has yet to be built.

But I have a question. Can someone tell me where the Oates boulder is and why do people think it was there?
I feel like I'm missing something. I see W. Oates say a school friend ran to John and dragged him behind a large stone,
and I see Oates marks a map with several possible places he would like a monument.

Is there some other bit of info on that? Maybe in one of his letters to the commissioners?
I'm going to keep looking and might find it, but I'm sure there are some Oates experts out there who perhaps have put a lot of thought into it, so I should like to hear what they think. And also if someone has mapped out LRT with this boulder, that would be handy.
 

suzenatale

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Messages
2,378
#16
Any takers on mapping out the Oates boulder? I'm not familiar with the ground there today and should like to better understand where things are. But if I have no takers I shall give you my page soon enough and then maybe someone will want to correct my errors once I make them.
 

cash

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#17
Any takers on mapping out the Oates boulder? I'm not familiar with the ground there today and should like to better understand where things are. But if I have no takers I shall give you my page soon enough and then maybe someone will want to correct my errors once I make them.
I haven't mapped it, but I might have a photo somewhere.
 

suzenatale

Sergeant Major
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#18
This whole debate between Chamberlain and Oates over the monument seems to be because Oates got his left and right confused...
 



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