A foe's helping hand on an old battlefield

March 04, 1993|By Robert A. Erlandson | Robert A. Erlandson,Staff Writer

A wounded Yank and a wounded Rebel, helping each other along the road, will grace the top of a new Maryland monument at the Gettysburg Battlefield.

The sculpture, by Houston artist Lawrence M. Ludtke, was the unanimous choice of Maryland judges who considered three finalists yesterday in a competition that brought responses from 83 sculptors around the nation.

But art is largely a matter of taste. In the end, the judges agreed with the choice of the National Park Service, although a group of Civil War buffs who voted earlier chose one of the other entries.

James A. Holechek, a retired public relations consultant who spearheaded the drive to put a Maryland monument on the historic Pennsylvania battlefield, hastily arranged for the vote yesterday after a Sun reporter discovered that the park service had rejected one of the three entries. The vote had not been scheduled until the end of the month.

Mr. Holechek said afterward that he had not informed the other judges of park officials' decision earlier because he didn't want to prejudice their votes.

Kathy Harrison, the Gettysburg park service historian, said one of the finalists, a wounded Confederate officer being comforted by a Union soldier, by Abbe Godwin of Colfax, N.C., was "almost identical" to a Masonic Memorial planned for the annex of the National Cemetery at the battlefield.

But the Godwin entry, "Reunion," was the choice of the Civil War Round Table, a discussion group of Civil War buffs who voted on the designs earlier, Mr. Holechek said.

The new Maryland entry will join a crowded field. Ms. Harrison said there are already 1,340 memorials of all kinds, including statues, regimental memorials and tablets marking unit positions during the crucial battle in July 1863. Maryland's will be the 16th state memorial.

Maryland stayed with the Union during the war, but Southern sympathies here were high. Even 130 years after the battle, Mr. Holechek said, regional sensitivities run strong, and the monument had to reflect the state's split loyalties.

Twenty thousand Marylanders fought for the North and 12,000 for the South, he said.

The Maryland Civil War buffs had only one criticism of Ms. Godwin's piece and the second entry, from William Ludwig of Albany, La., which depicts a wounded Confederate being offered a canteen by a Union soldier. They felt the two sculptures showed a "Northern dominance," even though they were created by Southern artists, Mr. Holechek said.

Robert Lyons, a Civil War re-enactor who attended yesterday's unveiling of the finalists in a Confederate uniform, said he preferred the Ludtke statue "because it's more balanced . . . both sides are shown fairly equal."

The final selection was made by Mr. Holechek and two Maryland sculptors, Reuben Kramer and Tylden W. Streett. Sculptor E. Clark Mester Jr. was originally to have been on the panel, but couldn't get to yesterday's hastily called voting session, Mr. Holechek said.

Eighty-three artists from around the nation submitted slides and photographs of their work for the competition. The finalists were asked to submit maquettes, 24-inch-tall clay and bronze models.

As the winner, Mr. Ludtke will receive $75,000.

The plan calls for a bronze statue 8 feet tall on a granite pedestal 9 feet high. "Maryland" will be carved into the pedestal above a bronze replica of the state seal.

The General Assembly appropriated $75,000 for the memorial in 1990, Mr. Holechek said. The committee has raised $15,000 and needs another $70,000 to complete financing for the project, he said.

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