Stone Mountain is situated sixteen miles east of Atlanta in DeKalb County, Georgia. As its name implies, it is literally a mountain of stone, 5,000 feet long, seven miles around the base, and a mile to the summit up the sloping side. It is the largest solid body of granite in the world, containing approximately 7,543,750,950 cubic feet of stone above the surface. Its foundations underlie almost half the State of Georgia. At varying depths the sub-strata of Stone Mountain granite have been encountered in borings as far north as the Blue Ridge Mountains, 75 miles distant, and as far south as the coastal plain, 250 mile distant.
Time has not produced the slightest decay in this "great granite monster" during all the ages since "the laboring earth disgorged it bare to sun and storm." A thousand centuries of erosion have touched it as lightly as the clouds touch the sky. Since the dawn of Creation it has stood as it stands when we look upon it, unchanged, unchanging, imperishable.
On its northern side Stone Mountain drops in a sheer, perpendicular precipice almost a thousand feet from summit to base.
Across this mammoth page of granite Gutzon Borglum, the noted sculptor, is engraving a perpetual and indestructible monument to the men and women who fought, suffered, sacrificed and died for the Southern Confederacy.
His plan provides three main features:
1. The Panorama.
2. The Memorial Hall.
3. The Amphitheater.
Beginning on the right of the precipice near the summit and sweeping downward and across it a distance of 1,350 feet will be carved in full relief a Panorama representing the Confederate armies mobilizing around their leaders. At the top will be artillery, appearing at the summit as if coming from beyond, and dropping down over and to the left across the precipice in life-like procession of men, guns and horses. On the left of these will be Confederate cavalry in full forward motion. In the center where the precipice bulges forward will be carved a colossal group representing the principal chieftains of the Confederacy, including Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson and four other leaders of the high command, to be selected by a commission composed of the state historians of the thirteen states composing the Confederacy. Swinging away to the left of the central group will be column upon column of Confederate gray- clad infantry carved in the gray and everlasting granite.
Without the Panorama of which it will be a part, the central group alone would surpass all other monuments of history. General Lee's figure will be nearly 200 feet high from the crown of his hat to the hoofs of his horse. This is higher than a seventeen story office building. The head of General Lee will cover an area 30 feet square. Other Confederate chieftains in the central group will be carved in like proportion. No sculptured figures of ancient or modern times can be compared to these in magnitude or grandeur. There never has been in any country anything to approach them. The central group will cover an area of one and one-half acres, or 60,000 square feet of granite on the perpendicular face of a granite mountain; the tops of the figures 300 feet below the summit of the mountain, the hoofs of the horses 300 feet above the plain.
Seven figures in the central group, representing the Confederate high command, will be individualized portraits in stone. That is to say, the figure of General Lee in the central group will be a likeness of Lee, and the same with reference to the other six-i.e., Jefferson Davis, Stonewall Jackson and four to be named by a commission composed of the state historians of the thirteen Confederate States.
In addition to these seven, there will be sixty-five more individual likenesses. These will portray sixty-five Confederate generals, selected by the thirteen Confederate States, each state naming its five most distinguished Confederate generals. The Governor of each appointed a committee to make these selections, and some have been made and others are in the process of being made.
Mr. Borglum's plan is to distribute these sixty-five generals in the Panorama wherever they naturally belong, according to whether they were artillery, cavalry or infantry commanders.
The depth of the figures will vary according to their size. In General Lee's figure the depth will be about twenty feet at the deepest place (the horse's chest), and will range from that down to about four feet of depth in General Lee's hat. The depth of the smallest figure in the Panorama will not be less that four feet.
In the whole Panorama, from one end to the other, will be carved approximately 700 figures.
Memorial Hall will be quarried out of the mountain immediately underneath the central group. Thirteen incisions will be made for removing the granite, and when the hall is finished these openings will form the windows and central entrance, thirteen in number, each one dedicated to a Confederate State. The length of Memorial Hall will be 320 feet, running parallel with the face of the precipice. It will go back into the mountain 60 feet deep and will be 40 feet high from floor to ceiling. Floor, walls and ceiling will be formed by the body of the mountain. No building material will be introduced into the hall except immense bronze doors in the entrance in the center and bronze frames and stained glass in the windows. Along the front of Memorial Hall will sweep a broad granite esplanade formed by cutting a shelf in the mountain the length of the hall. A majestic granite stairway will ascend to the entrance from the plain.
In Memorial Hall will be gathered for perpetual safe keeping the records and relics of the Confederacy. In it will be preserved the names of all contributors to the fund for the Memorial, as well as copies of all Confederate rosters in existence, the roster of each state in a separate receptacle. On the walls of Memorial Hall will be placed bronze tablets bearing the names and deeds of Confederate soldiers, or others who served the Confederacy, in whose memory their descendants gave Founders Roll contributions of $1,000 to the fund. Like a shining band of gold these Founders Roll tablets will encircle the walls of this sacred shrine of southern memories. Over the windows and entrance will be erected very large bronze tablets bearing the names of the Governors and State House Officers of the thirteen Confederate States from 1861 to 1865, together with a summary of the military forces contributed by each state to the Confederacy.
At the base of the mountain, on the right of Memorial Hall, where a recess in the precipice forms a natural sounding board of immense power, will be built the Amphitheater, a huge granite structure rivaling the Coliseum of ancient Rome. Granite removed from Memorial Hall will supply the material. At the back of the stage, in a blocked out incision in the recess, will be built the world's greatest pipe organ.
Such in brief outline is Gutzon Borglum's plan which has thrilled the imagination of the civilized world. In every country having any art or education it has been received with boundless enthusiasm. President Harding a short time before his death wrote a stirring letter describing the Memorial as "the eighth wonder of the world." History affords nothing comparable to it, either as a monument or a work of art.
God created Stone Mountain and none but God can destroy it. In the dawn of Creation it was born; until the end of Creation it will endure. The only measurable span of its existence is from the beginning of time to the end of time. When earth's final cataclysm rends asunder the continents and lifts the oceans from their depths, the last remaining fragment to pass into oblivion will be Stone Mountain, bearing upon its face and holding in its breast the deathless story of Confederate heroism.
On June 18, 1923, work was started on the central group. General Lee was selected as the first to be carved. In honor of the occasion, Governor E. Lee Trinkle of Virginia and members of his staff came to Atlanta to participate with Governor Thomas W. Hardwick of Georgia in the exercises. A great multitude of people, assembled in front of the mountain, heard speeches delivered through an immense brass megaphone from a platform 300 feet below the summit.
Mr. Borglum's first step was to paint on the precipice an outline of the figures of the central group. This was done by means of a powerful projection lantern especially designed and made for this purpose and donated to the Memorial by Edwin Porter of the Precision Machine Company. A small stereopticon slide, containing an outline of the figures, reproduced the lines on the precipice 1,000 feet from the lantern in enormously magnified scale. Men suspended by steel cables with buckets of white paint and wide brushes painted these outlines at night.
Around the painted outlines the granite is being removed so as to leave the figures standing forth in projection from the precipice. Since June 18, when this work was started, progress has been rapid. The granite removal is a straight quarrying job, but one of unexampled difficulties, in that the quarrymen must take their stone out of a perpendicular precipice hundreds of feet above the plain and an equal distance below the summit, and can not use explosives for fear of blowing off a part or all of some figures.
So rapidly, however, has the granite removal progressed around the figure of General Lee that Mr. Borglum expects to finish Lee's head by Lee's next birthday, January 19. Meanwhile, gigantic hoisting machinery especially designed for placing a large force of men on the precipice is under construction in the works of the Brown Hoisting Machinery Company, Cleveland, Ohio, and will be donated to the Memorial, at a cost of $250,000. This machinery will make possible the completion of the entire Panorama within six to eight years, when without such machinery it would take five times as long.
In 1915 Mrs. C. Helen Plane, of Atlanta, the widow of a gallant Confederate officer who was killed in battle, and a charter member of the United Daughters of Confederacy, wrote Mr. Borglum a letter inviting him, on behalf of the U.D.C., to visit Stone Mountain and pass judgement upon the idea, which had been suggested by various people and given considerable publicity, of carving on the precipice a colossal statue of Robert E. Lee.
When the sculptor gazed upon the mighty background, almost a thousand feet in height and more than three thousand feet long, he instantly received the impression that a single statue representing one man would be too small. He frankly told the ladies that in his opinion a figure of Lee alone would be dwarfed into insignificance by the mountain. They challenged him to produce a greater plan which would be in keeping with the magnitude of the precipice.
After studying the mountain for days, examining its contours from all angles and making many measurements, he produced the plan of utilizing the whole enormous sweep of the precipice as the background not of a single statue of Robert E. Lee, but of a great panorama in which would be portrayed the entire military forces of the Confederacy.
Publication of Mr. Borglum's report to the U.D.C. ladies attracted attention throughout the country and across the seas. In all the history of art there had never been produced a thing so great, so splendid, so daring, so indestructible and imperishable. The nearest approach to it was the dream of Alexander the Great of transforming Mount Athos into a sculptured monument to his vainglorious conquests.
A movement was started to raise the fund to carry into effect Mr. Borglum's plan, but the European War intervened and the United States was drawn into it, and the period of reconstruction followed, so it was not until April, 1923, that an opportune moment presented itself to begin definite work.
Meanwhile, there had been organized and chartered the Stone Mountain Confederate Monumental Association Mr. Samuel Hoyt Venable and his family, who own Stone Mountain, had generously made a deed of gift covering the northern side of the mountain to be used for the purpose of carving the Memorial.
At the suggestion of many contributors, the Association established a Founders Roll, to be
composed of individuals, family groups and organizations who subscribe $1,000 or more to the
fund. Each contributor of $1,000 has the privilege of designating a member of his, her or their
family who served the Confederacy, for perpetuation of on a bronze tablet to be placed on the
walls of Memorial Hall, each tablet to be separately cast and to show the name and a record of
the deeds of the one in whose memory it was dedicated, as well as the name or names of the
donor. In the case of an organization, such as a U.D.C. chapter, a Ladies' Memorial Association,
or a military company, they have the right to dedicate their tablet to an individual, or a company,
regiment or battalion of the Confederacy. A large number of Founders Roll subscriptions have
been received, as well as contributions of less than $1,000. A contribution of any amount, of
course, is acceptable.