National Guard November 2011 : Page 38
G UARD R OOTS : M OUNT R USHMORE Four Guardsmen By Bob Haskell The American icons enshrined on Mount Rushmore have more in common than the presidency FEW THOUSAND YEARS from now, a massive work of art in the Black Hills of South Dakota may well deﬁne this country as other works by men have deﬁned other civilizations. The Chinese have the Great Wall. The Egyptians have the pyramids. The Italians have the Roman Coliseum. The Greeks have the Parthenon. And Americans, or whatever this land’s future people will be called, will have Mount Rushmore. What has become one of this country’s most beloved tributes to four presidents—George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt—is situated “where coming generations may view it for all time,” said President Calvin Coolidge in August 1927, two months before work on the mammoth project began. The sculpture—visited by nearly 3 million people a year—also can be seen as a de facto monument to the Na-A tional Guard. Why not? The four men depicted are among 20 U.S. presidents who once served in the militia or the Guard. But in reality, it’s a monument to the rough and tumble as well as the growth and ideals of this nation’s ﬁrst 150 years. “Whoever wants to know the heart and mind of America had better learn baseball,” wrote historian Jacques Barzun in his 1954 book God’s Country and Mine . The same could also be said about the Mount Rushmore National Memorial. Its location reminds us of the wilderness that early gen-erations had to tame while settling this country. It occupies a piece of the land that the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled was illegally taken from the Lakota Sioux and which those Native Americans still want back. It was created by a strong-willed man named Gutzon de la Mothe Borglum, the son of Danish immigrants, during an era when men such as electricity wizard Thomas Edi-son, oil tycoon John D. Rockefeller and automobile king Henry Ford shaped this country based largely on their own initiative and resolve. It was originally conceived to attract more tourists to that part of the country—in short, to make money, the mo-38 | Na tional Guard
The American icons enshrined on Mount Rushmore have more in common than the presidency<br /> <br /> AFEW THOUSAND YEARS from now, a massive work of art in the Black Hills of South Dakota may well define this country as other works by men have defined other civilizations.<br /> <br /> The Chinese have the Great Wall. The Egyptians have the pyramids. The Italians have the Roman Coliseum. The Greeks have the Parthenon. And Americans, or whatever this land’s future people will be called, will have Mount Rushmore.<br /> <br /> What has become one of this country’s most beloved tributes to four presidents—George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt—is situated “where coming generations may view it for all time,” said President Calvin Coolidge in August 1927, two months before work on the mammoth project began.<br /> <br /> The sculpture—visited by nearly 3 million people a year—also can be seen as a defacto monument to the National Guard. Why not? The four men depicted are among 20 U.S. presidents who once served in the militia or the Guard.<br /> <br /> But in reality, it’s a monument to the rough and tumble as well as the growth and ideals of this nation’s first 150 years.<br /> <br /> “Whoever wants to know the heart and mind of America had better learn baseball,” wrote historian Jacques Barzun in his 1954 book God’s Country and Mine. The same could also be said about the Mount Rushmore National Memorial.<br /> <br /> Its location reminds us of the wilderness that early generations had to tame while settling this country.<br /> <br /> It occupies a piece of the land that the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled was illegally taken from the Lakota Sioux and which those Native Americans still want back.<br /> <br /> It was created by a strong-willed man named Gutzon de la Mothe Borglum, the son of Danish immigrants, during an era when men such as electricity wizard Thomas Edison, oil tycoon John D. Rockefeller and automobile king Henry Ford shaped this country based largely on their own initiative and resolve.<br /> <br /> It was originally conceived to attract more tourists to that part of the country—in short, to make money, the motivating force for settling America in the first place.<br /> <br /> And its magnitude is far greater than the sum of its parts. It has become a much more iconic, largerthan- life symbol of this country than many people who supported its creation could have imagined. It came to be known as The Shrine of Democracy.<br /> <br /> Not bad for a creation that remains unfinished. Work on what author Rex Alan Smith called “the world’s most gigantic piece of sculpture” ended Oct. 31, 1941.<br /> It has never been resumed. And it probably never will be.<br /> <br /> As originally conceived by South Dakota state historian Doane Robinson, monuments to more provincial western figures, such as the Sioux chief Red Cloud, were to be carved in granite pillars in the Needles section of the Black Hills.<br /> <br /> Gutzon Borglum, already an internationally renowned sculptor, had a grander, more national vision. He preferred Mount Rushmore, partly because it faced southeast and enjoyed maximum sunlight. “America will march along that skyline,” he said. And Borglum got his way.<br /> <br /> His design was even more imposing that what you see today. He wanted not just the faces of the presidents, but their bodies down to the waist carved into Mount Rushmore.He also planned a massive panel in the shape of the Louisiana Purchase commemorating in eight-foot-tall letters the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and several territorial acquisitions.<br /> <br /> “Borglum was the decision-maker,” says Blaine Kortemeyer, the deputy director of interpretation and education At the national memorial in South Dakota. Borglum selected the presidents whose strong characters shaped the country.<br /> <br /> It’s hard to imagine that one man’s decision would be so universally accepted today, Kortemeyer says, considering that the federal government ended up footing about 85 percent of the $990,000 bill. The selection of which figures should appear on a Mount Rushmore would undoubtedly create all kinds of cultural and political controversies.<br /> <br /> Construction began Oct. 4, 1927, and ended on the last day of October 14 years later. All told, about 400 men worked on the project, drilling and blasting some 450,000 tons of rock while fashioning the 60-foot faces.<br /> <br /> Washington was given the most prominent position because he was the first president and played such a critical role in the birth of the nation as the Revolutionary War commander.Jefferson was honored as the author of the Declaration on Independence and then, as the third president, for doubling the size of the country with the Louisiana Purchase.<br /> <br /> Lincoln, the 16th president, is there for preserving the Union through one of America’s darkest hours and for his ideals of freedom and equality for all. Roosevelt, the 26th president, is among the four because he saw through the completion of the Panama Canal linking the oceans and opening the connecting waters of the East and the West.<br /> <br /> Roosevelt was the most controversial selection, but Borglum was his friend, and the sculptor believed Roosevelt would also be remembered as one of America’s great presidents, Kortemeyer explains. History has validated that decision.<br /> <br /> “TR was a larger-than-life figure who gave our nation a larger-than-life vision of our place in the world,” said President Bill Clinton, while awarding the Medal of Honor posthumously to the Spanish-American war hero in January 2001.<br /> <br /> It’s probably not a coincidence that all four men served in the militia before achieving the fame that earned them their places on Mount Rushmore. Many men of their times felt an obligation to serve.<br /> <br /> GEORGE WASHINGTON<br /> <br /> Washington, who served Virginia during the French and Indian War, was the only one of the four to endure combat as a member of the militia. Horses were shot out from under him, and his uniform was punctured with bullets, although he was never wounded.<br /> <br /> The Virginia governor appointed Washington as the adjutant of the colony’s southern military district, with the rank of major, in early1753, before his 21st birthday.<br /> <br /> Even though his request for a British army commission was turned down, Washington remained a Virginia militia officer for nearly six years, until he resigned in December 1758, confident that he had helped protect Virginia, his “country,” from the ravages of the French and the Indians.<br /> <br /> Although he served in several different capacities, including as commander of the full-time Virginia Provincial Regiment and “of all forces . . . Raised in the defense of His Majesty’s Colony,” he was always considered a Virginia militia officer.<br /> <br /> “We claim him as a Virginia Guardsman up until 1775 when he was appointed commander of the Continental Army,” says John Listman, a Virginia National Guard historian.“Everything he did up to that point was related to the colony of Virginia.”<br /> <br /> Washington commanded the Virginia regiment during 10 months of warfare against the French and Indians. His “strenuous efforts meant that Virginia’s frontier population suffered less than that of other colonies,” according to historical reports.<br /> <br /> THOMAS JEFFERSON<br /> <br /> The nation’s third president was never in a position to hear a shot fired in anger during the nine years he was a militia officer, although he was nearly captured by Loyalist troops while he was Virginia’s governor. Jefferson was 27 when the governor appointed Jefferson the county lieutenant, a colonel, of the Albemarle County Militia in 1770.<br /> <br /> He “was responsible for all militia affairs in the county including ensuring that the Albemarle County Regiment of Militia drilled on a regular basis, that the regimental and company muster rolls were kept up, and that militia fines were collected by the sheriff,” according to the National Guard Bureau.<br /> <br /> Ensuring that all men of military age in the county were properly trained was also one of his duties, explains Robert Wright, formerly of the Army’s Center of Military History.<br /> <br /> At the same time, Jefferson represented Virginia in the Continental Congress and wrote the Declaration of Independence.<br /> <br /> Jefferson prepared the county militia for mobilization when the war started, and he was responsible for providing militia replacements for Virginia regiments in the Continental Army. Although he resigned his commission after he was elected Virginia’s governor in 1779, “as a wartime governor, Jefferson did a wonderful job of mobilizing troops,” Wright says.<br /> <br /> ABRAHAM LINCOLN<br /> <br /> Few politicians make light of their military service, limited or long. Lincoln was an exception, even though he was proud that he served.<br /> <br /> Yes, the young, unemployed man from New Salem, Ill., served three enlistments in the state’s militia, from April 21 to July 10, 1832, during the Black Hawk War, which was touched off when a couple thousand Native Americans, mostly women and children, returned to Illinois to reclaim their tribal homeland. Black Hawk was their leader.<br /> <br /> Lincoln, 23, was elected captain of his company in the 4th Regiment of Mounted Volunteers during his first enlistment that ended in late May. He then served until mid- June as a private in a 20-day interim regiment.<br /> <br /> He encountered the sobering side of warfare during his third enlistment, as a member of an independent spy unit.He and a friend discovered the bodies of five militia soldiers who had been killed and scalped during a brief skirmish.<br /> <br /> Lincoln was, however, honorably discharged without ever seeing the enemy.<br /> <br /> Sixteen years later, when Democrats harped on the War of 1812 record of presidential candidate Lewis Cass, Lincoln couldn’t resist telling people that he too was a war hero, wrote David Herbert Donald in his Pulitzer Prize winning biography Lincoln.<br /> <br /> “Yes sir, in the days of the Black Hawk war, I fought, bled and came away,” Lincoln told listeners. “I had a good many bloody struggles with the musquetoes (sic); and, although I never fainted from loss of blood, I can truly say I was often very hungry.”<br /> <br /> THEODORE ROOSEVELT<br /> <br /> There is no indication that Roosevelt experienced hunger or any other discomfort during the nearly four years he served in the New York National Guard. New York’s adjutant general reports state that he joined Company B of the small, 350-man 8th Regiment as a second lieutenant in June 1882. He was promoted to captain that December and resigned in February 1886.<br /> <br /> A week or so of State Camp of Instruction near Peek Peekskill,N. Y., during the summer seemed to be the most demanding duty for New York Guard soldiers at that time when Roosevelt, in his 30s, was busy launching his political career and ranching in the Dakotas.<br /> <br /> He marched in the long funeral procession for President Ulysses Grant in New York City on Aug. 8, 1885, according to Edmund Morris’ biography The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt.<br /> <br /> Roosevelt would experience combat and find fame 13 years later as second-in-command and then commander of the Rough Riders, the 1st U.S. Volunteer Cavalry Regiment, in Cuba during the Spanish-American War.<br /> <br /> Although he was assistant secretary of the Navy as war clouds were gathering, he made no bones about wanting a piece of the action.<br /> <br /> “Pray remember that in some shape I want to go,” Roosevelt wrote to the New York adjutant general. “I was three (sic) years in the National Guard, and have had a good deal experience in leading men.”<br /> <br /> Ultimately, Roosevelt served as an officer in the U.S. Volunteers, not the Guard.<br /> <br /> But he did serve the Guard well later on. “I believe no other great country has such fine natural materials for volunteer soldiers as we have, and it is the obvious duty of the nation and the states to make such provision as will enable the volunteer soldiery to be organized with all possible rapidity and efficiency in time of war, and furthermore to help in every way the National Guard in time of peace,” he told Congress after assuming the presidency in 1901.<br /> <br /> The Militia Acts of 1903 and 1908 during his administration began the reforms that led to the modern Guard.<br /> <br /> Roosevelt clearly earned the right to be included in the Mount Rushmore shrine to the four presidents that, coincidentally, has remained in its present state during the 70 years that the Guard has grown up.<br /> <br /> Gutzon Borglum’s son, Lincoln, shut down work about eight months after his father died in early March 1941 and about five weeks before the United States entered World War II. Funding had already dried up because of President Franklin Roosevelt’s commitment to turn this country into the “Arsenal of Democracy.”<br /> <br /> “Lincoln was absolutely committed to his father’s dream.He had worked all of the different jobs during the construction.He even became the park’s first superintendent,” Kortemeyer says. “There were some thoughts of restarting the work after the war, but there was no concerted effort to do that.Borglum’s death in March 1941 in effect ended the project.The Borglum family didn’t want anyone else to touch it.”<br /> <br /> Bob Haskell is a retired Maine Army National Guard master sergeant and a freelance journalist in Falmouth, Mass. He may be contacted via email@example.com.
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