“An unfit representation of the man”
It really was the hands, wasn’t it? After all the dissatisfied snorts from the esteemed committee of the Grand Army of the Republic, the grumbling about the flag dragging on the ground, the casual way Grant was laying aside his sword, the fact that Franklin Simmons managed to make a marble uniform look rumpled, and the lack of – what? – a dash of heroic stature; in the end, I suspect the hands sealed this statue’s fate. The gesture so human, so enigmatic. Not even a gesture - more a pre-gesture, someone trying to free a captured thought as if releasing a bird into the air. For me, the hands are a pathway into the mind of a man envisioning war’s end while beginning to grasp the cost.
In fairness, the Grand Army leaders were no doubt fed up with way the South’s losing generals were praised for their strategic brilliance and military bearing, made romantic heroes in a lost cause, while their own blunt, whiskey-drinking generals were continually discounted - their tactics unsophisticated, their actions brutal, their bearing unchivalrous. It’s true, Grant showed little interest in the elegant maneuvering of troops on the battlefield - he knew Union victory would only come, could only come, from relentlessly battering the enemy with superior force until surrender. It’s not hard to imagine the Grand Army wanted to commission a reminder of who won and who surrendered.
Simmons returned to his studio in Rome and sent back a new version – marble uniform pressed, knee-high cavalry boots that looked like something from The Three Musketeers, that enigmatic left hand now gripping a sword with determination and the now-empty right hand held innocuously at his side revealing nothing about the subject’s inner mental state. In other words, no longer brilliant, no longer human, no longer Grant. The new statue was installed in the U.S. Capitol while the rejected statue was remaindered to Maine – with those hands so hard to look away from and that bird still waiting to be freed.
Robert Miner is a former political consultant who now works in government affairs in the energy industry. His poetry has appeared or soon will appear in The Ekphrastic Review, The Earth Journal, The Dewdrop and The Tanka Journal.
The Ekphrastic Review
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