I. The Design
II. The Maquette
III. The Enlargement
IV. The Final Sculpting
V. Epilogue
 
'Its About Time'
The Sculpting of the General James Longstreet Memorial
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The Final Sculpting

Since I began sculpting many decades ago, I have always believed that sculpture is the most powerful art form. It is a humbling occupation that causes me to look within and to try to understand why I have this natural ability to create a likeness that evokes varied emotions in others. Although my talents remain a mystery to me, I continue to follow my heart and soul, thus, continue my tribute to Longstreet.

I arrived at the studio with my kit of tools, and of course my constant companion, Sport. I placed his mat on the floor next to the wall, away from the door; he strolled over, lay down and promptly went to sleep.

Retrieving my apron from the tool box, I wrapped it around me and proceeded to place the stepladder near the sculpture. I selected the nec-essary tools for the first step in the final assault, and I worked my way up the ladder to a point peer-ing directly into the face of Longstreet. It was a face devoid of detail, ready and waiting to be transformed into a likeness of the strong, defiant and de-termined individual he was.

The enlargement was delivered to the college studio near the time of the July 3rd reenactment festivities. Thousands of people would be in Gettysburg during the week, with many having requested to see the me-morial in its latest stage. I knew that I had to at least have the portrait of the General complete. Without a recognizable portrait, the remainder would only be a waste of time.

I began to strategically place small pieces of clay on the front of the head. The nose, cheekbones and beard were all roughed in and made smooth with wood and wire tools. Referring to the photographs I had of the General, I began to apply the clay for the ears. His ears were large and the lobes heavy. They were my grandfather's ears.

While fashioning the beard flowing over his left shoulder, I tried to imagine what Longstreet would have looked like clean-shaven. Adding more clay, pushing together the pieces, then plowing my finger-tips through the material, I saw the beard begin to emerge and finally become his. The tools were not nec-essary to define his whiskers; only the touch of my fingers created the flowing mass of manhood.

The eyes came next. The eyes are the most important detail of the fa-cial features. The sculptor, to his benefit, can produce eyes in such a manner as to show emotion in many forms. I wished to show them in neither sadness nor pleasure but rather in dedication and devotion. I cut in each iris and sculpted the lids. Constantly referring to the General's photograph, I finished the brow and then made adjustments to the overall portrait. The face being completed, I only needed approval from someone other than I that the face was that of Longstreet.

Confirmation came a few days later when Robert Thomas and Bill Johnson came to the studio to inspect the enlargement for the first time. After the customary hand shakes, hugs and general well wishes of old friends, Robert couldn't stand it any longer. He moved the ladder in place to climb up and into the face of his hero. He moved slowly; each step bringing with it words of praise in a thick and loud North Carolina accent, while touching all the lower areas of clay. After a time, it was apparent that Robert was engulfed in a sea of anticipation, striving for the top rung. Bill was watching his comrade's every move, and I was becoming em-barrassed with all the compliments. Finally, it happened, silence; Robert had reached the summit and become quiet. He said nothing; I asked if he liked it. Again, silence; not even a whisper came from his lips. Bill just stood there and very lightly, patted me on the back.

After what seemed to be an eter-nity of silence, Robert slowly raised his hand, reached out toward the General's face and reverently, lov-ingly touched the clay. He moved his hand over the sculpted form, caress-ing each facet as if blind and yearn-ing to see. Tears began to flow; I gave up on getting an answer to my ques-tion and Robert retreated down the ladder, past Bill and walked slowly out into the sunlight. Seeing his friend in an agitated state, Bill quickly went to his side in an effort to help. All alone and in a panic, I thought Robert did not like the portrait, I was reluctant to do or say anything now. My confi-dence level had just been reduced to that stuff you get on your shoe while walking through the barnyard.

Sport, asleep on his pad, missed the whole affair, only to be awakened by a loud voice coming to the door of the studio.

"You done good, Hoss," were the words I heard. Loud and clear from Robert came those words of approval. Hugs and the wiping away of tears were the start of what I thought to be nearing of the end, while Robert saw it as a beginning of the Longstreet Memorial.

During the period I spent sculpting the enlargement, many people came by to see the work. Each person had his own particular question to be an-swered. The most common inquiry was, "How does the clay become bronze?" Every time, the same answer came forth in explicit detail. And, al-most every time, a look of amazement washed over the face of the inquirer. Again, as I stated earlier, this is one of the reasons for writing this book.

For more than three months, I moved from place to place on the piece to cut, smooth, add clay and render it finished. During this period of time, various visitors became return customers wishing to learn about the pro-cess. It was extremely gratifying to see the interest in not only the memorial but also in the workings of a sculptor. Once, I was visited by a troop of Brown-ies. Each little darling stood attentively with her mouth and eyes wide open and looking upward, as if to see the Second Coming. That particular day I happened to have some candy on the work table. So, between Sport and the thin mints, I was guaranteed never to be forgotten.

Only once was I visited by a fellow sculptor, David Jones. He came from a neighboring state to see the design and talk shop. We rambled on throughout the afternoon drinking coffee and relishing the work before us.

On rare occasions, I would allow those chosen individuals to touch the clay sculpture. Visitors were always interested in the various finishes cre-ated in the clay to resemble fur, leather, metal, etc. They would gingerly touch
it, then slowly pull away; only to ask, "How long does the clay stay soft?" When told it could be easily damaged throughout the process, right up to the rubber mold being applied, they shuddered, and usually smiled, knowing they had been given a very special opportunity.

Of all those hundreds of people who came by to see the General and his horse, my fondest memories are those of a little girl being carried by her mother while her father walked around and around the piece taking in every detail. She watched me ner-vously kneading apiece of clay be-tween my fingers and explaining what the next step was to be. She whispered to her mother, who said, "No, we can't have that." Knowing how inquisitive children are, I leaned over to the cute cherub face and asked what would she like to have from the studio. I thought for certain Sport would be on the list, as she kept reaching out to touch him or at least get his attention. Instead, she asked for a piece of clay, that stuff I was playing with. So, I dutifully pulled off a piece, fashioned a small doll and gave it to her mother. Then, I gave my little apprentice a raw piece to someday sculpt one of her own making.

Picture after picture was taken. Sometimes I felt more like a politician than a sculptor - holding babies, shaking hands, posing with family mem-bers. I probably gave away 50 pounds of clay in two ounce increments as mementos. Some individuals even asked me to sign the clay chunks. I felt very humbled by the request. If I gained only the friendship of the multitude of visitors over that summer, I surely was blessed.

When sculpting a piece as large as Longstreet, I like to use my fingers as tools. In my opinion, the best work on the battlefield at Gettysburg is the North Carolina monument by Gutzon Borglum. The entire piece was prima-rily done with his fingers to create a moving, flowing work of art. Few tools were used in the sculpting as evidenced in the fact that if you examine it closely, you can see his fingerprints. In the bronze, cast for eternity, are the permanent personal marks of Borglum, the sculptor.

To touch and work the clay, to have that connection between the sculptor and his work, allows the personality of the creator to flow directly into his work. I believe that the generous use of tools only distorts the piece through
definition and slows the natural flow or person-ality of the work. In other words, it becomes static.

As I stated earlier, I began sculpting at the General's head and pro-ceeded toward his boots. The folds and drape of his coat were cut and smoothed, then the braid was added to the sleeves in four separate strips, the flashings of a General. The next step was to place the buttons on the coat. From previous research, I knew that Longstreet had used the buttons of his uniform from his former alma mater, West Point. Therefore, I had to either sculpt or use facsimiles of the originals. Fortunately; David Keebaugh, a reenactor, came forward with the buttons I required. In fact, we cut them off the uniform he was wearing the day he vis-ited the studio. With the correct buttons in hand, I made a rubber mold of them and cast wax impressions. The waxes were added to the uniform; thus the General was attired in a frock closely imaging the one he wore on those hot July days at Gettysburg.

During the period of finishing the frock, I also worked on related or touch-ing items, such as the saddle, pistol holsters and valise. Each had its own problems to be solved. In fact, many of the visitors were particularly inter-ested in the valise area with the drape of the frock. With the frock flowing over the valise, mixing with the sash, it made an interesting combination of converging lines.

Moving on as each area of the torso became finished, I began to work on the trousers and boots. The trousers were relatively easy; with only a small portion being visible from under the frock. A double gold braid was added to each leg in accordance with war period photos taken of Longstreet.

The boots presented a different scenario. I chose to sculpt the boots with knee flaps. Why? Simply because of artistic design, a better flow in the piece. A bit more interesting than just trousers stuffed into tube boots. Eagle spurs, being held in place with the appropriate strappage, adorned each boot. Looking closely; you will see that the rawls have been removed, just as the General wished.

With the footwear in place, completing the stirrups, hoods and straps was just a matter of adding and smoothing the clay to the appropriate shape.

At the beginning of the final sculpting phase, I had decided not to complete the hat until later. Now was the time to retrace my steps up the ladder and hang off the second floor truss to reach the General's topper. To say the least, many of the visitors to the studio were amused at the number of times I moved and traveled up and down the ladder, all the while holding onto a steel truss bar with my left hand, contorting my body, sculpting with my right hand, then vise versa. With my Tarzan routine nearing an end, the acorns and cord along with intimate details were stroked in, and the brimmed hat of Ol' Pete was finished.

Afterwards, I was quite pleased with myself for not having fallen to the floor or onto the General himself. If I had, I was going to blame it on the ghost of General Jubal Early for pushing me.

At last, Hero, the General's mount, became my main thrust. Surveying the roughed-in enlargement, I began to formulate in my mind's eye the finished product. Again, pulling from my research file, I collected the photographs of my model, Summer. I strolled around the work to familiarize myself with what the enlargement had to offer. I made mental notes on where to add or subtract clay as I moved around the clay figure.

Mounting my steed, the official Longstreet Memorial ladder, I climbed up to the head of Hero and began my work.

I wanted Hero to have a powerful muscular head and neck with his mouth open, tongue thrusting to the outside and away from the bit being compressed by the pulling of the reins.

I elected to enlarge the veins around the eyes, lay his ears flat and flare his nostrils to show the pain he is experiencing, yet responding to the demands of the rider. In other words, doing his duty as James Longstreet did his.

Modeling the mane, I wanted it to flow over the right hand of the General to create a more compact design. Only a portion of the gauntlet would be shown, with his strong muscular hand holding the reins. Finishing the mane, I moved to the left hand and duplicated the strength of the other. These powerful extremities would help carry through the sense of dedication I felt the memorial should relay.

From the neck area, I moved onto the body of Hero. His wide shoulders and large powerful rump would give the General a comfortable seat. Longstreet was a large man, thus a large horse was needed. Also, Hero was a war horse, so I made him a stallion.

One day, while I was lying on my back, and sculpting the anatomically correct Hero, a visitor stopped by the studio. After watching me for several minutes, he blurted out, "You think Longstreet ever saw his horse from that
angle?" A few chuckles followed; we both agreed that neither of us ever heard of the General falling off his horse.

Michelangelo painted the Sistine Chapel almost entirely lying on his back. It took years to complete. Only after a few days in the exact same position, I began thinking about the master and how he was able to do it. My back was hurting, and I was a short timer compared to the revered painter/sculptor. I decided then to ex-plore the realm of Michelangelo and complete all that needed to be done on my back, in one determined stint. As they say, when you have them down, keep them down, and, I was down.

The girth strap and buckles were sculpted into place. The shoulders with bulging veins and the hind quarter muscles were completed. Finally, I stood up, after an arduous flurry of activity to finish, and better under-stood why, years after the Sistine, Michelangelo held his letters high over his head and leaned his head back in an effort to read without being in pain.

Surely, to a horse, the tail and mane could be equated to that of a beautiful woman's sculpted locks. Therefore, I wanted to produce a tail that made a statement. But what should it say? Knowing that it would tie into the legs for better strength in the overall design, I did not want it to become just an anchor holding down the rear of the horse. As I began the layers of clay to produce the flow in the work, it came to mind that Hero would have ruffled his tail because of the pain of the bit in his mouth. So, I finished the tail in a robust, ruffled look. I called it "the tail of rebellion." Rebelling against the bit, but doing his duty as ordered.

Now to the legs, the powerhouse of the horse. those four limbs that can carry the rider at breakneck speed or amble at a quiet pace with the beauty and grace of a ballerina.

My Hero was to have large hooves as my model, Summer: well-shod, with two hooves planted into the soil; third being lifted and just touching the ground; the fourth, and most important, raised to create not only an exciting, moving work, but also a controversial one. (I did not discuss this point in the design section of this book.)

The question of the equestrian design became apparent during the early meetings with the National Park Service at Gettysburg. It was not decided until later, after an adjunct meeting with representatives of the Licensed Battle-field Guides being present, that the breaking of the tradition of the "hoof theory", (which, inci-dentally, only works at Gettysburg), was agreed to.

For many years, since the erection of the first equestrian on the field, sculptors, without knowing, followed an unspoken dictum. It was as if the hands of fate guided the artists. By showing the horse with one hoof raised off the ground, it suggested the rider was wounded in battle, and, if two hooves were lifted, he surely was killed in the conflict.

Of course, I am forgetting two other poses. The first, having all the hooves firmly planted into the base of the monument meant the rider went home to have many grandchildren. The second, with all four floating from the soil, well, the rider was retreating like hell! Or, something like that. It only works, or worked, at Gettysburg.

Back to my design of the memorial. I wanted a moving, flowing piece, to relay a message to those who came to see it; not an introduction as to how a horse stands on all four legs, or that anyone was killed or wounded in the battle. No, I wanted to create an art piece of beauty and meaning, an equestrian without the strings of consequence tied to it.

The adjunct meeting I spoke of earlier was held with the general agreement that Longstreet was to be treated differently than his other predecessors. His military strategy for the battle placed him in the realm of the modern soldier. This strategy, the ques-tioning of the orders of the high command, would serve as fuel for the fire to burn against him long after the war. And, because Longstreet was the first confederate officer to be honored with a memorial at Gettysburg, then this memorial would serve to be the one not to follow the erroneous direction of the past. I com-mend those present for taking the bold initiative in allowing the design to go forward.

The concept for the memorial and the design were approved. I think Ol' Pete and Hero would be pleased.

After two months, I was down to just a few odds and ends to complete, the crupper, breast strap, halter, reins and saddlebags. These were sculpted in a short time with the exception of the reins because as I chose to complete them, with the sword upon the sculpture's return to the foundry to Lancaster.

The day after completing the leathers, I telephoned Art Research Tech-nology and scheduled the pick-up of the work. Sport and I welcomed visi-tors to the studio for the last time and cleaned up the studio.

A few days after the phone call, a crew with an open flat-bed truck arrived for the dismantling and removal of my newest and closest friends, James and Hero.

The chain hoist again was suspended from the steel truss. The locking pin in Hero's neck was loosened, and the cutting wires pulled through the smooth, modeled clay.

This auspicious occasion again attracted the media with their note pads and cameras in hand. Sport and I stood back and allowed the capable hands of the foundry men to do their work. Each person taking part in the re-moval knew that the clay could be damaged with the slightest touch. Hours, even weeks of work, could be destroyed in the wink of an eye. A statement I made during the delivery of the piece came to mind. Whom can you trust?
The foundry men? Who else? It was their job and they knew what they were doing.

During the melee of activity, my friendly, college-loaned front-end- loader driver, reinforced with the ex-perience of the prior delivery, was per-forming a masterful job removing the pieces from the studio. A bit nervous, but even so, masterful.

The upper and lower portions were now out of the studio and sitting on the pavement. With the assistance of the loader, the two halves were skillfully loaded onto the bed of the truck. The removal complete, the loader operator received a round of applause. He im-mediately crossed his arms over the
steering wheel and lowered his head into his arms. Later, some of those present said he whispered, "Thank God." Others thought he was just in shock from the pressure. I like to think he was praying for the General's
safe journey.

Tackle chains were brought in and used to secure both pieces. The lower portion on its wheels was moved to the front of the bed for a safer, more secure position. Longstreet and Hero, the top part of the duo, set secure, peering out through the openings of the wood side rails on the truck.

Anxious about the delivery back to Lancaster, I decided to follow the truck at a safe distance. I knew there would be virtually nothing I could do if the General took a hit. I guess I just wanted to witness it.

My anxieties were well-founded. Since moving to Gettysburg, I had traveled Route 30 East numerous times. It was almost to a point of disbe-lief that I began noticing automobile crashes, trucks burning, broken util-ity poles on the edge of the road, mangled wire fences with car parts em-bedded in the post and, yes, even downed pedestrians.

I solemnly gave the name of "Death Row" to the infamous stretch of highway, only after seeing a tractor trailer overturned in the median with three automobiles over an embankment, and the fourth, rear-ended, sit-ting on the dual highway with its driver flat on her back and a paramedic desperately trying to save her life. This was the road Longstreet was going to travel. Maybe this is what the loader operator was thinking in his earlier moment of quiet repose.

The foundry crew elected not to put a cover over the sculpture. Should a cover of any kind have been used, it could have become loosened by the wind and flapped or beaten the soft clay to oblivion. Even so, before we left the college, we joked about the possibility of airborne insects pock-marking the finished clay.

Leaving Gettysburg without incident, a number of individuals on the sidewalks were confused at what they saw: half-horse, half-man. Fingers pointed, jaws fell and tongues wagged. In all, it was an amusing sight.

Passing through York was even odder. Not only were the pedestrians pointing out the unusual sight, but motorists also began questioning what they were seeing in their rear-view mirrors and began pull-ing over to allow the truck to pass, after which the finger-pointing resumed in earnest.

On to Lancaster and fi-nally the foundry. We arrived at Art Research and parked the truck close to the loading dock, in prepara-tion for the dislodging of the General from his restraints. Inspecting the lower part of the memorial, I found that one of the straps securing the piece had rubbed against the leg of Longstreet. Definitely disappointing; however, the damage was minor and could be repaired in short order.

Retrieving the two halves and moving them into the foundry, we began the hoisting process again and returned the two pieces to their former singular unity.

Longstreet and Hero had returned to their roots: The foundry. The end was now in sight.

For several days, I worked at repairing the damaged area and restora-tion of the separation line. The reins, yet to be installed, were produced by wrapping clay around precut rabbit wire strips and attaching the pieces to the bit and the hands of the General. Every General needs a sword, and Longstreet would get his. Using a stick of wood for the sword body, I wrapped it with clay, sculpted the finial and completed it by modeling the wire-wrapped handle and hilt. All that was left to do was to attach the sword to the figure and sculpt the straps and hangers.

Reviewing the work, I made minor corrections here and there to satisfy myself with each detail. It is definitely easier to make changes in clay, rather than to correct cast metal.

It was late in the afternoon; I stood before the largest work I had sculpted to date. I thought about a lot of things, especially my parents, both now deceased; I wondered what each would have said about it. My father surely would have asked how much I was paid to sculpt it. Having been raised on a farm, cutting timber as a young adult and then working as a coal miner, he knew the value of hard work. Whatever the amount I would have quoted, it would have been too much. For a man who worked harder than I can ever imagine in a lifetime, Daddy was always right. On the other hand, I think my mother would have asked where I signed my name. So, Mom, for you I kept my name out of the mud but not out of the controversy. I have made many mistakes in my life, but this decision was right. You will find it on the raised leg of Hero, signed for everyone to see and know that I did it. A Casteel - who would have believed it?

At last it was done. I had touched every inch of it dur-ing the sculpting process. Like Gutzon Borglum, I used my fingers in place of tools where ever I could. I became a part of it.

I felt a bit uneasy leaving my two friends alone that night. I left the foundry for the last time before the responsibility of the casting was rel-egated to Art Research.

It took seven years to deliver the General and Hero to a sculptural life. All this time I thought of what it would be like to sculpt the equestrian, what it would be like to have a bronze of that magnitude on the Gettysburg battlefield.

Many times I have said that I am so lucky to have received this remark-able talent. Whenever I complete a piece, large or small, I am always amazed. I ask myself, "How did I do that?" Training through the years certainly helped fine-tune my ability. But, with the desire, the need to sculpt, my hands always seemed to know what to do. It truly is a gift from the heart of a divine spirit.

Seven years, the commission of a lifetime; I have gained much more than monetary rewards. I have been given the opportunity to gather last-ing friendships and to help others by using my talents. That is what life is all about; that is what sculpting is to me.

But. . .

'Ancora Imparo'
I am still learning.
Michelangelo Buonarroti Sculptor
(1475 -1564)

 
 
'Its About Time'
The Sculpting of the General James Longstreet Memorial
 
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