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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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. . .
I am still learning.
Michelangelo Buonarroti Sculptor