Statues. A Series-1

Burlington, Iowa has several statues, canons and an old military jet scattered around in parks. We even have statues of Mary in front of Catholic Churches. I’m sure there are shrines and museums I know nothing about. One of the attractions is a statue of Black Hawk the Indian chief whose name dominates our region.

John C. Corse served under several generals. His bravery was well-known. He was wounded at Missionary Ridge and then fulfilled General Sherman’s order to hold Allatoona pass where he lost one-third of his men and one-third of an ear. Coarse said,

I am short a cheek-bone and an ear, but am able to whip all hell yet.

John M. Corse made this peculiar boast after sustaining a head wound at the Battle of Allatoona in 1864. While bleeding, he received a message from General Sherman saying, “Hold on, I am coming.” That statement was amended by newspaper writers to “Hold the fort, for I am coming” which became a classic folk song and then a hymn. It was in some of the church song books I sang from.

1. Ho, my comrades, see the signal, waving in the sky!
Reinforcements now appearing, victory is nigh.
o Refrain:
“Hold the fort, for I am coming,” Jesus signals still;
Wave the answer back to Heaven, “By Thy grace we will.”
2. See the mighty host advancing, Satan leading on;
Mighty ones around us falling, courage almost gone!
3. See the glorious banner waving! Hear the trumpet blow!
In our Leader’s Name we triumph over every foe.
4. Fierce and long the battle rages, but our help is near;
Onward comes our great Commander, cheer, my comrades, cheer!
(1870) Phillip P. Bliss,

Not only does the John M Corse statue stand proudly in Crapo (long “A) Park, but there is a street named after him about three blocks from our house. There is a bridge in Iowa City named for him and a grade school here in Burlington.

Allatoona is north of Atlanta in the vicinity of Cartersville, Georgia. We have driven past Cartersville on I-75 and stayed a night or two there. You ever wonder if the battle of Altoona in which Corse was a major figure, touched the families of Confederate soldiers? Did a daddy or brother come home alive but minus a leg? Any ancestors not come home?

John Corse became a lawyer, was selected as Lieutenant Governor of Iowa after the war. He moved east and died at age 58 when his body was shipped back to Burlington. The people who lost loved ones on that battle ground don’t know about his life after the war, all they know is that he was one of the commanders who ordered gunfire that killed their loved one.

I have no hard numbers, but I’m guessing at least 70% of our population doesn’t know the story of John Corse, and probably 20% more don’t know there is a statue or who the statue is as they drive through Crapo Park.

I have considered my response if those folks from South Georgia should come to our town to take Mr. Corse’s statue down. I have wondered if Corse school will be unscathed by the current purge of treacherous statues.

I wonder if Ernie Banks’ statue in front of Wrigley Field will survive.

Am I no longer thinking straight? Do people fear that some dark night those statues are going to organize and mobilize and start driving trucks on sidewalks?

Everyone sing. Verse 4.

©2017 D. Dean Benton dean@deanbenton.org

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