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“Save the Clock Tower!”

Anyone familiar with the movie Back to The Future” will recognize that refrain.

Early in the movie, an older woman thrusts a coffee can toward Michael J. Fox, and bellows, “Save the clock tower!”

It was 30 years ago that I first saw that movie, and yet even then, I bonded instantly with that delightful character. Somewhere deep inside my heart, I knew I was glimpsing my very own future.

That day has arrived.

As regular readers of this blog will know, I’m a native of Portsmouth, Virginia. I grew up admiring the architecture of this historic port city in Southeastern Virginia. When I was a little girl, my father would drive me around downtown Portsmouth and I’d study the architecture. One of the most impressive images of the landscape was the Confederate Monument at High and Court Street.

This monument has been an icon in Portsmouth for more than 130 years, and now Portsmouth’s city council is seriously considering taking it down.

Construction on the 55-foot tall obelisk was started in 1876, after the horrors of Reconstruction had loosened their grip on Portsmouth, Virginia. After the war, Portsmouth was broken and bankrupt, with more than $300,000 in debt. In today’s dollars, that’s $4.3 million.

Eleven years after the Civil War ended, the Ladies of the Confederacy - women who had lost everything in this war - banded together and created the Portsmouth and Norfolk County Monumental Association, with the hopes of erecting a memorial to their sons, their fathers, and their husbands.

It took more than 11 years for the people of Portsmouth to raise the money to finish the statue. It’s one of only three statues in the South that feature all four branches of service.

When the Civil War began, Portsmouth had 900 registered voters, and yet more than 1,200 soldiers were mustered from Portsmouth. Of those 1,242 soldiers, 199 died in the war. Many of the war dead were buried where they fell. Others were left in the fields to rot. Some were laid to rest in mass graves, or unmarked graves, far from their home in Portsmouth, their names forgotten in time.

This monument is a grave marker for those men who were never given a proper burial.

To read about the Northern view of our Confederate monuments, click here.

If you’re interested in donating money to help in the legal fight to save this 139-year-old monument, please click on this tab or the “Tip Jar” tab at the top of this page. All paypal funds received into that account within the next 60 days will go directly to Stonewall Camp #380, to help defray their legal expenses.

If you’re interested in learning more about this remarkable and rare monument, scroll on down, and read the captions on the pictures below.

To donate directly to legal fees to save the statue, please send a check to:

Stonewall Camp

P. O. Box 8484

Virginia Beach, VA  23450

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Portsmouth

I was in my 20s when I first saw this movie, but even then I knew that one day, I'd be this woman.

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Save the clock tower!

The infamous clock tower, as seen in "Back To The Future."

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Save the

The monument in downtown Portsmouth is on the National Registry, and is considered historically significant for many reasons. For one, it's one of only three monuments in the South that feature all four branches of service.

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Confederates

The wrought-iron fencing is original to the statue.

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Clock tower

It took 11 years for the people of Portsmouth to raise the money for this monument. When the statue was dedicated, schools and businesses were closed for the day, as the happy throngs filled the streets to celebrate its completion.

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Four gents

The four branches of service honored on this monument are the Infantry, Navy, Cavalry and Artillery. When commissioned, the zinc soldiers were to be 6'3" tall, but when they arrived, they were a mere 5'8" tall (according to contemporary newspaper accounts). After much discussion, it was decided to accept the shortened statues.

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Save the clock tower.

According to the National Registry application for the statue, the four soldiers featured on the statue were Portsmouth men. The Artillery man was modeled after J. Shirley Hope; Frank Wonycott - Cavalry; William Henry Buchanan, a Civil War veteran was either the Cavalry representative or the Navy man. James W. Nicholson was the other model. The sailor (shown here) was my favorite fellow.

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F

One of my earliest childhood memories has been this tall statue in downtown Portsmouth. It's an important part of our history.

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To donate money for legal fees to save the statue, please send a check to:

Stonewall Camp

P. O. Box 8484

Virginia Beach, VA  23450

To read more about the historical significance of this statue, click here.

To learn more about old houses, click here.

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