Local men complete restoration of Chickamauga Battlefield monume - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Local men complete restoration of Chickamauga Battlefield monument

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Chickamauga Battlefield is already preparing for this fall's festivities marking 150 years since the Civil War.

A group of contractors just finished a $65,000 project to repair a special monument at the historic battlefield.

A monument for Union General William Lytle was falling apart until about a month ago when the park asked three men from Lookout Metal Works to help with repairs.

"It's a big challenge. One of the biggest challenges I've ever done figuring out a way to do this."

Stacking cannonballs is a first for Mark Phillips. He owns Lookout Metal Works: a job that's never required him to build a pyramid of cannonballs. But Phillips had help from his two brother-in-laws, Lee and Tracey Collins. And for 10 hours a day for 30 days, the three worked to restore General Lytle's monument.

Executive Director of Friends of the Park Patrice Glass said the group raised the $65,000 needed to complete the project and that 80 percent of the funds came from outside the local area. 

Lytle's monument marks the area where the Union leader died in 1863.

"He was leading the charge against the Confederacy when he fell off his horse and fell in this area here," said Park Superintendent Cathy Cook.

For Phillips, the project is personal. His fourth great-grandfather fought against Lytle at Chickamauga. Now he's repairing the 120-year-old monument in the same spot.

"The Confederacy even thought a lot of him. When he died here, the confederates guarded his body and waited for the Unions to come get him," Phillips said.

The restoration was badly needed. Over the years park officials said the cannonballs were either stolen or moved to other monuments.

"It was just a flat layer of balls with the tablet that goes on the front here flat down on the balls, about 130 balls flat there across the base. Now it stands pretty tall you know," Phillips said.

Phillips taught himself to stack cannonballs, adding more layers to monument: 323 balls in total art 50 pounds a piece.

And as the guys put on the final coat of paint, they reflect on repairing a piece of history thousands will soon enjoy.

"I guess the biggest part for me was just reaching back in time and getting my hands on it," Lee Collins said. "You can't describe the feeling you have of working on a monument for someone that was so well loved on both sides."

The monument is scheduled to be rededicated September 20, 150 years after Gen. Lytle's death.

Glass said the Jewell Memorial Restoration Fund was recently created to help preserve the park's historic monuments and landscape.

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