This is a very large, colorful, and symbolic painting done on site in a grave yard outside the tiny village of Kingston Springs. I lived in Nashville for many years and volunteered to help with an inner city youth art program. A friend ran it for many years and called to ask if I wanted to watch a ceremony for the soldiers who died defending the only star shaped stone fort made during the Civil War, which is on the highest hill (naturally ) in Nashville. Brother fought brother here during the Battle of Nashville and on the day in November, reenactors who are drummers stand on corners and drum away, reminding all of this terrible day. Even if you are not a Civil War buff, it will move you to tears.
The fort was built on a sink hole and is dangerous, so no one is allowed to go into the fort without special permission. So I jumped at the chance and learned the soldiers who built the fort were stone masons from Kingston Springs, west of Nashville, and all the slaves of an English engineer, Montgomery Bell. He came south from Boston (I think) after learning his trade, and opened the first foundry. He had over 200 slaves, never married, and had all of them go to school on site and learn about engineering and masonry. On his death bed he asked if they wanted to stay or go back to Africa. The people who stayed have ancestors in the tiny village of Bell, just past Peagram TN. Some moved into Nasville and are still considered the best stonemasons around. The rest wanted Africa, so he bought them ships and land there and LIBERIA WAS FORMED. Is it a wild world, or what?!
I thought so, and asked the historian at the fort in Nashville if there were any more star-shaped forts. He told me to drive out to Kingston Springs, take a road along the rail road tracks and look carefully for a side road that crossed the tracks. He said there would be a big keep out sign, but there is a public cemetery, and you can park there, but the grounds and big pre-Civil War mansion are off limits. Once you go into the grave yard, you look south and see the rail road tracks across steep ravine. Next to the graveyard, between it and the drop off, is the remains of a star fort earth work. I was thrilled, but you have to go in the fall or later, after the leaves have dropped, or you cannnot see the shape of it. It was built there to protect the ammunition trains and had wooden walls at the time.
So how to honor those slaves who gave for a country they probably had mixed feelings about, but used their skills to defend it and intelligently made the star shape so it could b defended fromall sides. I grew up in the military, love Ordinance Survey maps and finding earthworks in Britain, so I think it is brilliant. Could not wait to paint it and so there are layers of history symbolized here. Soldier angels standing at attention, as a train named Peace goes by (yes, I researched Civil War trains too, I also love trains....) and in the foreground is the body of an aboriginal who loved this land before all the white people decimated them (Mississippian Indians) and the Victorian graveyard, which is still in active use. What unites them all? Love of the land.
This painting is big and needs a frame!
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