The Lion of the Atlanta

Oakland Cemetery, Atlanta, Georgia

Today a friend of mine, Renet Bender, has written a guest post about a cemetery that she likes and one of her favorite monuments within it, The Lion of Atlanta.  The Ladies Memorial Association commissioned T. M. Brady of Canton, Georgia, to create a monument to the unknown Confederate war dead buried in Oakland Cemetery.  The sculpture was commemorated on April 26, 1894.  The inspiration for the Lion of Atlanta was Bertil Thorvaldsen’s colossal Lion of Lucerne (Switzerland), which Mark Twain called “the most mournful and moving stone in the world.”   As the artist was completing the sculpture he was told he would not be paid the full amount for his work.  To demonstrate his contempt for those who contracted the work, Thorvaldsen carved the inset in the shape of a hog.

The Lion of Lucerne

The Lion of the Confederacy

Oakland Cemetery is an eighty-eight acre space of beauty and serenity in the heart of Atlanta, Georgia.  The cemetery served as the final resting place for everyone in Atlanta between 1850 and the early 1880’s, including all races, religions, and social classes (segregated of course).  Among the notables in this cemetery you can find the graves of  James Tate, co-founder of the first black school in Atlanta, Bishop Wesley John Gaines, a former slave and founder of Morris Brown College, Dr. Joseph Jacobs, the pharmacist who introduced Coca-Cola, and author of Gone with the Wind, Margaret Mitchell, just to name a few. 

In July of 1864,  Confederate General John Bell Hood stood on a hill and watched the Battle of Atlanta just a couple of miles away.  So it is only fitting that there be a large area of unmarked graves from this battle.  It is said that some three thousand soldiers are buried in several mass graves here.  Their only monument is the beautiful marble “Lion of Atlanta”. This monument represents the Confederate soldiers who died defending their beliefs.   The proud, mortally wounded lion is lying down, signifying defeat in battle.  In his paw, he clutches a fallen battle flag, and he seems to be pulling his beloved banner toward him.  Standing on the grass beside the lion, one can almost sense the thousands of souls interred here and the great sadness of the Confederacy.  This place commands – and demands – reverence. 

Oakland Cemetery, Atlanta, Georgia

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6 Responses to The Lion of the Atlanta


    The site of the Battle of Pilot Knob, Arcadia Valley, Missouri, is now grassland and picnic benches with swelling knolls that cover mass graves….1,200 Confederate soldiers and 28 Union soldiers died within a matter of hours….unbelievable….most people are not aware that:
    –More Civil War battles or engagements were fought in Missouri than in any other state besides Virginia and Tennessee
    –In 1861, the year the war started, 45 percent of all battles and all casualties were in Missouri
    –More Civil War generals are buried at St. Louis than at Arlington or West Point
    These is a bronze plaque explaining this battle at Pilot Knob but little else….

  2. Robb Clouse says:

    Wonderful post, Renet, and a nice historical preface on the artistic inspiration, the Lion of Lucerne, from gravellyspeaking himself. The two of you make a fine team!

  3. Steven Shelnutt says:

    Well-written, but the Weeping Lion is carved from granite, not marble.

  4. Elaine Bolton says:

    Fascinating reading! I will visit the Lion when next I am at Oakland; ironically was there today. Please visit us at Pleasant Hill Cemetery adjacent to Paces Ferry UMC at 3612 Paces Ferry Road, Atlanta during “Phoenix Flies”. We’ll have tours March 14, 21, and 28 from 11 – 2. Nearly 100 graves are identified; 10 are veterans from the Civil War to the Korean.

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