Lancaster's Confederate Monument

by Louise Pettus

The Confederate monument in front of the Lancaster County Courthouse, erected in 1909, is said to be the first granite monument sculpted in the south. According to an article by Bob Ward of Rock Hill written for The State newspaper in 1937, all such previous work had been done in the north and shipped to the south.

In most accounts, the sculpture is credited to an Italian, recorded only as "Mr. Comi." Mrs. Viola Floyd of Lancaster, an authority on the county history, says that: "The Statue was executed by a Mr. Comi, Italian sculptor of Rock Hill, with the help of two assistants." Records of the United Daughters of the Confederacy show that they paid Comi $2,600, the cost of the total project totaling $3,000.

Bob Ward gave the credit to J.G. Sassi, a stonecutter for the Palmetto Monument Company of York, saying, "In 1907, shortly after his arrival here, he [Sassi] cut the first granite statue ever produced in the South..."

Comi, who did some work for Winthrop College, is referred to as "of Charlotte" in Winthrop records. Comie is also said to have done a statue of Mrs. Chisholm, founder of a Rock Hill funeral home, which is in an old cemetery across from Castle Heights Middle School.

The granite used in the statue came from the Stoneboro quarry south of Heath Springs. Sassi used Stoneboro granite in a number of the works he executed and, at times, lived at Stoneboro. Sassi probably had the skills to execute the Confederate soldier monument in its entirety, but the evidence favors the mysterious Mr. Comi as the sculptor of the Lancaster monument and Sassi cutting the pedestal.

A photograph of Capt. Amos McManus, a Lancaster Confederate soldier, was used as a model for the statue. As soon as the war broke out McManus enlisted in the Lancaster Greys and was at the First Manassas, where he was wounded in the arm.

McManus was also Lancaster County sheriff. Some time in 1862, he returned to Lancaster to officiate in court.. He must not have stayed long, for he was in the battle of Sharpsburg on 17 September 1802 and his records show that he was at Fredericksburg and Gettysburg as a member of Col. J. B. Kershaw's brigade.

McManus was wounded at Gettysburg but recovered in time to fight in the battle of Chickamauga in east Tennessee. Soon he was back in Virginia in the battle of Petersburg.

The monument was dedicated on June 4, 1909. About 2,000 people were present. Lancaster's downtown stores were gay with bunting, and a large array of Confederate flags mixed with U.S. flags were on display.

The procession formed at a nearby school and marched in this order: marshal's mounted on horseback, the Rock Hill brass band, Lancaster military company, Civil War veterans, speakers (Col. Leroy Springs, Col. James Armstrong, Chief Justice Ira B. Jones) in a carriage, the three young ladies who unveiled the monument, 16 Bonnie Blue flag girls, and the members of the Lancaster Chapter of the U.D.C. Waiting at the site were 60 boys and girls designated as "garland bearers."

After the ceremony was over, the crowd reported to the school grounds for a picnic lunch. The Rock Hill brass band again serenaded, and "an old war song was sung with Capt. S.E. White leading." Capt. White, founder of the Fort Mill Manufacturing Co., the first unit of present-day Springs Industricts, Inc., had retired and lived at the home of his son-in-law,, Col. Leroy Springs. In Lancaster, White was known best as the genial host of the local "Sons of Rest" tent on Main St. where the old veterans gathered daily.