Revered Confederate Has a Yankee Side

It has long been assumed here that "Old Joe," the 28-foot statue of a soldier that graces the town square of Gainesville, Ga., is a bona fide Confederate.

The figure clutches a rifle and stares sternly northward. A Confederate flag graces the base, and his belt buckle bears the initials CSA, for Confederate States of America. A plaque says the statue is dedicated to "Southern Convictions."

But to the dismay of some locals, Old Joe may be suffering an identity crisis.

An architect involved in some downtown restoration has discovered that the soldier may be more Yankee than Rebel.

Architect Garland Reynolds, who points out that the soldier's kit bag said "U.S." and that the rifle dates to eight years after the Civil War, said research shows that the beloved figure is cast from the mold of a Spanish-American War soldier.

The notion has riled some people in the city, where the statue had become a flashpoint of controversy. A proposal to move it to build an amphitheater inspired a petition drive to save it as is.

It's "a holy icon" in town, Reynolds said. He says you used to be able to make out the U.S. on the kit bag, but no more because someone "has blotted it out. I guess it pained somebody too much."

"I don't know why Mr. Reynolds is bringing this up again," said Jeane Parker, president of the local chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy. "It was erected as a Confederate statue, and that's what people assume it is. It's not a problem for us."

-- Catharine Skipp

"Old Joe," the 28-foot Confederate soldier statue in Gainesville, Ga., has a "U.S." kit bag and is cast from Spanish-American War mold.