Who Are the people on Stone Mountain?

Postcard from DeKalb County of early model of the Stone Mountain carving, undated

Postcard from DeKalb County of early model of the Stone Mountain carving, undated. Kenan Research Center at Atlanta History Center

What was the Confederacy?

In 1860 the country held a presidential election. The winner of this election was President Abraham Lincoln. Fearing this would result in the end of enslavement, in 1860 South Caroline seceded from the United States of America. In the following year six more states would vote to take the same action, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas. An additional 4 states, Virginia, Arkansas, Tennessee, and North Carolina, would secede a few months later. They would form the Confederate States of America (CSA). These eleven southern states separated from the United States of America (USA) to preserve and expand the practice of enslavement. What followed was a long and violent Civil War between the USA and the CSA  .

Carved on the face of Stone Mountain are three figures: Confederate States President Jefferson Davis, and Confederate Generals Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson and Robert E. Lee.  

Davis, Jackson, and Lee

Jefferson Davis was the only president of the Confederate States of America (CSA). Davis served as a representative in the U.S. Army until 1835, worked in the US House of Representatives, and became Mississippi’s senator in 1847 and 1857. In 1861, Davis was chosen as president of the CSA with a six-year term. As president, Davis agreed to guide his fellow Southerners through secession, which was the process of states leaving a country. After the Confederate Army surrendered to Union forces in 1865, Davis was briefly imprisoned, and the seceded states had to rejoin the Union. In the 1880s Davis wrote several books that tried to justify secession. He became a hero to some white Southerners.

Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, born Thomas Jonathan Jackson, was a general in the Confederate army. Nicknamed “Stonewall” after the First Battle of Bull Run (also known as Manassas), Jackson became famous for his unwavering determination and brilliant leadership on the battlefield. Jackson was accidentally shot by friendly forces at the Battle of Chancellorsville in 1863 and died soon after. Almost immediately he became a hero to many white Southerners because he died tragically just as he was winning the battle.

Robert E. Lee was the commanding general of the Army of Northern Virginia. Before fighting for the CSA, Lee was asked by U.S. President Lincoln to lead the Union Army. However, being a Virginia native, Lee chose to become a Confederate general instead. Lee became a hero for many white Southerners because he led his army to famous victories before he was defeated at the Battle of Gettysburg in 1863, and finally surrendered to the United States at Appomattox Court House in 1865. Because he was the most successful Confederate general, Lee symbolized the false Lost Cause idea that Confederate armies won most of their battles but lost the war because they were outnumbered. In fact, Lee’s army was an exception. Other Confederate armies and generals (in Georgia, for example) lost most of their battles.