Rome

Yesterday we enjoyed some local tourism with a visit to nearby Rome, Georgia. 

For the first time ever we went to see Rome’s characteristic building: The Clock Tower, which crowns Neely Hill, one of Rome’s Seven Hills, and which is reproduced on the city’s flag, the city’s logo, and this storm drain cover:

Actually, I think that custom cast-iron drain covers are an under-appreciated medium, and I’m pleased to discover, after a little Internet searching, that there exist fans of them.  

I’m edified to see that Rome’s Capitoline Wolf still stands outside the courthouse. That it was a gift of Benito Mussolini does not seem to bother people.

“To Robert Battey master surgeon and illustrious pioneer in medicine by the people of Georgia and others who know his worth.”

Also in front of the courthouse, a monument to Robert Battey, M.D. Wikipedia says:

After the Confederate surrender in April 1865, Battey resumed his practice in Rome, Georgia. His field of study was gynecology, and he became well known for a procedure he pioneered to remove a woman’s ovaries. Initially referred to as ovariotomy, and named “Battey’s Operation” in his honor, it is what today is termed a radical oophorectomy. He performed the first successful oophorectomy in May 1869 when he successfully removed a large dermoid cyst from a physician’s wife. On August 27, 1872 he performed his first ‘normal’ oophorectomy. The patient, Julie Omberg, had diseased ovaries and lived to be 80 years old. There was a lynch mob waiting for Dr. Battey if he failed the operation.

I think that a [citation needed] note ought to follow that final sentence…

Nearby, a monument to Admiral John Henry Towers, who was born and raised in Rome. Wikipedia:

Towers was a United States Navy admiral and pioneer naval aviator. He made important contributions to the technical and organizational development of naval aviation from its beginnings, eventually serving as Chief of the Bureau of Aeronautics (1939–1942). He commanded carrier task forces during World War II, and retired in December 1947…. He was the first naval aviator to achieve flag rank and was the most senior advocate for naval aviation during a time when the Navy was dominated by battleship admirals. 

Further along on Broad Street: a monument to Von Albade Gammon and his mother Rosalind Burns Gammon. The plaques speak for themselves:

This is an interesting situation, which was echoed a few years later on a national level during the presidency of Teddy Roosevelt. From a History Channel article on the subject:

At the turn of the 20th century, America’s football gridirons were killing fields. The college game drew tens of thousands of spectators and rivaled professional baseball in fan appeal, but football in the early 1900s was lethally brutal—a grinding, bruising sport in which the forward pass was illegal and brute strength was required to move the ball. Players locked arms in mass formations and used their helmetless heads as battering rams. Gang tackles routinely buried ball carriers underneath a ton and a half of tangled humanity.

With little protective equipment, players sustained gruesome injuries—wrenched spinal cords, crushed skulls and broken ribs that pierced their hearts. The Chicago Tribune reported that in 1904 alone, there were 18 football deaths and 159 serious injuries, mostly among prep school players. Obituaries of young pigskin players ran on a nearly weekly basis during the football season. The carnage appalled America. Newspaper editorials called on colleges and high schools to banish football outright. “The once athletic sport has degenerated into a contest that for brutality is little better than the gladiatorial combats in the arena in ancient Rome,” opined the Beaumont Express. The sport reached such a crisis that one of its biggest boosters—President Theodore Roosevelt—got involved.

Although his nearsightedness kept him off the Harvard varsity squad, Roosevelt was a vocal exponent of football’s contribution to the “strenuous life,” both on and off the field. As New York City police commissioner, he helped revive the annual Harvard-Yale football series after it had been canceled for two years following the violent 1894 clash that was deemed “the bloodbath at Hampden Park.” His belief that the football field was a proving ground for the battlefield was validated by the performance of his fellow Rough Riders who were former football standouts. “In life, as in a football game,” he wrote, “the principle to follow is: Hit the line hard; don’t foul and don’t shirk, but hit the line hard!” In 1903, the president told an audience, “I believe in rough games and in rough, manly sports. I do not feel any particular sympathy for the person who gets battered about a good deal so long as it is not fatal.”

Of course, it was fatal, and Roosevelt himself supported rule changes that eliminated mass formations and legalized the forward pass, which was introduced in 1906. But he was absolutely determined that football should not be played “on too ladylike a basis,” given that colleges should turn out “vigorous men” and not “mollycoddles,” because “the weakling and the coward are out of place in a strong and free community” (see Kevin Murphy’s Political Manhood for more). 

I can’t imagine even Trump saying such things…

But the controversy lives on, in its way. Perhaps you have heard of Chronic traumatic encephalopathy, that is, brain damage sustained by professional football players over the course of their careers, and which has led to calls for football to be banned, or radically changed. So far no one, to my knowledge, has stood up for “manliness” and “vigor” as positive virtues that football might instill. Instead, people try to question the very existence of CTE (a physician I know claims that it is a “lawyer’s disease”). I spotted Brainwashed in a bookstore later in the day. 

Rome’s Myrtle Hill Cemetery, as you might expect, features a prominent Confederate memorial, erected by the N.B. Forrest Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, in honor of their namesake.

I thought that Forrest had more of a connection with Tennessee but he saw action in north Georgia as well. From the plinth:

On Sunday, May 3rd, 1863, Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest, by his indomitable will, after a running fight of three days and nights, with 410 men, captured Col. A.D. Streight’s raiders, numbering 1600, thereby saving Rome from destruction.

A nearby historical marker elaborates:

GEORGIA’S PAUL REVERE

Along this road John H. Wisdom rode from Gadsden, Ala. to warn that a Federal force of over 2,00 men was approaching Rome to occupy the town, destroy foundries making ammunition for the Confederates and to cut Confederate communications (May 2, 1863).

On Wisdom’s arrival in Rome the bridge over the Oostanaula river was fortified and made ready for burning as a last resort. Widsom’s warning and the plans for defense played a big part in the surrender of Col. Streight with 1,500 men to Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest with only 425 men.

People always claim that Forrest was a “brilliant general,” but will this monument survive his connection to Fort Pillow and the Ku Klux Klan

Either way, it would be good to put up a monument to Bud Rufus somewhere in Myrtle Hill. 

Parallel to the Forrest monument is another monument, this one to the Women of the Confederacy, with the twin sculptures “News from the Front” and “An Angel of Mercy,” along with the usual doggerel.

Around the corner, the graves of some 368 Civil War soldiers. 

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