Members of the chapter have discussed, raised funds and planned for the statue over the past four years. Phil Newman, chairman of the statue committee, said he is relieved for the day of the unveiling to be here.
“I think it is a worthy project. (Col. Benjamin Cleveland) is the namesake of Cleveland. It is a bit of history which will hopefully linger on for generations to come,” Newman said. “Hopefully, it will help younger folks better understand our history and the city’s relationship to the Revolutionary War.”
Newman said he believes the statue of Cleveland’s namesake will be well received as an asset to the community.
Friday’s program will begin at 10 a.m. with an introduction of honored guests and opening remarks by chapter president Van Deacon. The Cleveland High School band will provide music. Cleveland Mayor Tom Rowland will be present to make an acceptance speech following the chapter’s presentation of the statue.
Additional guests include R. Scott Stephenson, director of collections and interpretations of the Museum of the American Revolution in Philadelphia, and Dr. Phillip Mead, professor of history and literature at Harvard.
Stephenson said the Museum of the American Revolution is still in the planning period with a groundbreaking around the corner. Stephenson and Mead hope to learn more about the South’s involvement in the Revolution.
“We are working on how to tell the story of the Southern campaign of the American Revolution, which is not nearly as well-known,” Stephenson said. “Action like King’s Mountain, for example, have not been as well-known in the national conscious. We thought we would come down and learn a bit more.”
The Battle of King’s Mountain occurred in 1780 between the Whigs and Tories, also known as the Loyalists and Patriots, in South Carolina. It is now the site of a National Park Service national military park.
“The incredible thing about King’s Mountain, and the part we want to talk about, is it was a battle between Americans who took different sides in the American Revolution,” Stephenson said. “We don’t tend to remember that part of the story.”
Col. Benjamin Cleveland led the Patriots into the battle against the Loyalists.
“My brave fellows! We have beat the Tories and we can beat them again,” Cleveland said to his men prior to battle. “They are cowardly. If they had the spirit of men, they would join with their fellow citizens in supporting the independence of their country. When engaged you are not to wait for the word of command from me. I will show you by my example how to fight.”
Continued Cleveland, “I can undertake no more. Every man must consider himself an officer and act from his own judgment. Fire as quick as you can and stand as long as you can. When you can do no better, get behind trees, or retreat; but I beg of you not to run quite off.”
“If we be repulsed, let us make a point to return and renew the fight. Perhaps we may have better luck in the second attempt than in the first. If any of you be scared, such have leave to retire; and they are requested immediately to take themselves off.”
According to the 26th president of the United States, Theodore Roosevelt, “The victory was of far reaching importance, and ranks among the decisive battles of the Revolution. It was the first great success of the Americans in the South, and the turning point in the Southern Campaign, and it brought cheer to Patriots throughout the country.”
Stephenson said he is excited for the unveiling of the statue.
“Anytime there is a community effort to remember our founding era, it is very exciting for someone like me who is essentially an educator [through the museum],” Stephenson said. “Rising generations in America are not really learning the foundations of our history and the struggles which gave us the freedoms we have to enjoy today.”
Newman said the chapter has been working toward the creation and presentation of a statue in honor of Cleveland for four years. He said physical construction of the statue took far less time than the conception of the idea and fundraising. It took Josh Coleman, local sculptor, roughly 10 months to finish the project.
Despite weather reports for Friday, Newman said he believed the statue would be “unveiled, whether under umbrellas or not.”
The public is invited to the unveiling and for a reception at the Museum Center at Five Points, following the presentation proceedings.
“We are hoping for a good turnout,” Newman said.