- Associated Press - Saturday, July 26, 2014

BROOKHAVEN, Miss. (AP) - Kim Sessums and his son Jake Sessums work in a room of giants. Three eight-foot Confederate soldiers tower over the men as they form and shape clay around the giant bodies.

Kim and Jake are working to capture the spirit of Mississippians in the Civil War, specifically those who fought in the Battle of Shiloh, a task so monumental it would dwarf many artists.

On April 6, 1862, Confederate soldiers stormed federal troops camped around Shiloh hill. The bloody battle, which would lead to the control of the railroad junction in Corinth, lasted two days at the cost of 23,746 men who were killed, wounded or missing; 1,728 of them were Mississippians. This was the largest battle in the Mississippi Valley campaign.

In the sculpture, three Confederate soldiers proudly carry their flag into the battle. The color bearer is hit by a bullet and begins to fall as the flanking color guards reach for the flag and offer support to their fallen comrade. Kim Sessums captures the moment of recoil and heroism.

“This grouping would seek to be an action composition, the Color representing all that the soldiers are fighting for and thus must not fall or be lost,” he wrote in his artist’s proposal for the project. “At the falling of the Color Bearer, the guards and their comrades are reminded in an instant of their reason to be in the midst of all the death and destruction around them … duty and honor to push forward to victory or death.”

Kim Sessums begins every sculpture with research. The counters in his studio are lined with Civil War history books and narratives he references with every detail, which results in a sculpture meticulously true to the period. He said each detail will become a conversation piece for Civil War buffs because of the accuracy.

Sessums has modeled his three soldiers after sixth Mississippi regiment with a Hardee pattern flag. Every minute detail is historically accurate, from the button on a soldier’s satchel to the bridle pike cutter atop the flagpole. To properly represent the physicality of the figures in a pose, Kim had three men act out the scene as he took photos to study the

exact muscular systems of each performer.

“All the elements are implemented to give an overall narrative,” Sessums said.

He said even though everything is historically accurate, the actual men are fictional and by doing this, the piece does not reflect any individual, it reflects Mississippi Confederate soldiers as a whole. He is representing the anonymous Confederate soldiers, who lost their lives “struggling in the ultimate sacrificial way for a cause.”

Unlike the majority of his work, Sessums competed for the chance to erect the monument in honor of Mississippi soldiers at the Shiloh National Military Park. Since the founding of the park in 1894 there have been monuments for Alabama, Arkansas, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Michigan, Missouri, Texas and Wisconsin. Sessums’ sculpture will join as the tribute to Mississippi.

“As an artist you go to these national parks to see the great turn of 20th Century figurative sculptures,” he said. “Not everyone can be there; pieces there last forever.”

This will be the fifth monumental statue constructed by the artist. Previous ones include a tribute to black troops at the Vicksburg National Military Park and the six-foot statue of the legendary football coach John Vaught on the University of Mississippi campus.

However, this is the first time his son has been involved in the process.

“I’ve really enjoyed it, seeing the beginning and seeing it as it comes together,” said Jake. “I never thought about what went into these works. I thought it was something he could just do.”

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