The Stone Mountain Memorial Commemorative Half was initiated to help pay the expenses associated with carving the Confederate Soldiers Memorial on Stone Mountain outside of Atlanta Georgia. The story of the monuments carving is long and involved. The carving began in 1917 but was interrupted shortly thereafter by the First World War. It was resumed in 1924 but then interrupted again a few years later when the Memorial Association had a dispute with the Sculpture Gutzon Borglum. Eventually the association fired Borglum and he moved on to his other famous stone sculpture Mount Rushmore (also Commemorated on a set of coins dated 1991), but not before destroying his designs and Models in a fit of Rage! The association Hired Augustus H. Lukeman to re-create the design and finish the work, but the association ran out of funds in 1928 and the sculpture lay dormant for over a quarter of a century before it was restarted 1958 and eventually completed in 1970.
The original coin legislation was passed on March 17, 1924 calling for up to 5 Million coins. To appease Northern Legislators, the bill called for the coin to also acknowledge President Warren G. Harding who was in office at the time. However, before the coins were struck Harding died in office and various stories of scandal and corruption began to surface. The acknowledgement of Harding was quietly dropped from the coin in spite of the Authorizing Legislation. The first coins were struck on January 21 1925, the 101st birthday of Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson. Eventually 2,314,709 coins were struck but due to lower than expected sales, 1 Million coins were eventually melted!
The coin was designed by Borglum as part of his commission for the monument. Though the design led to some of the controversy that eventually got him fired. The original design was rejected by the Federal Fine Arts Commission (and in particular James Earl Fraser who was on the commission at the time) and eventually a revised design was accepted to be struck.
The obverse depicts an excerpt from the monument design which includes the figures of Stonewall Jackson and Robert E. Lee mounted on their respective horses. Lee, on his favorite horse "Traveler", is in the front and gazes forward (to the left of the coin) while Jackson, behind him on his horse “Little Sorrel” gazes at Lee (and the viewer) while gesturing with his extended right arm, which wearing a gauntlet, holds his signature foragers cap. Lee is armed with both a pistol which hangs from the saddle horn, and his sword. The Motto “IN GOD WE TRUST” is at the top in relatively small font, surrounded by 13 stars for the 13 states that originally seceded from the Union. Though this is debatable as only 11 state governments had formally seceded but the Confederacy laid claim to Kentucky & Missouri even though those State Legislatures did not agree on succession. The inscription “STONE MOUNTAIN” sits under the horses noses in two Lines above the date 1925.
The reverse design shows an eagle with wings spread, standing on a rock in the upper right quadrant of the coin. “UNITED STATES OF AMERICA” is slightly off center (slightly lower on the left) and runs along the top rim, with the Motto “E PLURIBUS UNUM” in much smaller font in a second row underneath runs from 10 O’clock to just short of 12 O’clock . “HALF DOLLAR” arcs across the bottom with “LIBERTY” above in a straight line and the phrase “MEMORIAL TO THE VALOR OF THE SOLDIER OF THE SOUTH” in front of the eagle. Scattered over the face of the design (and in some cases very hard to discern) are 34 stars representing the number of states in the union before the Southern States Seceded.