Pillar of Cloud, Pillar of Fire

53 Main Street, Clarksville, TN 37040


The "Pillar of Cloud, Pillar of Fire” was dedicated in April 2004, during the Rivers and Spires celebration. The piece was commissioned by the Rivers and Spires Committee, along with the Chamber of Commerce Military Affairs Committee. It was created by Gregg Schlanger, an Austin Peay State University art professor. It was dedicated to all soldiers of all wars.

Schlanger said he designs his pieces based on the surrounding scenery. Originally, this was supposed to be an entirely different piece. It was supposed to be placed outside of Clarksville’s Court House. The change of location challenged the artist to come up with an entirely new proposition.

“Examining the site, everything said to me ‘go up,’” Schlanger said. This is because the new location is an area where more people drive past rather than walk around.

The piece itself is a 30-foot tall steel pillar. There are four beams of equal height erected four feet apart, in a square pattern. 

“By day, I like that I can stand and look through it, and it’s an open structure, I can see clouds through it. It can be a pillar of cloud,” Schlanger said. 

A constant burning flame sits on top of the monument. It symbolizes a beacon of light to guide the soldiers home, either in this life, or the afterlife.

Between the beams are stones with quotes on them. One of them is from Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and the other from a John Henry Newman poem titled “Pillar of Cloud.” When asked about why he chose the quotes listed on the pillar, Schlanger said, “I didn’t want the quotes to be of the moment... but to have a much broader reach.”

One of the quotes was created through a collaboration between the Rivers and Spires Committee including committee member retired Sergeant Major Darol Walker and Schlanger himself.

[This Pillar is] dedicated to the patriots that lit the flame of freedom with their lives, 
and to those who continue to fuel the flame 
with selfless sacrifice and service to our country.
May this light lead them home.

This quote is an important part of the symbolism of this piece. It applies to all of those who fought for their country, past, present, and future.

The placement of the stones in the piece is significant as well. The four pieces of stone were not placed parallel with the street. They are actually turned to face the true north, south, east and west axis.

“I put the stones in the ground that pointed to the four directions, so that it represents being here in Clarksville, it’s downtown, but it’s reaching out globally,” Schlanger said.

The Pillar of Cloud, Pillar of Fire is one of Clarksville’s most unique monuments, dedicated to all military personnel. This piece is different than other monuments in Clarksville because it is not a statue. 

It is a symbolic pillar that reaches towards the heavens, lighting a flame to guide our soldiers home after their long, hard battles. It represents the peace they deserve, and the peace we are privileged to enjoy ourselves, thanks to their hard work and sacrifice.

by Troy Brown