view large image
| || SOLDIERS MONUMENT |
Dedicated: August 17, 1876
Type: Elaborate granite base, arched pedestal, and three bronze figures
Designer and sculptor: Melzar H. Mosman
Foundry: Ames Manufacturing Company
SOLDIERS MONUMENT, Seaside Park, Bridgeport, is significant historically because it is a tangible symbol of the city's pride in the contribution Bridgeport men made in the Civil War, and of respect for their sacrifice. The project for erecting the monument took some years, as was not uncommon. The foundation was laid quite early, in 1866, but it was ten years later before the dedication occurred. A women's organization which had provided support to the troops and war relief work during the years 1861-1865 reorganized itself in peacetime as the Ladies Soldiers Monument Association. The fact that an existing group was ongoing perhaps explains the early action in starting the memorial the year after the war ended.
Cost is variously reported at $30,000, $60,000, and $80,000. Mosman is said to have received $18,500, perhaps for the overall design (and its execution?) and three bronze castings. The town provided required funds additional to the amount raised by the Ladies Soldiers Monument Association. As befits the state's largest city, the Bridgeport monument is one of the largest and costliest in Connecticut, vying with those at Hartford, New Haven, New London, and Waterbury.
The site of SOLDIERS MONUMENT, Seaside Park, is the land where the 17th Connecticut Volunteers camped in 1862. In this respect it shares a common characteristic with SOLDIERS MONUMENT, Sixth Street, New Haven, and STEDMAN MONUMENT, Barry Square, Hartford.
On Dedication Day, August 17, 1876, it rained hard. The parade, or Grand Procession, of visiting militia and Grand Army of the Republic units nevertheless went forward. It included six companies of the New York National Guard, which arrived by steamer at 5:00 a.m., and the Second Company, Governor's Horse Guard. Mosman, the designer and sculptor, was on hand. The streets were handsomely decorated in flags and bunting. It took one-half hour for the march to pass a given point.
Because of the rain, the 3:30 p.m. exercises were held indoors at the Opera House. The Reverend Dr. Alexander R. Thompson of New York City, formerly of Bridgeport (possibly a chaplain during the war), delivered the principal address. He praised those who responded to the struggle on which the life of the land depended. "Patriotism was in their blood....The land was saved under God by these men," he said. He equated secession to resort to bloody revolt because of defeat at the ballot box. "Are we a nation or a congress of separate states?" was the question he raised.
It is to be noted, however, that in addition to the above references, customary in Civil War monument orations, Dr. Thompson also referred to the achievement of the United States in becoming "a nation of free people" with "millions of bondsmen set free." His reference to freeing the slaves and the quotation from President Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address on the monument set the Bridgeport SOLDIERS MONUMENT apart from most (see also SOLDIERS' MONUMENT, New Hartford).
General Joseph R. Hawley, who as governor of Connecticut had been the speaker at the 1866 ceremony, found that he was on the l876 program only after arriving in town for the event (a line he used more than once). He remarked on this occasion that "the monument will always tell the story of saving the country." He noted that honoring the dead soldiers teaches patriotism to the young. His two themes, (1) saving the Union and (2) properly indoctrinating youth, were common for Civil War monument dedications.
SOLDIERS MONUMENT, Seaside Park, is significant artistically because it is a forceful large-scale rendering of classical forms and naturalistic figures. It combines the traditional classical idiom associated with sculpture and design in Rome with realistic figures commonly used in Civil War monuments and other memorial figures in America during the second half of the l9th century.
The overall effect of the elaborately carved monument is Renaissance Revival to Baroque in style, heavy and complex. The soldier and the sailor are naturalistic, but the female figure is pure classical allegory. The over-scaled dentil course on the base, the over-scaled frieze of the niche, and the proliferation of bronze pieces all contribute to the richly ornamented effect. The ashlar mass of the base and the dark gun-metal color of the granite provide a heavy and somber quality.
The device of placing the servicemen's figures on extensions of the base was also followed by Smith Granite Company at SOLDIERS AND SAILORS MONUMENT, New London, and BROADWAY CIVIL WAR MONUMENT, New Haven.
Melzar Hunt Mosman (1846-1926) of Chicopee, Massachusetts, was the grandson of a blacksmith and son of a foundry worker. Ames Sword and Bronze Company of Chicopee, where the father, Silas Mosman, Jr., worked, adjusted after the cessation of hostilities from casting cannon for the Civil War to casting bronze figures for Civil War monuments and other purposes. Returning to the shop after Civil War duty, Melzar in 1867 took the opportunity to travel in Europe and while there worked in a Paris foundry. He brought back skills as both a sculptor and foundryman, in 1884 establishing his own independent shop.
Mosman's most prestigious work was casting a variety of pieces for Augustus Saint-Gaudens; his largest commission was a colossal 8-ton equestrian statue of General Ulysses S. Grant for Lincoln Park, Chicago. He also cast the west doors of the U.S. House of Representatives in l903-l905, similar to and balancing the east doors cast by his father in 1863. An undated, unidentified newspaper clipping at Springfield (Massachusetts) Public Library claims that Ames was the first foundry in the United States to cast bronze statuary, but no date for the casting is given.
Mosman made a second trip to Europe in 1874 for the purpose of modeling the Bridgeport figures-the marble Liberty as well as the three bronzes. Other work of Mosman's in Connecticut includes designing and casting SOLDIERS MONUMENT, Union Park, Middletown, and Firemen's Monument, Evergreen Cemetery, New Haven, and casting figures for SOLDIERS AND SAILORS MONUMENT, East Rock Park, New Haven, and SOLDIERS AND SAILORS MONUMENT, Danielson in Killingly.
No information has come to hand regarding the circumstances surrounding the choice of Mosman for the Bridgeport commission.
SOLDIERS MONUMENT, Seaside Park, is a large and elaborate structure of Maine granite with two bronze figures on its base and one at its peak. It memorializes Bridgeport men who died in Civil War service. The monument faces south in a flat grassy area, set back perhaps 200 yards from Long Island Sound, in the eastern part of Seaside Park. In overall design concept, the monument consists the ashlar base, divided in two tiers, surmounted by arched masonry, in three tiers, which constitute the shaft, and the crowning figure.
The massive two-tier rough granite ashlar base, 17', 6" tall by 18' square, supports the 8' figures of a soldier to the east and a sailor to the west on 21" extensions to the base, bringing the overall width to 21', 2". (Despite the presence of the figure of a sailor, the memorial was referred to at the time of its dedication as Soldiers Monument, not Soldiers and Sailors Monument.) A bronze plaque formerly was recessed in the face of the lower tier of the base, while above it was a raised bronze motif of flags crossed behind a central drum. Similar plaques adorned the other three faces of the base, but all have been removed save for that at the upper tier of the west face, where a bronze eagle on shield over crossed swords now is protected by an iron grille. The lower-tier plaques listed names of those who died. The cornice of the base bears a heavy dentil course under a scotia molding that forms the transition to the "shaft."
The soldier is east of a central arched open space, now empty, which once housed a white marble female representation of Liberty, removed because of deterioration of the stone. The soldier stands at ease with his left foot forward, right hand grasping the barrel of his musket at his left side, wearing overcoat and forage cap. The seaman, to the west, is dressed in blouse and trousers with kerchief around his neck and flat sailor's cap. In his right hand he grasps a naval cutlass, while a pulley at his feet projects in front of the base of the statue. (Cutlass and pulley were used for boarding enemy ships.)
Piers that support the arched canopy for Liberty have channeled capitals. Egg-and-dart moldings define the top edge of the capitals and the bottom edge of the arch. The disproportionately wide frieze bears vertical embellishment over the capitals and a bronze laurel wreath over the arch. The second stage of the "shaft" is similar but blind, having a carved Seal of the United States, instead of an open niche, flanked by engaged columns with foliate capitals. A bronze wreath with central star occupies its tympanum. Urns stand on top of this stage in front of the blind-arched face of the third stage.
The total height of the five stages supporting the octagonal base of the 10-foot bronze female figure of American Republic is 44'. Clothed in flowing robes, she stands with outstretched right arm holding a laurel wreath, sword in her left hand, and crown on her head. Overall height is 54'.
Lettering formerly in place:
Front (south) face of base, bronze plaque, u.c. and l.c.:
Dedicated to the memory of the Heroic men of Bridgeport, who fell in the late war for the Preservation of the Union. July, 1876
"It is for us the living to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us, that from these honored dead we take increased devotion in that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion; that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain; that this nation under God shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people and for the people shall not perish from the earth."
Plaques on other three sides, quoted in full in Bridgeport Daily Standard, August 17, 1876, 3:3:
(Names of those who died, by units, including First Connecticut Cavalry, Second Connecticut Battery, First Heavy Artillery, Second Heavy Artillery, First, Sixth, Seventh, Eighth, Ninth, Tenth, Eleventh, Twelfth, Thirteenth, Fourteenth, Sixteenth, Seventeenth, Eighteenth, Twenty-third, Twenty-fourth, Twenty-ninth Colored, and Thirtieth Connecticut Colored Infantry, United States Navy, and miscellaneous.)
Bridgeport Daily Standard, August 17, 1876, 3:1 (three columns); August 18, 1876, p. 2 (entire page); August 21, 1876, Extra Edition.
Bridgeport Municipal Register, 1877, p. 15ff.
Charles Brilvitch, Bridgeport Municipal Historian, interview, May 18, 1983.
Alison Gilchrist, National Register of Historic Places Registration Form for Seaside Park, Bridgeport, Connecticut (Washington D.C.: National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, 1981), pp. 8-9.
Melzar H. Mosman, obituary, New York Times, January 13, 1926, 27:2.
David W. Palmquist, Bridgeport: A Pictorial History (Virginia Beach, Virginia: The Donning Company, 1981), p. 66.
Progressive Springfield (Massachusetts), II (December 1890/July 1891):45.
David F. Ransom, Firemen's Monument, SOS! Connecticut Survey Questionnaire Form #228 (Washington, D.C.: National Institute for the Conservation of Cultural Property, 1993).
Undated, unidentified clippings at Springfield (Massachusetts) Public Library.