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Memorial (Woolsey) Hall Rotunda
Intersection of Grove and College Streets
New Haven, CT
Dedicated: June 20, 1915
Type: Marble hallway with names incised in walls between bas-relief figures
Sculptor: Henry Hering
YALE CIVIL WAR MEMORIAL, New Haven, is significant historically because it is Yale University's recognition of the role played by its graduates in the Civil War. In the decades following the war, there was little interest on the part of Yale in establishing a memorial. Eliot recounts sporadic meetings from 1865 onward to address the need, without action, while Harvard University promptly raised substantial funds for a Memorial Hall in Cambridge. Yale had more than 500 men who served in the Union army (Ellsworth, pages 58-61).
The fact that YALE CIVIL WAR MEMORIAL commemorates the dead of both Union and Confederate forces is out of the ordinary, unique in Connecticut. Such an attitude on the part of MEMORIAL's planners no doubt was a function of the decades that had passed since 1865. By the 1909 Yale commencement, when a committee was appointed by President William Howard Taft to take action, enough time had gone by to permit the broader view. The lettering in the floor expresses the same spirit of reconciliation in the hope "that the bonds which now unite the land may endure." At the same time, the inscription repeats the traditional precept that all men are expected to continue their patriotic devotion and willingness to die for their country.
YALE CIVIL WAR MEMORIAL, New Haven, is significant artistically because of the classical quality of the four figures. They are heroic in stance, in conformity to 19th-century precepts for war memorials. Henry Hering (1874-1949) was a New Yorker who studied in both Paris and Rome and from 1900 to 1907 was a pupil of Augustus Saint-Gaudens. In his Yale work the classical training comes through more strongly than does the vitality of Saint-Gaudens. The relevance of the Yale sculpture subjects to a Civil War memorial is not apparent. Hering also sculpted Pro Patria, the Indiana State War Memorial.
YALE CIVIL WAR MEMORIAL, New Haven, occupies a hallway on the ground floor of Memorial (Woolsey) Hall between the Hewitt Quadrangle and the corner of Grove and College Streets. There is heavy pedestrian traffic to and fro from the quadrangle through the MEMORIAL to the rotunda and on to the street. The MEMORIAL is dedicated to Yale men, both Union and Confederate, who died in the Civil War.
The floor of the hall is 15', 3" wide by 16' long, almost square. The walls of the hall, which are the primary components of the MEMORIAL, are 10', 2" high. There is a bas-relief figure at each end of each wall, a total of four figures. Names of Yale graduates who died while in the service of both Union and Confederate forces are incised in the wall spaces between the figures. The names are in three panels on each wall; the panels are 3', 5" wide by 8', 3" tall.
The four figures are classical in inspiration, heroic in pose and demeanor. The figure at the west end of the north wall, Peace, is a female clothed in flowing drapery to her feet. She holds an infant in her right arm and an olive branch in her left hand. Her face is turned towards and is touching the child. At the east end of the north wall is a Devotion, a male nude except for a toga fastened around his neck and draped over his back. With head turned to his right, he holds the staff of a flag.
On the south wall, Memory, toward the east, is a clothed female wearing sandals. Both arms are bent. Her right hand holds an hourglass that rests on her right shoulder. Her left hand is held at the back of her head, which is encircled in a leafy headpiece. A male Courage at the west end of the south wall holds a sword and shield in his right hand; the Seal of Yale University is emblazoned on the shield. Courage is unclothed except for a toga held by his left hand and falling over his left shoulder. His head, wearing a helmet, is turned to his right.
The inscription in the floor is the original wording but is now located east of its original location. The former location is apparent as a shadow in the floor. Small holes in the marble suggest that the original lettering may have been metal, with short pins going into the floor. The present black lettering is worn, approaching the point where it will become difficult to read.
The ceiling of the hallway is coved. It is inlaid with tesserae in shades of gray, green, and brown in a geometric pattern of panels, rosettes, foliate lines, and C curves, which evokes 19th-century design practice.
The building Memorial Hall is a monument to Yale graduates of all wars. The walls of the entire first floor are covered with names. CIVIL WAR MEMORIAL is a component of the larger scheme.
Sculpture is signed with Hering's initials or cypher and the year date MCMXIII.
Names are listed, incised, between the figures in three columns on both walls. Names are in caps, other lettering in smaller u.c. and l.c. On the north wall, the first column is headed:YALE COLLEGE
THEODORE WOOLSEY TWINING. B.A. Class of 1858
Acting Assistant Paymaster. U.S.N
Died off Key West, Fla. August 14, 1864
(followed by 27 names.)
Second Column:(29 names)
The third column reads:SHEFFIELD SCIENTIFIC SCHOOL
(followed by 4 names)
South wall, first column:YALE COLLEGE
(followed by 29 names)
Second column:(28 names)
Third column:(29 names)
Black lettering slightly recessed in the floor centrally located between the walls: TO THE MEN OF YALE
WHO GAVE THEIR LIVES IN THE CIVIL WAR
THE UNIVERSITY HAS DEDICATED THIS MEMORIAL
THAT THEIR HIGH DEVOTION
MAY LIVE IN ALL HER SONS AND THAT THE BONDS
WHICH NOW UNITE THE LAND MAY ENDURE
Ellsworth Eliot, Jr., Yale in the Civil War (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1932), pp. 7-9.
Glenn P. Opitz, ed., Mantle Fielding's Dictionary of American Painters, Sculptors, and Engravers (Poughkeepsie, NY: Apollo Books, 1986), p. 398.
Yale Memorial (New Haven: Yale University, Office of the Secretary, 1963), pp. 45 and 46.