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Civil War Memorial Park, Salisbury Green
Intersection of East Main Street (SR 44) and Undermountain Road (SR 41)
Dedicated: June 17, 1891; May 30, 1961; and June 15, 1991
Type: Granite pedestal with bronze figure
Sculptor and supplier: George E. Bissell
Foundry: Henry Bonnard Bronze Company
Height: Approximately 20'
COLUMBIA/UNION/FREEDOM, Salisbury, is significant historically because it is a tangible symbol of honor and respect paid by the Salisbury community to its sons who served in the Civil War. As early as November 6, 1865, Lot Norton offered a resolution in a special town meeting to build a soldiers monument, but fund-raising efforts were not successful. In 1880, when a new committee talked of a memorial hall, the suggestion came to nothing. But on October 7, 1889, by unanimous vote the town appropriated $2,500 towards a memorial, an additional $1,600 was added to a balance on hand raised by subscription in prior years, and George E. Bissell was commissioned to proceed.
On Dedication Day, June 17, 1891, Senator Joseph R. Hawley delivered the principal address. Hawley, a Civil War general, United States senator, and publisher of The Hartford Courant, was a fixture at Civil War monument dedications--popular, ubiquitous, ever in attendance.
The monument was officially rededicated on May 30, 1961. Its 100th anniversary was celebrated on June 15, 1991, as part of the ceremonies marking the 250th anniversary of the founding of Salisbury.
COLUMBIA/UNION/FREEDOM, Salisbury, is significant artistically because it is the work of George E. Bissell, incorporating an example of an allegorical female figure, of which he was a master, with quarry-faced granite stonework. The four small projecting cannon muzzles are unique in Connecticut and the single woman figure unusual (see also WARREN SOLDIERS MONUMENT, Stafford Springs in Stafford, and WAR MEMORIAL MONUMENT, Newtown).
George Edwin Bissell (1839-l920) was born in New Preston, Connecticut, 25 miles south of Salisbury, the son of a quarryman and marble worker. When he was l4, Bissell became a clerk in a Waterbury store, then attended Gunnery School at Washington, Connecticut. He served in the Civil War as a private in the 23rd Regiment, Connecticut Volunteers. After the war he resumed work in stonecutting with his family in Poughkeepsie, New York, and at age 32 received his first commission as a sculptor. Thereafter, he studied in Paris, Florence, and Rome. At the time of the COLUMBIA/UNION/FREEDOM commission Bissell was a resident of Salisbury.
Bissell's skill in combining allegory in bronze with granite stonework found earlier expression in the Waterbury SOLDIERS' MONUMENT commission of 1884. The classical character of Bissell's Waterbury sculpture, the allegories that it articulated, and the locale for the modelling and casting, done in Europe, all express the l9th-century classical European tradition in art and aesthetics, as does his later Salisbury work. The Waterbury monument also includes reference to a subject important to Bissell, the end of slavery.
Other Connecticut Civil War monuments by Bissell include CHATFIELD MONUMENT, Waterbury, UNION MONUMENT, Colchester, and WINCHESTER SOLDIERS' MONUMENT, Winsted in Winchester. In non-Civil War work, he produced the Elton Vase, Riverside Cemetery, Waterbury, and private gravemarkers in Riverside Cemetery, busts and portrait sculpture at various locations, the Robert Burns monument at Ayr, Scotland, a statue of Abraham Lincoln at Edinburgh, General Horatio Gates at Saratoga, the naval group on the Admiral George Dewey arch, and many others. He received numerous honors and awards.
COLUMBIA/UNION/FREEDOM, Salisbury, faces south in the center of a small triangular space called the Civil War Memorial Park on Salisbury Green. The monument consists of rock-faced dark gray Quincy granite base with cannon muzzles projecting from each face, a die covered with bronze plaques, and a surmounting female allegorical figure. It is dedicated to all Salisbury men who served in the Civil War.
The rock-faced plinth has a smooth upper surface which is pitched towards the rock-faced base of the die. A short bronze cannon muzzle projects from the center of each face. The narrow border of stone around the plaques of the dado above is rock-faced. The plaques record 353 names. The die's frieze is a tall plain surface, embellished on the front with the raised Seal of Connecticut; its top is castellated. The upper surface of the die is a tall smooth tapered base for the statue.
The figure's bare feet project from under her long drapery, one foot said by Rossano to be placed on the broken shackles of slavery, a theme consistent with Bissell's interests. She holds high a Shield of the United States with both hands. Sword at her left hip, she looks straight ahead with a face of regular features. Her hair is gathered at the back of her head. The figure is given the name COLUMBIA by the 1990 Connecticut Historical Commission inventory form and the name UNION in The National Cyclopaedia of American Biography. FREEDOM appears in contemporary accounts. The term Memorial is used on the dado plaque.
Although cleaned within recent years, both the figure and the plaques are stained and black, and would benefit from further treatment.
Base of statue, right front, incised script:Geo E Bissell
Base of statue, left rear, incised caps:THE HENRY BONNARD BRONZE CO./[illegible] New York
Front (south) base of die, raised polished caps:COLD HARBOR / OLUSTEE
Above, face of die, 29" x 29" bronze plaque recessed in stone, raised caps:TO HER LOYAL SONS
WHO FOUGHT FOR THE UNION,
ERECTS THIS MEMORIAL.
East:PORT HUDSON / WINCHESTER
Above, bronze plaque:(names with units, 4 columns of 18 / 4 columns of 3 / 2 names)
North:GETTYSBURG / DREWRY'S BLUFF
Above:(names as on east)
West:ANTIETAM / PETERSBURG
Above:(names as on east)
The National Cyclopaedia of American Biography (New York: Jas. White & Co., 1924), pp. 278-280.
Thomas Lot Norton, "Salisbury in War Time," an address given at Salisbury, May 30, 1910. Salisbury Public Library.
Geoffrey Rossano, Historic and Architectural Resource Survey of Salisbury, Statewide Historic Resource Inventory , Connecticut Historical Commission, Hartford, 1990, Form #62.