Connecticut's Civil War Monuments
Originally published by the CHS in 1997, this survey was compiled by David F. Ransom and funded in part by the National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, through the Connecticut Historical Commission. Please note: the content and the photographs have not been updated. Limited updates to the Wolcottville Soldiers Monument and the Northfield Monument have been made in 2017.
Literature specific to Connecticut's Civil War monuments is limited. While general literature on Civil War monuments is quite extensive, 1 it deals primarily with battlefield monuments and civic monuments of national importance rather than local civic monuments such as have been erected in Connecticut.
In the general literature, the seminal work in the first category, battlefield monuments, is Michael Wilson Panhorst's dissertation "Lest We Forget: Monuments and Memorial Sculpture in National Military Parks on Civil War Battlefields, 1861-1917." Battlefield monuments usually are specific as to site, event, and person(s), and had the benefit of substantial project budgets. Local civic monuments, the subject here, usually are broader in purpose and usually were carried out with small budgets. Nonetheless, there are overlapping areas. Panhorst describes the manner in which firms fabricated and supplied battlefield monuments in terms that apply as well to local civic monuments.
Kirk Eugene Savage makes an equally impressive study of several civic monuments of national importance in his dissertation "Race, Memory, and Identity: The National Monuments of the Union and Confederacy." His analysis of the process of design selection speaks universal truths of controlling influences other than the desire for artistic excellence, encountered equally in the history of smaller civic monuments. But Savage's primary interest is the social inequality experienced by African-Americans in the process, which he demonstrates in a scholarly and convincing manner, rather than in the monuments themselves. For example, he does not deal with the fabrication of monuments to any appreciable extent.
Dennis R. Montagna thoroughly examines and discusses one monument in his dissertation on Ulysses S. Grant Memorial in Washington, D.C., by sculptor Henry Merwin Shady and architect Edward Pearce Casey. Montagna cites the Grant memorial as an example in the campaign of civic leaders to inculcate in male citizens the values of loyalty and self-sacrifice for the good of the nation through a disciplined fighting force, the same message as was delivered repeatedly by orators at Connecticut's Civil War monuments dedication ceremonies.
Will Lee's 1989 discussion of four Civil War monuments in New Haven County, Connecticut, focuses on the motivation and symbolism represented by SOLDIERS' AND SAILORS' MONUMENT, East Rock Park, New Haven; BROADWAY CIVIL WAR MONUMENT, New Haven; SOLDIERS' MONUMENT, Waterbury; and SOLDIERS' MONUMENT, Naugatuck. He explores the sense of community prestige, competition between towns, grateful recognition of soldiers' sacrifice, allegories, and lessons of patriotic sacrifice which were woven together in the erection of the monuments.
Books on the subject of local monuments have been written for the states of Maine, New Hampshire, Michigan, and Massachusetts. In his Civil War Memorials Erected in the State of Maine, Maurice J. Warner assembles a partial inventory of 73 monuments, one to a page, each entry consisting of a photograph and one to three brief paragraphs of history, but without critical comparison or analysis. Nationally known figures associated with Maine Civil War monuments include Richard M. Hunt of New York City, architect for the Portland, Maine, memorial, and T.A.R. Kitson, member of the Boston family of artists and sculptor of the bronze soldier at Westbrook, Maine.
Leonard A. Wyman's Monuments, 1861-1865, A Guide to Civil War Monuments in New Hampshire inventories, at two to a page, what is probably a reasonably complete list of 174 monuments/memorials. Sometimes sketches are used rather than photographs, and the half-dozen facts tabulated for each monument, including abridged inscriptions, are less than fully informative.
A slim volume compiled by George S. May records all Michigan Civil War monuments, devoting a paragraph to each. The name, location, sponsoring group, date, and a few words of description are given. Occasionally, the sculptor is identified, when he is a nationally known figure such as Charles H. Niehaus, Randolph Rogers, or Henry Bacon. The small number of photographs are mostly historic views.
In 1910 Alfred S. Roe assembled a thorough town-by-town survey of Massachusetts Civil War monuments and Grand Army of the Republic (G.A.R.) 2 posts. He found about 354 monuments, including those erected by Massachusetts on battlefields. His entries for each town usually include the sponsoring organization, cost, date of dedication, and location. Less than one-third of the time he gives additional information such as source of stone and/or name of supplier/designer/sculptor, or identities of principal dedication orators. About two-thirds of the monuments are shown in small illustrations, approximately 2 1/2" square. It is the most carefully documented and informative book of the group.
Roe records that the first civic Civil War monument in Massachusetts was dedicated in the summer of 1863, with a handful of others following in 1864 and 1866. These first monuments were obelisks. The timing and design choice closely parallel Connecticut's experience.
Mildred C. Baruch and Ellen J. Beckman attempt a list augmented by photographs and factual captions, published in 1978, of all Union monuments in the country, a truly worthy undertaking assisted by many volunteers as part of the bicentennial celebration of the Daughters of Union Veterans of the Civil War. So far as concerns Connecticut, the project's lack of completeness and accuracy is indicated by the small number of entries for the state, about 35, and the notation that George Keller, Connecticut's leading architect of Civil War monuments, was a sculptor from Ohio, which he was not.
Other surveys of Civil War civic monuments are reportedly underway in several states, including Arkansas and Georgia.
In light of what was found, as outlined above, it seemed appropriate that an attempt be made to create for Connecticut as complete a list as possible (consisting of 136 monuments and memorials at this writing), each monument to be accompanied by photograph and factual description of materials and image, outline of the monument's provenance, and assessment of artistic and historical significance. This task is undertaken in the section headed Connecticut Civil War Monuments Arranged Alphabetically by Town, which is the principal substance of the study.
All of the first five memorials are obelisks. They were followed over nine decades by monuments reflecting the changing architectural and artistic styles of the times, including Gothic Revival, Italianate, Neo Grec, Neo-Classical Revival, Colonial Revival, and Art Deco architecture and the Rome and Paris schools of sculpture, concluding with VETERANS MEMORIAL, Farmington, a contemporary design of five granite piers joined by a frieze, dedicated on May 30, 1992.
An opening essay, the OVERVIEW is designed to place the monuments in the context of their times in terms of design, fabrication, community effort resulting in their erection, and civic pride associated with their dedication.