Monuments, Statues and Shrines: Another kind of Historiography


Monuments, Statues and Shrines: Another kind of Historiography

Miguel Hernández


The recent (2017) controversial events  in Charlottesville ,VA and other cities of the American South  concerning  the  possible removal of Civil War Monuments brought to mind  a paper I wrote back in 2011 for a an elective course I took toward my MA in American Military History.

Monuments, memorials, statuary and other shrines that commemorate wars and the people who fought in them, are the corporeal products of history. In this regard, a speaker at the 1903 dedication of a statute of General William Tecumseh Sherman in Washington DC, General David B. Henderson, claimed that: “the statues of the world are quiet historians.”[1] Further on Henderson opined that: “the language of this statue tells what he fought for peace” and… “To recount his battles [inscribed on the monument] is to give a history of the Civil War.” [2] In any case, war monuments have an extraordinary immediacy due to their historical/political content, three-dimensional qualities and placement in the public sphere. Stanford Levinson, author of Written in Stone, maintains that “from ancient Greece and Rome to the present day, the point has been to use public space to teach public lessons. Their presence and proliferation in the landscape testifies to the high level of importance that many nations place on remembering wars and war dead through the ages.” [3]  However, war memorials in their various forms are not just vehicles for the remembrance of wars and its fallen soldiers, as some would have it. In effect, they are “billboards” erected by a nation’s cultural, social and political order to motivate, mold and capture public opinion and to otherwise write and rewrite a nation’s history. Monuments are the oldest form of propaganda and the text, images and other information they have about the past deserves to be studied in a historiographical context that goes beyond critiques of their artistic and architectural aspects and of the remembrance phenomena. The challenge is to learn to read these monuments and to decipher what they mean in terms of the art and science of historical writing, thereby reinforcing the view that “the production of history is a fundamentally interpretive act.”[4] In sum; this iconic art is central to understanding a nation’s history.

A memorial monument’s historiographical interpretation derives from: its form or type, the identity of the persons or organizations who created it, the reasons for its creation, its placement or location, the names inscribed on it, an assessment of the tenor of the times, including any controversy its erection may have generated in the past or more recently, its partisan verbiage and, its overall historical significance. In essence, a war monument has enduring value when its iconography helps us understand past times and provides perspective on contemporary times.

Words on a printed page or inscribed on a memorial monument are static and can constrict our view of the past. Nonetheless, both books and monuments can support our beliefs about the past or negate them and give way to reinterpretations of history. The difference is that monuments are three dimensional interpreters of history whose engraved words and carved images do not lie flat on the plane of a page, but project themselves into our space and environment and in many instances, in a size that dominates people and landscapes. Monuments, to use a colloquial term, are “in your face.” A book on the other hand, sits quietly on a shelf waiting a time when a reader opens it. Another difference between the two is that a monument is usually anchored at a governmental power center or at a general or specific location where an historical event took place on what once may have been contested ground. And as often happens, monuments continue to reside on contested ground where celebratory events and noisy protests take place long after the original battle or war that gave rise to it, occurred. Books on the other hand are portable and take us to the scenes of past battles, but in a less tangible and detached way and although they can generate controversy, few people celebrate or protest them at libraries or book stores. Another difference is that texts can be easily re-edited to accommodate new facts and changing societal values. But as James Mayo’s study of war memorials asserts, war monuments are more difficult to change. Nonetheless, changing societal values do lead to reinterpretations of history and this leads to changes in the actual and perceived meanings of war memorials.[5]

War memorials in their various manifestations, including structures, statuary, plaques, cemeteries, buildings, battlefield sites etc., have been with us (to use a cliché) since time immemorial, and both ancient and modern societies have consciously created these three dimensional representations from durable materials to withstand the ravages of time and thereby save their histories for future generations. According to Kirk Savage, assistant professor of History of Art and Architecture at the University of Pittsburgh:


Public monuments are the most conservative of commemorative forms precisely because they are meant to last, unchanged, forever. While other things come and go, are lost and forgotten, the monument is supposed to remain a fixed point, stabilizing both the physical and the cognitive landscape. Monuments attempt to mold a landscape of collective memory, to conserve what is worth remembering and discard the rest.[6]

That said, as those who lived through and remembered a war die off, monuments gradually lose their remembrance value and gain in historiographical worth. In sum, when the personal connection to a memorial disappears, it is no longer is a memorial per se and its meaning takes on a more intellectual concern, i.e., what does a monument say about past times and about the society that created it and what does it mean now ?

In the intellectual sphere monuments for the most part, inhabit the fields of art and architectural criticism and do not reside in the realm of historiographical writing. Historiography of course examines the writing of history and the use of historical methods. It is the written record of what is known of human lives and societies in the past and how historians have attempted to understand them. If it is true that historiography is the study of how history is written and interpreted, it stands to reason that history, inscribed or carved in stone or in forged metal, is another kind of historiography and therefore an implement for understanding how history analyzed, interpreted, told, preserved and more importantly, used.[7].

In this regard, it is also especially important to reemphasize that war monuments and memorials in all their various guises are usually found in public spaces. Millions of people of various ideological persuasions casually see them or purposely visit them and consciously and unconsciously form opinions about them and what they mean in the context of their local or national histories. Hence, the significance of military monuments, memorials, statutes, plaques, cemeteries, preserved forts and battlefields etc., lies in the fact that the history of a city or of a nation at a certain point in time is on view in public places making this history more accessible, readable and arguably, as influential (if not more) as interpreters of the past as documents and books that often are ensconced in remote archives. This essay focuses on a few selected American Civil War memorial monuments to demonstrate the idea of monuments as historiographical material. Although the war monuments of the ancient Greek and Roman civilizations and of more modern European and American eras are not discussed here, the exemplar Civil War monuments have much in common with those and will suffice to prove the case.

Following the end of the Civil War in 1865, war monuments probably numbering in the thousands, were erected to honor those who fought and/or died in the war in the North and in the South. War memorials did not proliferate in earlier American conflicts, but they did so after the Civil War. What had changed? According to one observer, the idea of honoring soldiers who died in action in a particular war or engagement was a relatively new concept, a Prussian invention, dating from 1821.[8] By the end of the Civil War, conditions favorable to the idea of war memorials came together. The Civil War had taken an emotional and family toll unprecedented in American history, making it understandable for Americans to seek an activity that would honor those among them who lost their lives in the conflict and that would reflect the ideals for which each side fought.

The story of the archetypical Civil War monument begins with Antietam, Maryland. When on September 16, 1867, the Antietam National Cemetery Board adopted a design for the U.S. Soldier Monument, to be erected on the battlefield.[9]  Every United States president from Ulysses S. Grant through William McKinley (except for Grover Cleveland) was a veteran of the Union army, as were many congressmen, assuring that the creation of memorial battlefield parks and Civil War monuments was legislatively and administratively expedited. For example, a bill to combine the Chattanooga and Chickamauga battlefields into a single military park was introduced in Congress in May 1890 and enacted the following August, with actual deliberation taking less than 30 minutes in each house.[10] Following Reconstruction, reconciliation paved the way for ex-Confederates and their political spokesmen in Washington to join Northern leaders in supporting battlefield commemoration. Moreover, each of the major battles was very much national in scope. The involvement of troops from many states, plus the impact of each battle on the outcome of the war, made battlefield preservation a matter of importance to the nation as a whole, and ultimately to the national government itself. Support also resulted from efforts by veterans’ societies representing the different armies (for instance, the Union armies of the Ohio and the Potomac, and the Confederate armies of Tennessee and Mississippi) to ensure that they would be honored at battlefields where they had gained special distinction. The aging veterans from both sides sought to create permanent tributes to their wartime valor.

The North and its “Cause Victorious” Monuments:

Many states and cities in the North built Civil War monuments. A case in point is New York City. Brooklyn’s Greenwood cemetery for instance is the burial place of 18 Civil War Union generals and two Confederates.  New York City had sent 150,000 men to the Civil War and at with the close of the war a frenzy of memorial building took place that did not abate until WWI. Crafting a “Cause Victorious” myth that was every bit as evocative and powerful as the much better-known “Lost Cause” myth cherished by Southerners, the North asserted through its monuments the existence of a loyal and reunified nation long before it was actually a fact. [11]

Prior to the Civil War the concept of national military cemeteries had not fully evolved. In the first years of the war, soldiers killed in battle were mostly buried where they fell in shallow unmarked graves.[12] However Congress provided the legal sanction for creation of a national cemetery system by authorizing President Lincoln in the Act of July 17, 1862, “to purchase cemetery grounds to be used as a national cemetery for soldiers who shall have died in the service of the country.”[13] In accordance with a somewhat loose interpretation of the term employed by Congress, some 27 burial places bore the designation of National Cemetery by the end of 1864. The number reached 73 during 1870, when a reburial program pursued through the post-war years was brought to completion.[14]  However, the idea publically honoring and otherwise commemorating fallen soldiers the was not a universal practice in the early years of the Civil War. That really did not come to the fore until President Abraham Lincoln’s famous Gettysburg Address of November 19, 1863 wherein he transubstantiated (to use a Roman Catholic theological term) the blood sacrifice of the 51,000 Union and Confederate soldiers into holy ground.  In this regard he said, in part:

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate—we can not consecrate—we can not hallow—this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. [15]

It was by any measure a transcendental moment in American history and it set the stage for the tradition of Civil War battlefield monuments. There are some 1320 monuments, tablets and other markers at the Gettysburg field.[16] Also, as time went on, other Civil War battlefield parks  were created and were extensively memorialized with sizable monuments and many smaller stone markers, along with troop-position tablets (mostly cast iron and mounted on posts) tracing the course of battle and honoring the men who fought there. Erected mainly in the early decades of each park’s existence, the monuments, markers, and tablets in five military parks established in the 1890s exist today in astonishingly large numbers. The totals include more than 1,300 at Gettysburg, approximately 1,400 at Chickamauga and Chattanooga, and more than 1,300 at Vicksburg. Following these is Shiloh, with more than 600, and Antietam with more than 400. The overall total for the five battlefields is nearly 5,200.[17] In addition, hundreds of Civil War cannons were placed on the battlefields.

The South and Its “Lost Cause” Monuments

The South also embraced the idea of monuments to their war dead. Interestingly, monuments of the respective combatant regions are virtually indistinguishable in appearance.[18] Both sides put their generals on horseback and the ordinary enlisted soldier standing alone, and both commemorated the dead on cemetery obelisks. Still, the meaning of these monuments was as different for these two regions as the meaning of the war itself had been. Similar though they may appear, it is the South’s monuments, much more that the North’s that write the history of the Civil War and the Reconstruction Period. And paradoxically, they impacted the Civil Rights era of the mid 20th century by the physical placement of confederate statuary on virtually every courthouse lawn below the Mason-Dixon Line.[19] It is this placement, more than the statues themselves that makes them such strong embodiments of the historiography of the South. The court-house lawn was not simply a public space, but one closely associated with government and the dispensation justice or of injustice, depending on the color, race and political leanings of the viewer. Blacks could see these figures of soldiers towering above them as symbols of oppression and whites would seem as guardians of their social order but in either case, the statutes negated and rewrote the history of a lost war and mocked the professed ideal of a unified nation that the “Cause Victorious” touted.

One prominent example is the Stone Mountain Memorial in Georgia. It is the largest low relief sculpture in the world, and depicts the trinity of Confederate heroes of the Civil War, Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee and Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson. Millions of people visit annually. The carved surface measures three acres. The carving of the three men towers 400 feet above the ground, measures 90 by 190 feet, and is recessed 42 feet into the mountain. Stone Mountain is considered to be the birthplace of the “second” Klu-Klux-Klan. At this site in 1915 a group of robed and hooded men met to create a new incarnation of the Klan. There a cross was burned and an oath was administered by Nathan Bedford Forrest II, the grandson of the original Imperial Grand Wizard, Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest. Of the $250,000 raised to build it, part came directly from the Ku Klux Klan but interestingly, part came from the federal government, which in 1924 issued special fifty-cent coins with Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson on them.[20] Other storied Confederate monuments in Georgia that influenced the way Southerners see their history is best exemplified by the Augusta Confederate Monument. It contains what may be the most common inscription many of the South’s Confederate monuments. It reads: “No nation rose so white and fair. None fell so pure of crime.”[21]  This oft-repeated inscription, expressed the “Lost Cause” mentality that still defines a peculiarly Southern ethos. It justified the War as a fight for “states rights” and attributed its loss to factors beyond the Confederacy’s control and to betrayals of their heroes and cause. The language of the inscription clearly reflected Southern attitudes of the time of reconstruction and for many; this view endures up to the present time. [22]

Arguably, the most interesting Civil War Monument in terms of the “Lost Cause” and of historical revision is in New Orleans, LA. There the Liberty Monument celebrates the 1874 insurrection by white southerners against the domination of the cities and state government by a coalition of Northern born Republican and former slaves. Thirty-two lives were lost on both sides, with about three times that many persons injured but the monument celebrated only 11 white insurgents who died. The insurgents ousted administration of Republican Governor Kellogg but was subsequently reinstated by force of federal arms, but the Compromise of 1877 resulted in full-scale restoration of conservative white rule. By 1891, the City and state government was fully in their hands and they constructed an obelisk near the Mississippi River at the foot of Canal Street. The inscription in part read “in honor of those who fell in defense of liberty and home rule in that heroic struggle of the 14th of September, 1874.”

In 1934 two plaques were added using federal funds. On one side of the base the stamped words said: “United States troopers took over the state government and reinstated the usurpers but the national election in November 1876, recognized white supremacy and gave us our state.” The opposite plaque stated, “McEnery and Penn, having been elected governor and lieutenant governor by the white people, were duly installed by the overthrow of the carpetbag government, ousting the usurpers Gov. Kellogg (white) and Lt. Gov. Antoine (colored).”

In the mid 1970s African Americans became an important  political force and successfully lobbied Mayor Moon Landrieu to add another brass plaque describing the battle as an “insurrection” adding  “the sentiments expressed [in 1891]are contrary to the philosophy and beliefs of present-day New Orleans,”  When Ernest Morial became the first black mayor of the city in 1981, he sought to remove the monument, but was stopped from doing so by the majority white City Council, which forbade the moving of any monuments without its consent. During the late 1980s a second black mayor, Sidney Barthelemy had the monument moved from its original site to a more obscure setting about a block away. But once again the historiography changed when yet another large plaque placed on the monument that read: “In honor of those Americans on both sides of the conflict who died in the Battle of Liberty Place. A conflict of the past that should teach us lessons for the future.” If any single monument were to be dedicated to historical revisionism, this one would be a prime candidate.

“Loyal Slave” Monuments:

Also while not a war memorials in the strictest sense, various communities and groups in the South erected so-called, “loyal slave” monuments. In 1895 for example a granite monument was raised in  the town of Fort Mill, South Carolina dedicated to the “faith and loyalty” of the Southern slave.[23] The inscription reads as follows:

Dedicated to the Faithful Slave who loyal to a sacred trust, toiled for the support of the army, with matchless devotion and with sterling fidelity guarding our defenseless homes, women and children during the struggles for the principles of our Confederate States.

By the late nineteenth century these images of loyal ex-slaves dotted the Southern landscape and permitted whites of all classes to sentimentalize plantation life and to rewrite the history of slavery in the South.[24] Central to this fiction was the selective forgetting of the evils of slavery. Rather than recognizing slavery as a malevolent institution, these monuments literally recast it into stories of the happy slave, the “Mammy” or “Uncle Tom” who “was supposedly part of the family.[25]

African American Monuments:

Civil War monuments of both side usually showed the solitary white soldier standing atop a pedestal or column but there were exceptions. The most famous of these few was one by Augustus Saint-Gaudens dedicated to Colonel Robert Gould Shaw and the 54th Massachusetts Regiment. It is located on Boston Common and captures the abolitionist’s purpose for going to war —the end of slavery and the memorialization of the black soldiers and white officers who made common cause in the service of freedom. The monument and the saga of the 54th Massachusetts Regiment remain as powerful touchstones, inspiring Robert Lowell’s poem “For the Union Dead” and the popular film Glory and tremendous pride in the African-American community. Nonetheless, some African-Americans interpret this monument is a tribute to Col. Shaw, the white officer who led the black soldiers and not to them as such. Thus it can be seen (depending on ideological perspective) both as a symbol of white supremacy (Shaw is mounted and towers over his troops) and as a salute of recognition to the bravery of African-American soldiers in the Civil War.

A response to the Shaw Monument in Boston is Spirit of Freedom sculpture in Washington, DC, ironically located in the Shaw neighborhood of that city. It stands as a commemorative to the valiant contributions of the “colored” troops and it is only their figures that one sees. Unveiled on July 18, 1998, the memorial is surrounded on three sides by the Wall of Honor–155 burnished stainless steel plaques which lists, by regiment, the names of 209,145 African-Americans of the Civil War, as well as those of their white commanding officers. Adjacent to the memorial and Wall, is the African-American Civil War Museum, which opened in January 1999, as the Nation’s first and only memorial to the “United States Colored Troops” who served in the four-year struggle to end slavery. In addition there are several memorials around the nation to the “Buffalo Soldiers”, the African-Americans troopers of the 9th and 10th US Cavalry who fought with distinction in the Indian Wars and the Spanish-American War. Due to the endemic racism of the 19th and 20th century the recognition of their contributions came late with most monuments being placed in the late 20th century. But even today, of the thousands of Civil War monuments throughout the country only a handful contain an image of a black soldier. (Thus far, there are no monuments to the thousands Hispanics who fought in the Civil War.)


Based just on the Civil War examples presented here, it is our contention that war memorials in their various manifestations from ancient time to the present are primary historical source documents. They are raw material for interpreting the past, and when they are used along with previous interpretations by historians, they provide the resources necessary for historical research.  Their text and iconography are in durable form and with exceptions; do not change over time — at least not easily. Obviously, they can be moved or destroyed. Most usually, movement or destruction of monuments is the result of regime changes as occurred in recently in Iraq when statute of that nation’s dictator was pulled down. But any deliberate destruction of a monument in the context of change in government or changing societal values is subject to historical analysis as is its original erection, that could very well have been is mired in quarrels when they first proposed or constructed.

The meaning of monuments and the messages they deliver to the future, are capable of being reinterpreted even if the monuments and the inscribed words remain as they once were. The Lincoln Memorial In Washington DC is a case in point. Outwardly it has not changed since it was built. But the way people perceive Lincoln’s memorial has been transformed in the eight decades since then. The US is a different place than it was when it was dedicated on Memorial Day 1922. At that time the dedication of a memorial to the author of the Emancipation Proclamation was segregated by race. Blacks were seated in the ”colored only” area and there was little expectation that the monument would one day be transformed into the pre-eminent symbol of a mass movement for racial equality.[26]

Controversial or not, memorials are intended to elicit a response from their audiences. Those responses can range from quiet reflection, remembrance and sorrow, to pride, anger, protest and calls to action. Furthermore, war monuments by definition are objects born of strife and of a society’s response to that strife, years after it occurred.  Their strength to influence society lies in the fact that they are post-war rather than contemporary objects. Hence their emotional outreach extends well beyond the feelings existent at the time of a war or immediately after it. As was discussed earlier, monuments are made of durable materials but they have spiritual durability as well.

A monument’s figures, inscriptions, materials and styles  provide clues to a more complete understanding of past times provided that  historians that can see them as much more than just memorials or artful objects. Interestingly, the meanings of monuments were perhaps most clearly and directly articulated in the speeches given at their dedications. These speeches have politicized content and along with other dedication ephemera, is part and parcel of the monument’s historical record.  James A. Garfield, at the Dedication of a Soldiers^ Monument at Fainesviile, Ohio, in 1880 said:

“The monument means a world of memories, a world of deeds, a world of tears, and a world of glories.” … By the subtle chemistry that no man knows, all the blood that was shed by our brethren, — all the lives that were devoted, all the grief that was felt, — at last crystallized itself into granite, rendering immortal the great truth for which they died ; and it stands there to-day.”

In the South most speakers made a nod toward peace and reconciliation, but the greater part or effect of their speeches assert a “Lost Cause” rationale. Dedication speeches in the North also addressed reconciliation but largely centered around the “Cause Victorious´ theme at the dedication of the First Maine Heavy Artillery Monument (September 14, 1894) for instance, the keynote speaker, Major Horace Shaw, praised the Southerners he fought and even used the occasion to disparage new comers to US shores calling them “an army of immigrants larger than the hordes that overran Europe and overthrew Rome.”  He even called on Southerners to save the North from the “immigrant hordes” stating: “The time may come when the people of the south must come to the north with arms in the hands to save us from ourselves and to save the nation from destruction by its own, as we did in ‘61 and ’65.” [27]

Taken as a whole, war memorials are controversial political statements that spark emotions surrounding actual moments in history as well as ones that were never quite as they were portrayed. Monuments are significant “documents” that are history, make history and shape public discourse. They result from wars, political negotiations, and become powerful symbols of cultural and national solidarity. They are also contested, ambiguous things with multiple meanings. Audiences read political, social, and aesthetic messages in them, and such interpretations are affected by, their iconographic qualities, the biography of the artist, and the intent of those who commissioned it and of course the war, battle or incident that ultimately brought the monument into existence. Monument interpretation is also affected by the viewer’s own knowledge, experiences, interests and any connections he or she may have to it. But as time marches on, these links grow weaker and a monument’s strength lies in its historic-political qualities rather than on personal remembrance.

War monuments also go beyond traditional historiographical concerns of canonical texts. Monuments are still present, mostly in their original form, in our social environment and the knowledge, data or information that monuments impart is integrated within these objects. They are, ipso facto, historical things and not just about history.

They are in plain sight and serve as historical forensic evidence, providing durable clues to what and how past societies thought of themselves and what they wanted to teach future generations. Obviously, few if any monuments are built to commemorate defeats so they don’t tell the whole story, but at its heart the historiography of war monuments also involves analysis of what is missing as much as what one can easily see. For these and many other reasons, monuments are worthy of studious historiographical interpretation. The importance of monuments in their historical context was concisely expressed by Napoleon Bonaparte when he conquered Egypt. Addressing his troops in Giza he said: “Soldiers, forty centuries are looking down upon you from these pyramids.”[28]



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Panhorst, Michael Wilson “Lest We Forget: Monuments and Memorial Sculpture in National Military Parks on Civil War Battlefields, 1861-1917” (PhD Dissertation, University of Delaware, 1988).


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Society of the Army of the Tennessee. Sherman: A Memorial in Art, Oratory and Literature Washington. Washington, DC: Government Printing Office 1904


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[1] Rust, Michael “Remembering Faces of Heroism – war memorials across the United States“. Insight on the News. . 28 Mar. 2008.

See also Sherman: A Memorial in Art, Oratory and Literature Washington. Society of the Army of the Tennessee, Washington DC: Government Printing Office 1904, p.70.

[2] Ibid. p.70

[3] Sanford, Levinson. Written in Stone: Public Monuments in Changing Societies Durham: Duke University Press, 1998

[4] Dower, John W. “Three Narratives of Our Humanity,” in History Wars: The Enola Gay and Other Battles for the American Past, ed. Edward T. Linenthal and Tom Engelhardt (New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1996), 76.

[5] Mayo, James. War Memorials as Political Landscape (New York Praeger, 1988), 58-59

[6] Savage, Kirk. Standing Soldiers, Kneeling Slaves: Race, War, and Monument in Nineteenth-Century America. Princeton N.J.: Princeton University Press. 1977, 4

[7] Chaniotis, Angelos. War in the Hellenistic World. A Social and Cultural History Oxford: Blackwell 2005,  (See chapter 11, “The Memory of War” )

[8] Reynolds, Donald Martin, Masters of American Sculpture (New York: Abbeville Press Publishers, 1993), p. 141

[9] Ransom, David F. George Keller, Architect (Hartford: The Stowe-Day Foundation, 1978), p. 119, citing George Hess, “History of the Antietam National Cemetery,” quoted in letter August 1, 1968, W. Dean McClanahan, General Superintendent Antietam-C. & O. Canal National Park Service G

[10] Tolson, Hillory A. Laws Relating to the National Park Service (Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1963), supplement p 227-232.

[11] Neff, John R.  Honoring the Civil War Dead: Commemoration and the Problem of Reconciliation. Lawrence: University of Kansas Press, 2005. pp. 7-8

[12] Gilpin, Drew Faust. This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War. New York, Albert Knof 2008

[13] Steere, Edward. Early Growth of the National Cemetery System. Quartermaster Review March April 1953. July 17, 1862, “to purchase cemetery grounds to be used as a national cemetery for soldiers who shall have died in the service of the country.”

[14] Ibid.

[15] Wills, Garry, Lincoln at Gettysburg: The Words That Remade America (New York: Simon and Simon and Schuster, 1992. ( p 263 has complete text of the address)

[16] Hartwig Scott, D., Ann Marie Gettysburg: The Complete Pictorial of Battlefield Monuments. Thomas Publications, 1995

[17] Panhorst, Michael Wilson “Lest We Forget: Monuments and Memorial Sculpture in National Military Parks on Civil War Battlefields, 1861-1917” (PhD Dissertation, University of Delaware,


[18] Some sculptors and monument companies sold “stock” Civil War soldier statutes for many decades following the War, so similar monuments were erected across the country.

[19] Widener, Ralph R. Confederate Monuments: Enduring Symbols of the South and the War Between the States (Washington D.C.: Andromeda Associates, 1982) vii.

[20] The New York Times. June 7, 1924, Saturday Section: SPORTS, Page 13

[21] From: Philip Stanhope Wormsley, of Oxford University, in the dedication of his translation of Homer’s Iliad to General Robert E. Lee

[22] J. Michael Martinez, William D. Richardson, and Ron McNinch-Su, eds., Confederate Symbols in the Contemporary South, Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2000, Chapter 5.

[23] Blight, David W. Beyond the Battlefield: Race, Memory and the American Civil War Amherst & Boston: University of Massachusetts Press 2002.163

[24] Ibid

[25] The United Daughters of the Confederacy had first considered commemorating faithful slaves in 1904, when they pressed for the erection of a “faithful slave monument. An article in the Confederate Veteran argued that “erecting this monument would influence for good the present and coming generations, and prove that the people of the South who owned slaves valued and respected their good qualities as no one else ever did or will do.” In 1923 there was a serious proposal to erect in Washington DC a monument a National Mammy Monument “in memory of the faithful colored mammies black mammies of the South.”. It was proposed by Senator John Williams of Mississippi on behalf of a Richmond, Virginia chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC)/ requesting a site in the nation’s capitol for “the erection as a gift to the people of the United States.”

[26] Thomas. Christopher A. The Lincoln memorial and American Life. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2002 p. 157.

[27]  Accessed March 27, 2008  Major Shaw’s speech was originally published in The Petersburg Index Appeal, Petersburg, VA Saturday September 15, 1894

[28] Latham, Edward. Famous Sayings and their Authors. London: Swan and Sonnenschein. 1906, p.177.


The Local History Channel 

local History Books

Miguel Hernandez

The Story of New York’s Little Spain

Almost everyone has heard about Little Italy, Yorktown’s German and East European communities, Polish Greenpoint and, of course, Chinatown. Nonetheless, there is a neighborhood in Manhattan that some of its old timers call “España Chica” – Little Spain. From the late 19th century to the present time it served as the social and cultural nerve center of Spanish immigrants who settled in New York City. Little Spain sits just above the West Village, mostly along West 14th Street but the casual non-Spanish pedestrian walking along it would hardly know that he is in a Spanish ethnic enclave. If this stroller were a vexillologist (or a fan of the Real Madrid Soccer team) she would no doubt know that the flag hanging in front of the nondescript brownstone building at 239 West 14th Street that houses the Spanish Benevolent Society is that of the Kingdom of Spain.

Little Spain

Spanish language signage on restaurants and other businesses along this New York City street are not that exceptional, given that the City is home to hundreds of thousands of Puerto Ricans, Dominicans, Cubans and other Spanish–speakers from the Americas.

However, as far New Yorkers are concerned, European Spaniards are an unheard ethnic group in this town. In comparison to other white ethnics that immigrated here, they are less than a drop in the proverbial bucket; perhaps 30 thousand at most during the peak of late 19th and early 20th century immigration.

In the U.S there is scant knowledge about Spain and much less about its  people who immigrated here. There are only a few sparse histories treat the Spanish exploration and settlement of the United States with the seriousness they deserve. In fact, the majority of U.S. history books are dismissive, uninformed, and even hostile about the Iberian presence in the U. S. Apparently, the fabled Spanish thirst for gold far exceeded that of the Anglo-Americans who poured into California, other Western states, and Alaska in search of this precious metal. The Spaniards are also seen as the worst when it comes to the treatment of the American Indians but, with the exception of historian Jill Lapore who documented the horrific near annihilation of those living in New England by the English, scant attention is given to that virtual holocaust. In most historical accounts, the Spanish are cast as being mostly unattached men who raped the Indian women while the English are depicted as devoutly religious men with wives and children at their sides. However, Spanish ship passenger records, as well marriage and baptismal records in Spanish territories in America, say otherwise. Additionally, the histories of the American Revolution by and large, barely mention Spain’s contribution to the independence of the US but in many ways it was far greater than that of France and the other European nations combined, even though Spain never formally allied herself with the U.S. In those days the gold Spanish peso was the currency of America and considerable amounts of it and war materiel were funneled directly and indirectly to the American cause for independence. Spanish ports in Europe and in the Americas were made available to U.S. Naval ships and Spanish forces under General Bernardo Gálvez defeated the British in several battles along the Gulf Coast and Mississippi Valley and thereby closed off potential British attacks on the Americans from the Western and Southern frontiers. Finally, the 3-year-long Spanish siege of Gibraltar (24 June 1779 – 7 February 1783) though not successful, forced the British to divert troops and other resources there that would otherwise have gone to the war in the U.S. Spain was America’s faithful ally in all but name. It seems that few American historians in the past have availed themselves of the vast Spanish archives and rather have steeped themselves in those of England and France. Recently for instance, a review of names of prisoners held by the British on their infamous prison ships in New York Harbor has uncovered several dozen badly spelt Spanish ones. The Spanish call the English defamation of their country la leyenda negra (the black legend.) This calumny of the ancient hostility between the Spanish and the British was later adopted by the Anglo-Americans when relations between the US and Spain soured after the American Revolution.

It is hard to imagine now but in the 18th century New York City and much of the rest of the thirteen British colonies of America, it was practically illegal to be a Roman Catholic. Widespread anti-Catholicism was a side effect of the Catholic-Protestant wars of 17th century Europe and the geo-political rivalries between the English Crown and the allied Franco Spanish Kingdoms for control of the Americas.

In any event, in 1789 Spain’s ambassador to the United States, Diego de Guardoqi, a wealthy Portuguese merchant named Jose Ruiz Silva and French diplomat, Hector St Jean Crevecoeur teamed up to petition New York City’s Mayor and Common Council for permission to have “a suitable site upon which we can construct a church.” Despite their prominence City officials were not moved and the City’s Catholics sought help from Trinity Church (formerly Anglican and now Episcopalian) which leased property for a Catholic Church at a nominal fee on the corner of what is now Church and Barclay streets, then on the periphery of the city. They then turned to their European co-religionists for funds to build the church. They then appealed directly to King Carlos III of Spain and King Louis XVI of France for financial support. Eventually, Spain’s monarch emerged as the primary sponsor of  the Church of St. Peter  the first Roman Catholic Church in New York City  when he donated 1000 “Pesos Fuertes” for its construction. Eventually, His Most Catholic Majesty Carlos III, King of Spain, emerged as the primary sponsor of St. Peter’s when he donated 1000 “Pesos Fuertes” to build the church.

St.-Peters-c.-1785-222x300 Current-St.-Peters-300x246

The original St.Peter’s Church and  the current one.

An uptick in migration from the Iberian nation, Cuba, and Puerto Rico also occurred following the Spanish-American War of 1898. Bernardo Vega, a Puerto Rican cigar maker who came to New York in 1917 relates in his diary that from the late 19th century through the end of WWI, there were thousands of cigar making shops in New York City and over 500 of these were owned by Spaniards and other Hispanics. Other sources like labor leader Samuel Gompers say that New York City, not Tampa, Florida was ‘the cigar capital of the United States. Most of these went under when machine-made cigarettes supplanted hand-rolled cigars. Another wavelet of immigration followed in the wake of Spain’s 1936-1939 Civil War and the Franco dictatorship. Finally, there was a sharp decline in the 1970s and 1980s when Spain prospered under democracy. Younger Spaniards stayed home and older Spanish immigrants living in the US fulfilled their dream to return to their homeland.

Casa Moneo

Well into the 1960s, Castilian accented Spanish was spoken on W. 14th Street and the annual Dia de La Raza parade on Fifth Avenue that celebrated the melding of Hispanic and Amerindian cultures held sway. Little Spain one Hispanic establishment after another and not only very famous restaurants like El Coruña, La Bilbaina, and Cafe Madrid, but also Spanish bookstores and shops selling Spanish-style textiles, like the famous stores Iberia and Casa Moneo. From 1929 to 1988, Casa Moneo was a leader in Spanish and Latin American gastronomy in New York City. Located at 210 West 14th Street Casa Moneo was opened by Spaniard from the Basque region, Carmen Barañano, widow of Jesús Moneo, as a “tienda de ultramarinos” (the overseas store) where home-sick Spaniards bought packaged foods imported from Spain. Along with food they also sold cookware, dresses, shoes and perfumes. Some movie houses in Chelsea featured “all Spanish programs”, displaying films with Spanish, Mexican, and other Latin American actors. One of the film’s highlights is footage of what for years was the most popular celebration in the community, the Santiago Apostol (St. James Day) festival but it died out in the early 1990s due to the steady exodus of the Hispanic community from that part of the city.

Another center of Spanish immigrant life in New York City has not fared well. This place was known as “Spanish Camp”

Spanish camp 4.

It was a summer bungalow colony in Staten Island founded by the Spanish Naturopath Society in 1929 as a seaside summer retreat for Spanish speaking families from various New York City barrios. Camp life included tan canvas tents on raised wooden platforms with open-air kitchens under canopies in the back; common showers, latrines, and water pumps; plentiful clamming and fishing, seasonal performances by celebrated Flamenco dancers and musicians in the Salon—a lantern-strung hall with barn-like doors in the center of the Camp. In the late 1930s and early 1940s the tents were transformed to became small summer bungalows; later, many were winterized. It had its own streets and services, quite independent of the rest of Staten Island and New York City. Additionally it had small pond and associated wetlands as well as a small beach that aced New York Harbor, with an adjacent picnic area and athletic field.Faced with a dwindling membership and debts the Board of Directors sold the camp’s 18 acres to a developer in 2000.for $1.7 million He demolished its buildings but to date (2015) ) has not been able build a planned luxury condo there.

Today Little Spain is littler than before but it is still the beating heart of Spanish New York. A recent influx of Spaniards fleeing the disastrous economy in their homeland has reinvigorated the Spanish Benevolent Society with over 300 members in the in the last few years.


The Local History Channel

Let There Be Peace Within These Walls:
The Story of St. Mary’s Abbey in Peekskill, NY 
Miguel Hernández

SM Chapel West Side

Many people are aware that the Roman Catholic Church has numerous orders of religious nuns and monks but comparatively few know that the Protestant Episcopal Church has them as well. In any case, there are 18 Episcopal religious orders and 14 “Christian Communities” comprised of men, women or both. This is the story of one of those, the Community of the Sisters of Mary (CSM) and the convent, chapel, school and various other structures they built at Peekskill, NY from 1872 to 1963. The order was founded by Sister Harriet Starr Cannon, (1823-1826) its Abbess, on the Feast of the Purification of Mary, February 2, 1865 in St. Michael’s Church, on West 99th St. in New York City, about two months before the close of the Civil War. As Abbess or Mother Superior, she was the temporal head of the first organized community of Protestant Episcopal nuns in the United States from its founding in 1865, to her death in 1926. Based on a Benedictine model, the CSM adhered to a simple monastic life centered on prayer, reflection, and service. The forms of service practiced by the nuns of the order have varied over the years and places where they chosen to have a presence. At Peekskill for instance, the operation of a high school for girls was its principle mission and the manufacture and sale of “Alter Bread” (aka communion wafers) was one of the CSM’s primary means of self-sustainment.

Sister Harriet
At various times during its golden years of the late 19th to the mid 20th centuries the CSM had four boarding and day schools for young ladies: St. Mary’s school, New York, NY; St. Gabriel’s School, Peekskill, NY; St. Mary’s School, Memphis, TN and Kemper Ball, Kenosha, WS. They also owned and operated several institutions for the care of orphans and/or wayward children and hospitals such as: the House of Mercy, Inwood-on-Hudson, in northern New York City; St. Savior’s Sanitarian, Inwood-on Hudson; St. Mary’s Free Hospital for Children. New York, NY; a Convalescent Summer Home for Children, at South Norwalk, CT; the Noyes Memorial Home, Peekskill ; Trinity Hospital,. New York, NY (a Hospital for adults, both men and women) The Laura Franklin Free Hospital for Children, New York, NY ; Trinity Mission. New York, NY and, in The Summer Seaside Home for Poor Children at Islip, L. I.; St Mary’s-In-the-Field Home for the care of abandoned, delinquent or neglected children in Valhalla, NY; the Church Orphan Home, Memphis, TN. and St. Mary’s Mission, Chicago, IL and St. Mary’s Home for Children, also in Chicago.


The initial convent was a repurposed clapboard farmhouse that was on the property. However the first convent they ordered was built in 1876 was a 3 story wooden building conceived by architect Henry Martyn Congdon (1834–1922).SM Convent 2

He later returned to design a new masonry convent and free standing chapel in the Gothic Revival-style. IMG_1175In 1890 the Chapel of St, Mary’s was completed with a cornerstone that reads: “Magnificat anima mea Dominum”or “My soul magnifies the Lord”).SM Cornerstone 2

 SM Chapel 10

Then in 1900, a bell weighing in at just over 1000 lbs and manufactured by the Meneely Bell Company of West Troy, NY was installed in the belfry. MeneelyBellAdC1880A new convent was constructed in 1902 and made of granite found at the Mount St. Gabriel site. This convent contained offices, dining facilities, sleeping quarters and a private chapel named after Saint Scholastica, the patron saint of nuns. In addition, Congdon’s designed other buildings for the Sisters of Mary such as the House of Mercy and Saint Mary’s Free Hospital for Children in Manhattan. Over the span of 75 years his firm produced plans for more than 60 Episcopal churches, mostly in the northeastern United States.. He was the son of a founding member of the New York Ecclesiological Society, (NYES) a group formed in 1848 of Episcopal clergy, architects and laymen who were interested in advancing “the study of Gothic Architecture, and of Ecclesiastical Antiques.” Essentially its mission was to promote an ideal model for American Episcopal churches based on the medieval Gothic churches principally found in England and northern Europe.

The Chapel’s altar was made of various kinds of marble, and seven statutes of saints surrounding it were put in place in 1893. The central statue represented the Virgin Mary and the Holy Child. On the south side in niches were statutes of: St. Michael; the Angel of the Passion, with instruments of the Passion; the Angel of Praise with Censer. On the north side was: St. Gabriel; The Angel of the Passion and the Angel of Praise. The sculptor was Joseph Sibbel, a noted ecclesiastical sculptor (b.1850; d. 1907) A Roosevelt organ was installed in 1894.

SM Chapel Alter

The walls of the smaller private chapel within the adjacent convent have large calligraphic murals inscribed with the names of the Saints of the Church. These were painted by Sister Mary Veronica (1864 – 1965) an outstanding ecclesiastical painter. In December of 1949 several of her works were exhibited at the Syracuse Museum of Fine Arts. Among these was, “Communion of the Saints,” and a portrait of “Ma Garner”, the matriarch of the Cumberland Plateau of the St. Mary’s Community in Tennessee. She also painted portraits of several other religious leaders of the Protestant Episcopal Church. In 1950, the Parish of St. James in Greenville, Tennessee commissioned her to paint an altarpiece. It is 4 feet high by 5 feet, 2 inches wide and entitled, “Mater Purissima.” It emulates the medieval styles of fifteenth century Friars Angelico and Lippi. Most of her work was executed in a technique of the Italian Renaissance, which she developed after extensive study in Florence, Italy. The medium was pigment mixed with wax and mastic, frequently applied to a linen-textured surface. She also designed the Reredos – the screen or decoration behind the altar in a church, depicting religious iconography. Sister Mary Veronica was born Ella Sallie McCullough and lived from 1874 to 1965. Her paintings are on display in several few cathedrals and churches throughout the United States. She completed 34 religious works including mural and alter works and 90 secular pieces, mostly portraits and landscapes.

Photo Credit:Amy Heiden


In 1906 a three-story granite house was built for the convent’s resident chaplains; the first of these occupants was Rev. Father Maurice Ludlum Cowl. This building is now the private residence of a local physician.


In 1909, construction of a new home for the school was begun. It was a  large Gothic quadrangle, designed by architect Ralph Adams Cram considered to be among the principal 20th century American proponents of Gothic Revival architecture. The site he selected for the school is at the crest of Mt. Gabriel and he declared it to be “the most beautiful and varied of the great Hudson River.” He also designed the chapel within the school building. Its unique organ was designed by the Jardine Brothers of New York City. Among the many other buildings Cram designed elsewhere were the Cathedral of St. John the Divine (the completion) and St. Thomas Church in New York City; All Saint’s Chapel at the University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee; and multiple buildings at Princeton University, the Cadet Chapel (in partnership with Bertram Goodhue) at the West Point Military Academy and Sweet Briar College. The St. Mary’s School For Girls building is considered a noteworthy example of the Collegiate Gothic style. In 1920 a wing was added to the school. It extended outside the quadrangle and contained a gymnasium and space for a swimming pool. This addition was designed by another well-known architect of the time, the skyscraper pioneer, Cass Gilbert who was the architect of the Woolworth Building in New York City, and it was once known as “The tallest building in the world”.

S. Mary's School photo


The building projects begun in the late 19th century were completed in 1963 with the addition of a swimming pool. However in the mid 1970s the Sisters of Mary faced financial problems that brought about the sale of the school to a private developer who converted the space into rental apartments. Later in the mid 1980s they sold the convent and chapel properties to the Ginsburg Development Company (GDC). They originally bought the property for a proposed high end condominium project but have scrapped that in favor of one called, “The Abbey at Fort Hill”. It will transform the former St. Mary’s Convent property into a resort-style tourist destination that would feature a spa, an inn, a restaurant and a smaller rental apartment complex. The GDC plan includes provisions for the preservation and restoration the existing historically and architecturally significant chapel and convent that are now in an abandoned condition.

In addition to the structures discussed above, the site includes a cemetery where the remains of former sisters and workers at the former school were interred from 1872 to 2003 when the CSM decamped to their new home in Greenwich, NY. The cemetery is also not maintained. Its gravestone markers are uprooted and stacked in a corner of the cemetery and only the grave monument of CSM founder, Sister Harriet Starr Cannon, as well as a few dozen unmarked cement crosses remain.

The St. Mary’s complex is adjacent to Peekskill’s Fort Hill Park where Revolutionary War era artifacts were found. It is believed that Revolutionary War barracks were located in the area of the cemetery. After the properties were sold an application was begun in 1983 to put these buildings on the National Register of Historic places but this work was never completed.


Sister Mary Hilary, CSM, “Ten Decades of Praise: The Story of the Community of Saint Mary during Its First Century” Racine, WI: The DeKoven Foundation for Church Work, 1965. 226 pp.

Morgan Dix, Harriet Starr Cannon; “First Mother Superior of the Sisterhood of St. Mary” New York: Longmans, Green, and Co. 1896.

Terence Gleeson, “The Rule of the Community of St. Mary: A Study in Development”

Starr Helms, “The Story of the Community of St. Mary” The Historiographer, a publication of The National Episcopal Historians and Archivists and The Historical Society of the Episcopal Church, Fall 2012 Vol. L No.4,  pp 10-13

“Sisters of St. Mary’s: 100 years Old.” Westchester Today! The Herald Statesman. Yonkers, NY. February 4, 1965. Retrieved Nov.1, 2015.

Patrick Raftery The Cemeteries of Westchester County,. New York, Westchester County Historical Society 2011Vol I pp 170-172

Saint Mary’s School at Mount Saint Gabriel, Peekskill, New York” Philadelphia: Elliott, 1931.

Douglass Shand-Tucci, Ralph Adams Cram: Life and Architecture. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press. 1995. pp. 68–70.


John Curran, Peekskill Museum

Dr. Eleanor Congdon, Associate Professor Youngstown State University

Kevin Marrinen, Ginsberg Development Companies