Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Arch, Hartford Connecticut

The Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Arch on Trinity Street in Hartford, around 1900-1910.  Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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The arch in 2015:


Many cities and towns across the country have some sort of Civil War monument with a statue on top, but Hartford took it one step further and designed a pair of medieval-style towers connected by an arch.  The monument honors the approximately 4,000 Hartford citizens who served in the war, about 400 of whom never returned home.  It was dedicated in 1886, and spans Trinity Street not far from the State Capitol, which is off to the right, beyond the right-hand tower.  At the time that the first photo was taken, the section of road in front of the tower was a bridge over the Park River.  The bridge is still there, but the river has since been put underground and the grade was raised on the old riverbed.  Trinity Street has also changed – there are no longer any trolley tracks running down the middle, and because of how narrow the arch is, the street has been reduced to a single lane of one-way traffic.

Civil War Monument, Holyoke Mass

The Civil War Monument in Veterans’ Memorial Park in Holyoke, around 1900-1910. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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The statue in 2015:


Civil War monuments are a common feature in communities across the country, and Holyoke is no exception with their monument to the city’s 55 residents who died in the war.  What is rather unusual about this one, though, is the sculptor: former Confederate soldier Henry Jackson Ellicott.  It is also unusual in that most Civil War monuments feature the figure of a soldier, while Ellicott’s creation has Liberty holding a wreath atop the monument.  It was dedicated on America’s centennial, July 4, 1876, and today it remains at the center of Veterans Park, which now includes monuments for veterans of World War II, Korea, and Vietnam.

Not much of the surrounding neighborhood is visible in the first photo, but St. Jerome’s Church is clearly visible in the 2015 view.  Although mostly obscured by leaves, the church is there in the first photo; in fact, not only is it older than the monument, but it is older than the war itself.  The church was completed in 1860 to serve the growing population of mill workers, and was the first of many Catholic churches in Holyoke.  The statue includes a list of the 55 Holyoke men killed in the war, and among these are Irish names like Sullivan, McDonald, Cronan, and Donahue, so they very well could have been parishioners across the street at St. Jerome’s Church before they enlisted.

Soldiers’ Monument, Wilbraham Mass

The Soldiers’ Monument in Wilbraham, on Main Street opposite Springfield Street, in an undated photograph probably taken in the early 20th century.  Photo courtesy of the Wilbraham Public Library.

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The monument in 2015:


As mentioned in this post, the Soldiers’ Monument in Wilbraham was dedicated in 1894, in honor of the 228 men from Wilbraham who served in the Civil War.  According to the inscription on the monument, it is dedicated “To the men of Wilbraham who served their country in the war which preserved the Union and destroyed slavery.  This monument is erected to perpetuate the memory of their patriotic service.”  According to the records in the town clerk’s office, 29 Wilbraham men died in the war.  However, of those 29, only six were killed on the battlefield, a statistic that is not at all unusual for the Civil War, given that around two thirds of all deaths were a result of disease rather than battle.  One particularly notable Wilbraham veteran was Watson W. Bridge, who was the captain of Company F in the 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment, an African-American unit that was depicted in the 1989 film Glory.

The monument was built on the site of the birthplace of Lucinda Brewer, the wife of paper manufacturer Zenas Crane, founder of Crane & Co. in Dalton, Massachusetts.  Their grandson, Winthrop M. Crane, attended the dedication ceremony in 1894.  Several decades earlier, he had secured a contract to produce the paper for US currency, something that the company continues to do today.  He would later go on to serve as Governor from 1900 to 1903, and represented Massachusetts in the US Senate from 1904 to 1913.

In the years since the first photo was taken, the land behind the monument has been developed, as seen in the 2015 view.  To the left is the former Wilbraham Post Office building, and directly behind the monument is the Wilbraham Public Library.  To the right, just outside of the view of the photo, is a commercial development.

Soldiers’ Plot, Springfield, Mass

The Soldiers’ Plot in Springfield Cemetery, around 1900-1910. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.


The scene in 2015:


Springfield Cemetery was established in the 1840s as a beautifully-landscaped city cemetery in the middle of the city.  Within a few decades, it would become the final resting place for a number of men from Springfield who were killed in the Civil War.  A total of 167 were killed or missing in the war, with more lost to disease than to combat deaths.  Many of those men are buried here in the Soldiers’ Plot, not far from the entrance to the cemetery.  The plot includes the headstones at the bottom and top of the slope, with a statue at the top.  The statue was dedicated in 1877 using funds from the Soldier’s Rest Association.  The organization had been established during the war to care for returning veterans, and they used leftover funds to commission the statue.

Today, the headstones and statue are still there, although they are no longer decorated with flags and wreaths, and the landscaping isn’t as perfectly manicured as it was a century ago – the headstones on the lower section seem to almost blend in with the slope.  Of course, in the first photo the Civil War was still in the memory of many people, with many still alive who had either served in or lost loved ones in the war, so it is understandable that the plot would have been better cared for back then.

Washington Monument, Washington DC

The Washington Monument, around 1860. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Brady-Handy Collection.


The monument in 2012:


Ever notice how the bottom third of the Washington Monument is a few shades lighter than the upper part?  The top photo shows why. Taken by noted Civil War photographer Mathew Brady, it shows the monument during the long stoppage in construction.  The construction started in 1848, and made it about 150 feet up by 1854, when work was halted, at first due to fundraising issues and later because of the Civil War.  Construction resumed in 1877, and was completed in 1884, at the height of 555 feet.  It was topped off with a 100-ounce aluminum apex.  At the time, aluminum was a precious metal, and it also served as a lightning rod.

Drewry’s Bluff, Chesterfield County, Virginia

The view looking down the James River from Drewry’s Bluff, in 1865. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Civil War Collection.


The same view in 2012:


When the top photo was published on a stereo card in 1865, the caption was “One reason why we did not go to Richmond.”  Indeed, this gun was perhaps the reason why Richmond wasn’t taken until the very end of the Civil War.  As seen in the photos, the gun overlooks a long, downstream section of the James River.  Built as part of Fort Darling, it was located downstream of Richmond, so any attacking Union naval force had to contend with this and two other guns at the fort in order to reach the capital.  An attempt was made in 1862, and five navy ships, including the famed USS Monitor, headed upstream.  At Drewry’s Bluff, the wooden ships were unable to advance, so the ironclad Monitor did.  However, the Monitor’s guns didn’t elevate enough to reach the top of the 90-foot cliff, so the Union forces had to retreat.  Another attempt was made in 1864 to capture the fort, but this too failed, and the fort remained in Confederate hands up until the final days of the war.

Today, the site of the fort is preserved by the National Park Service, and the cannon in the 2012 photo is an original cannon, although not necessarily the same one in the 1865 photo.  The carriage beneath the cannon, however, is a modern reproduction.