Thousands of monuments were created in every state and county throughout the Northern States to commemorate the Civil War, to serve as tangible reminders of the sacrifices made to secure the future of the Union. No less than 147 of these “Soldiers’ Monuments” were publicly erected in Maine between 1864 and 2003. They were most often situated in public spaces: in town centers (1, 3, 10, 14), on commons (8, 16), along thoroughfares (4, 7, 9, 12, 13), or adjacent to public buildings such as libraries, schools, and town halls (6, 11 [upper]).
Most commonly, the monuments comprised statues in which an anonymous soldier stands at parade rest atop a pedestal (3 [lower], 6, 7, 11 [lower], 12, 16). The monument in Brownfield, Maine, is an exception to these generic sentinels: it depicts an actual soldier, Private Daniel A. Bean, who had served with Company A of the 11th Regiment Maine Infantry (5).
Other styles favored for these monuments were the obelisk (8, 10, 13), column (1, 7), Roman Goddess of Victory (1, 14), and stone pedestal with plaque (9). All forms were further adorned with popular icons of American nationalism such as eagles and stars, and with funerary motifs such as laurel wreaths, urns, and drapery (3 [upper]). Finally, cannonsand cannonballs were often placed near the monuments, sometimes years after their original dedication (4, 6, 7, 14, 15).
Over time the monuments were integrated into the life of the community and served as focal points for patriotic and civic celebrations, such as concerts and fetes, and for social gatherings, such as picnics and reunions (6, 11, 16). In some cases, as road intersections have grown too congested for memorial ceremonies, communities have had to relocate these events elsewhere (see 11).
As the Civil War recedes from public memory and experience, most travelers now pass by the monuments unaware of their original function or their former significance in civic life. By drawing attention to these monuments during the current sesquicentennial celebrations (2011-2015), we hope to extend their relevance in the public eye for decades to come.
- Images courtesy of Maine Historic Preservation Commission
- Text prepared by Lucinda Coombs
- Display by Renee Keul, Osher Map Library