Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Manross monument: Then and (sadly) now

Top: In a photo taken in 1887, Civil War veterans from the Newton Manross  G.A.R. post
 gather at the monument for Manross, a captain in the 16th Connecticut who was killed
at Antietam. Below: The monument in Forestville Cemetery in Bristol, Conn.,  from approximately
 the same angle today.   (Top photo courtesy Bristol Historical Society via Tom LaPorte)

By all accounts, Captain Newton Manross of the 16th Connecticut Infantry was a brilliant man.

Newton Manross as a civilian.
(Image courtesy Tom LaPorte)
A day after he graduated from Yale in 1850 with a degree in geology, Manross sailed for Europe, where he earned a Ph.D. in chemistry from the University of Gottingen in Germany in 1852.  He later traveled extensively in South America, visiting Trinidad, Panama and Mexico and exploring for coal, iron and other minerals. An outstanding scientist, his work appeared in the prestigious American Journal of Science.

Shortly after Manross was named professor of chemistry and philosophy at Amherst (Mass.) College, he joined the Union army on July 22, 1862, telling his wife Charlotte "you can better afford to have a country without a husband than a husband without a country." Less than two months later, the 37-year-old citizen-soldier once described as a "man of exceptional learning and scholarship" was dead, killed by a cannon ball at the Battle of Antietam on Sept. 17, 1862.

From a prominent Bristol, Conn., family, Manross was buried in Forestville Cemetery in his hometown. After the Civil War, survivors of Manross' Company K of the 16th Connecticut placed an 8-foot brownstone monument in their captain's honor near his gravestone. Sadly, that monument is deteriorating, worn by the elements of 100-plus New England winters. In addition to several prominent cracks, the backside of the monument is separating from the main portion. One good smack could easily send that piece crashing to the ground.

Newton Manross deserves better. Perhaps this post will spur an effort to repair a monument for an exceptional man who died for his country nearly 150 years ago. (For more on the Manross monument, check out my video below.)

A professor before the Civil War, Manross was killed by artillery fire at Antietam.
Can these prominent cracks in the Newton Manross monument be repaired?
Survivors of Newton Manross' Company K of the 16th Connecticut placed this monument
in Forestville Cemetery in Bristol in honor of their "gallant and beloved captain."


  1. Hi John, great post.
    Sadly this is what usually happens to softer stones like brownstone. You might want to check out some of the links on the NPS's Preservation Technology page http://ncptt.nps.gov/category/training/cemetery-monument-conservation-materials-research/. They may have some tips you could use in your conservation efforts. You may also find good info through the Association of Grave Stone Studies http://www.gravestonestudies.org/. I attended their conference/workshop in '06, it was extremely fascinating and helpful. At the time I was involved with a cemetery recordation/preservation project, and was able to save many stones in much worse shape than Manross'. One of the tricks of the trade is an industrial masonry adhesive known as D2 that is used to piece together broken grave markers.
    What seems to be happening to the Manross stone (at least as far as I can tell in the photos) is that the piece is not only separating, but warping as well. This would make simply "gluing" it back into place both difficult and dangerous. Not having seen it in person, you may be forced to actually break it off and then properly reattach it with adhesive (again, I would imagine this would depend on how warped it might be). I am in no way a professional conservator, just a guy with some experience in the hands on application of professional techniques (here's a link to the project I was involved with http://webspace.ship.edu/jqbao/shipmuseumdoc/Locust%20Grove%20Cemetery%20Site%20Report--final%20draft--12-2007.pdf). So, please reach out to the organizations I suggested before trying anything. The two things you want to avoid are and use of cement, and iron or steel pins...very bad, and outdated remedies. They actually do more damage than good, especially to softer stones.
    I hope this helps, good luck!

    The epoxy we used was called Barre-Pak. Super, super strong stuff!

    The cleaning solution we used was D-2. This would work great on some of the fungus/moss growth that I see on the Manross stone

  3. Anonymous9:39 PM

    Dave... Thanks for note and advice. I have zero experience in this area, but newton manross deserves to be remembered so will give this my best shot. John banks

  4. John: I have assisted in restoring old Jersey Dutch sandstone headstones the past few summers and can find out the name of the man who is the "expert" on this kind of project. Believe he also used an epoxy resin here-although the stone is different and think he resides in Conn. Will let you know. Joe

    1. Joe: thanks for the note. Have no idea what it would cost to fix it. Dave Maher above suggested a possible solution too when I posted this in March 2012. I have time to look into now, so hopefully we'll come up with a solution. Here is what the monument looked like this morning: http://john-banks.blogspot.com/2014/03/crumbling-history-monument-to-captain.html

  5. Sadly, the cracked piece of the obelisk has since fallen off the monument entirely and is laying on the ground in pieces...