Sunday, July 28, 2013

Photo journal: Oldest permanent Civil War memorial in U.S.

                                    Click on image for full-screen interactive panorama.

Ivy covered the memorial during this 10th anniversary gathering in 1873.
The memorial includes the names of soldiers from the Berlin, Conn., area who died during the 
Civil War, including Private John Kent of the 16th Connecticut. He was killed at Antietam.

A souvenir from the 50th anniversary 
celebration of the memorial in 1913.
On a sweltering July day a little more than three weeks after the Battle of Gettysburg, a small crowd gathered on the lawn of the Kensington (Conn.) Congregational Church for the dedication of  a Civil War memorial.  The event would have been better attended, the Hartford Courant reported the next day, but area farmers were too busy tending to their crops.

With the nation mired in a hellish war, area residents listened to Sen. Lafayette Foster's stirring speech on July 28, 1863, in which he decried the "wicked ambition of southern leaders" before the 18-foot brownstone obelisk that honors the fallen sons of the Berlin, Conn., area., was unveiled. Among the names the etched on the monument were Private John Kent, who was killed at Antietam about 10 months earlier, and Private Birdsey J. Beckley, who was killed at Fredericksburg on Dec. 13, 1862.

 Rev. Elias Brewster Hillard, who delivered a patriotic sermon from the pulpit of his church after the Rebels shelled Fort Sumter on April 12, 1861, was instrumental in developing the idea for the monument and another church member, Nelson Augustus Moore, designed it.

Church members and area residents raised funds for the monument -- one account said it cost $350, another indicated $475 -- and since its dedication the congregation has dutifully taken care of the upkeep of what now is recognized as the oldest permanent Civil War memorial in the country. The monument is in fine shape despite its age.

On Sunday at the 150th anniversary re-dedication ceremony, Hillard and Moore undoubtedly would have been pleased. More than 200 people, including an Abraham Lincoln lookalike, re-enactors, a descendant of Moore and descendants of  Civil War Medal of Honor winner Elijah Bacon, attended the event on the muggy afternoon. An application to place the monument on the National Registry of Historic Places was recently approved, ensuring that it will be in good hands for future generations.
The oldest permanent Civil War memorial in the United States was dedicated on July 28, 1863.
Even President Lincoln, escorted by reenactors, showed for the re-dedication ceremony.
A plaque near the base of the memorial honors 14th Connecticut Private Elijah Bacon, who was
 posthumously  awarded the Medal of Honor for capturing a Rebel flag at Gettysburg on July 3, 1863. 
Bacon was killed at the Battle of the Wilderness on May 6, 1864. 

1 comment:

  1. It was my pleasure to attend the re-dedication ceremony today of the Berlin-Kensington Civil War Memorial. The committee struck just the right balance of remembrance and reverence. "President" Lincoln's words and recitation of his "Gettysburg Address" poignantly reminded us all why we were there to honor the heroes of the Civil War and of all our wars.