Wednesday, February 07, 2018

February freeze frames: Battle Monument at West Point

Generals Joseph Mansfield, mortally wounded at Antietam, and James McPherson, killed at Atlanta, 
are  among soldiers honored on the Battle Monument. (CLICK ON IMAGES TO ENLARGE.)
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Thankful early-morning rain showers had ended, 5,000 people gathered at West Point on Memorial Day 1897 for the dedication of the Battle Monument -- a Civil War memorial conceived of decades earlier. It was a grand occasion on the bluff above the Hudson River, with all the usual ceremonial trappings: red, white and blue patriotic bunting, flags, a military band and lots of dignitaries.

And speeches -- many, many speeches.

At the 1897 Battle Monument dedication,
Secretary of War Russell Alger expressed
hope that mankind  could settle differences
 without war. Ten months later, America
 was at war with Spain.
"It is the fond hope of the best minds of every land," Secretary of War  Russell Alger said during his oration on an uncomfortably hot afternoon, "that the time may come -- and that in the near future -- when armed forces in the field shall no longer be required, when all differences between nations shall be settled by benign influences of man's best judgment, and that arbitration shall be substituted for artillery, musketry, and the sabre."  Ten months later, the United States was engaged in a war with Spain.

Regular army vets contributed $75,000 to build the memorial, which honors 2,230 U.S. Regular Army soldiers who died during the Civil War. They must have believed their money was well spent. A massive work of art, the monument has for its centerpiece a 46-foot shaft topped by a winged figure of "Fame." Representing cannon balls, eight huge stone spheres surround the pink-granite column. Names of fallen officers are inscribed on plaques on the round base of the monument or near the base of the column; names of fallen enlisted men appear on bronze bands on the "cannon balls."

On a frosty February morning in 2018, the Battle Monument unsurprisingly received far less attention than it had nearly 121 years earlier. A group of a dozen people from China posed for photos near the granite column. Intent on taking close-ups of  bronze memorial cannons, one curious soul nearly lost his footing on a sheet of ice and snow.  Far more interested in the spectacular view of the Hudson River from Trophy Point, most in a small busload of tourists largely ignored the monument that honors the long-dead heroes.

     PANORAMA: On a frosty February day, a view of Battle Monument at Trophy Point.
                                      (Click at upper right for full-screen experience.)

Battle Monument is on Trophy Point, which offers a spectacular view of the Hudson River.
Names of those from the U.S. Regular Army who died during the Civil War appear on the monument.
Bronze cannon are also part of the massive memorial.
5,000 people gathered here on Memorial Day 1897 for the dedication of the Battle Monument.
         PANORAMA: View from near the granite column, looking toward Hudson River.
                                   (Click at upper right for full-screen experience.)

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-- New York Times, June 1, 1897.

1 comment:

  1. I love your blogs John. So informative and it's like being there in person.