Soldiers' Monument by Gabriel Plunkett

History and Dedication of the Soldier’s Monument, Sharon, Connecticut

Dedicated August 6, 1885

Published Amenia, NY, Charles Walsh, Steam Printer, 1885

 

History and Dedication

For many years past the citizens of the Town of Sharon have felt that something should be done toward the erection of a suitable monument to commemorate and perpetuate the memory of the noble deeds and sacrifices made in the late war of the Rebellion by those of her citizens who laid down their lives for their country’s cause.

No decided step toward such an end was taken until the year 1885, when Miss Emily O. Wheeler of New York city presented to some of our interested citizens the plans and design for the beautiful piece of workmanship which now stands at the head of our village street.

After consideration by some of our prominent citizens and members of the John M. Gregory Post, No. 59, G.A.R., a petition for the calling of a town meeting was duly prepared and circulated, and in due time a meeting of the citizens of the town was warned for the 23rd day of January, 1885, to consider and take action in the matter.

At the meeting, which was a very large and enthusiastic one, a resolution was introduced providing for the erection of the monument according to the plan and design presented, and, after many fervent remarks, the following resolution was adopted:

Resolved, That the sum of one thousand dollars be, and the same is hereby appropriated, by the town of Sharon, for the purpose of erecting the memory of the honored dead, who enlisted from the town and who perished in the late war of the Rebellion, a monument in accordance with the design and plans as furnished by Miss Emily O. Wheeler, and that L. VanAlstyne, Nelson Willson and Everett S. Dunbar be and are hereby appointed a committee to locate and erect said monument, and the selectmen of said town are hereby further authorized and empowered to draw their orders on the treasurer of said town for a sum, not exceeding $1000, for the aforesaid purpose.

Work was immediately begun upon the monument, and the John M. Gregory Post, No. 59, G.A.R., at a meeting called for that purpose, made arrangements for suitable dedicatory exercises and the following programme was agreed upon:

 


Order of Exercises

Form procession near Town Hall at 10 a.m.

March past the monument to speaker’s stand.

Music by the Sharon band – “Hail Columbia.”

Presentation of monument to J. M. Gregory Post, No. 59, G.A.R., for dedication. By Rev. C.C. Tiffany, on behalf of selectmen.

Music by Lakeville band – “Star Spangled Banner.”

Dedicatory prayer by Rev. C.B. Landon, 28th Regiment, Conn. Vols., Company E.

Dedicatory address by Col. A. H. Fenn, 2d Conn. Heavy Artillery. Dedicatory verses, written for the occasion.

Firing salute, three rounds, by David S. Cowles Post, No. 60, G.A.R

Music by Sharon band – “Red, White and Blue.”

Oration by Rev. Hiram Eddy, D.D., 2d Conn. Vols.

Benediction, by Rev. James R. Bourne.

Order of Procession

Sharon band.

J. M. Gregory Post, No. 59, G.A.R., escorting Department Commander Frank D. Sloat and Staff. Speakers of the day and selectmen.

David S. Cowles Post, No. 60, G.A.R., with firing detail.

Other G.A.R. posts.

Citizens under command of marshals.


 

The Post also appointed the following committees to carry on the work of preparation for the dedicatory exercises:

 

Committee on speakers

N.C. Willson and Chas. E. Benton

Finances

Abel R. Woodward, Myron F. Whitney and H.C. Rowley

Ceremonies

Dr. W.W. Knight and L. VanAlstyne

 

The furnishing of the collation, on the day of dedication, was left to the ladies of Sharon, as they were never know to fail on such occasions, and this conclusion was fully warranted by the bountiful repast they furnished.

The monument was in due time completed and approved by the selectmen of the town, and the 6th day of August, 1885, was set for the unveiling and dedication of the same.

The day dawned bright and beautiful and proved to be all that could be desired. The procession, which was composed of three posts of the G.A.R., two bands, and the speakers of the day, formed at 10 a.m. and marched past the monument to the speakers’ stand.

After the rendering of “Hail Columbia,” by the Sharon cornet band, the Rev. Jas. R. Bourne, chairman of the day, made a few introductory remarks and introduced Rev. Dr. C.C. Tiffany of New York city, who presented the monument on behalf of the selectman, to the John M. Gregory Post, No. 59, G.A.R.

 

Oration

By Rev. Hiram Eddy, D.D.

Formerly Chaplain of the Second Conn. Vols.

Many and stately are the monuments erected in this world. Tracing history back into the mist of past ages, and then even beyond where written history has made any record, we find evidences of man’s disposition to commemorate the deeds and achievements of those who have earned the name, or who have been voted heroes. At vast expense and Herculean labor men have erected monuments to themselves, to perpetuate their own name and glory down to succeeding ages, and they have succeeded.

Monuments whose hoary heads bear the impress of millenniums and epochs, and upon which the sun of the nineteenth century is falling today, speak to us and tell us something about the men who have lived and breathed, thought and acted like ourselves. Among these, we find monuments to kings, to emperors, to princes, to nobles, men of learning and men of genius, men distinguished for some grand achievement and enterpreise, in relation to which they were leaders. But while the general who has fought victorious battles is monumented in marble, granite and bronze, the soldier in the ranks, without whom the mightiest general that ever led an army could do nothing, has been left to sleep in the trench where he fell with nothing to mark the spot save the bleaching bones that crop out from the thinly-covered grave. And it is here where unmonumented heroes lie by the hundreds of thousands. Their names are unknown, and no attempt made to record them; nameless heroes who have gone down in the grand battles of time, achieving victories for which others have the monumental fame. Yet I think these unknown graves are grander and more sublime than the monuments which greet the sun at his coming. But this fact in no way relieves the past ages and nations and present as well, from the charge of inhumanity and ungratefulness to their real defenders-the men who have fought, bled and died in the ranks. These are the nation’s true defenders.

An ancient prince visited another prince of renown. The latter showed his guest the wonders of his capital, his palace and kingdom. The guest wondered at the splendors of his court and the riches of his kingdom, and expressed his admiration to his host, and remarked, “The glory, sire, of your kingdom amazes me, but one thing surprises still more.” “And what is that?” demanded the host. “Why,” returned the other, “I see no ramparts, no bulwarks and no wall about your city.” “Ah!” said the royal host. “I will show you those tomorrow.” On the morrow he had his army drawn up in battle array, his soldiers cased in glittering armor. “There,” said the royal host, “are my ramparts, my bulwarks and the wall of my city, and every man a brick!” There was his wall of defense, more impregnable than massive forts lined with sand bags, or vessels cased in steel.

Thus the army of the union, which fought down the confederacy and fought up the union, was composed; not only every man a brick of defense, but every man a hero. And it remained for the great republic to lift the private, not from the ranks, but to honor him in the ranks; to lift the ranks and those fighting in them up, up, up, higher than the monuments of kings and emperors, and chisel their names in granite and burn them into bronze, and thus say to the world of dynasties who use soldiers for their own convenience:

“These are our defenders, who in defending the government defend themselves, for the government which they defend is their own. Thus monuments to the common soldier have risen from the Atlantic to the Pacific since the war for the union ended at Appomattox. And this brings to mind the saying of our more than royal dead chieftain when, on his lofty dying bed at Mount McGregor, he took occasion to deny the truth of the oft-repeated words, repeated more often among monarchies than elsewhere, to wit, “Republics are ungrateful.” This he denied.

We can safely say that no nation ever cherished the memories of her dead heroes and defenders as the great republic is now doing. Think of our national cemeteries – Arlington Heights, Gettysburg, Andersonville, with its thousands of white tombstones; Chalmette on the shore of the Father of Waters below New Orleans, and many others, and then add this most tender fact that the government has made provision for putting a tombstone at the head of every soldier that dies too poor to procure on from what he leaves behind him. The same provision is made by many of the states. Then we must add to this the soldier’s homes, magnificent institutions, architecturally, materially; that is, pleasant for situation, magnificent in their provisions, physically, intellectually and morally, for all those who have come out of the war broken and shattered or rendered helpless by the fiery ordeal, or have become so by the infirmities of old age. Then we must add to all this the millions and millions of pension money paid to those who came out of the war with an empty sleeve, with a leg gone, with an eye forever closed, or the two lamps of the head blown out into eternal darkness, or the brains shattered by the concussions of battle- for all these and more of the casualties of war the nation has amply provided. These facts bespeak a nation more glorious in her humanitarian works and beautiful charities, as applied to her defenders, than in her amazing wealth, her great intelligence, or her victorious armies. Then what man with a heart and soul would not fight and die for such a government? Let him not have the name of an American. Let his name rot and his memory become an offence and stench in the nostrils of true patriots and free people. For it becomes so natural to fight and die for a nation of which each soldier is a component part. He is fighting for his own highest and dearest interest.

Then the war in which these our glorious heroes died was not simply related to them and to us, not even to us as a nation only. The war in which these noble men fell was a necessity in the world’s advance, another rise in the stairway and ascent to a higher civilization. This has been true in all our national conflicts of whatever character. The Declaration of Independence was a vast and brilliant stride forward and upward. In a political, moral and religious aspect it was the lifting up of a standard among the nations that was altogether unique. It declared the rights of man as man on the foundation of a God-created manhood; man independent in thought, speech, press; MAN independent of prerogative, however hoary with age it might be. You see this master-stroke must bring in a new civilization, for it assigns to individual man, and woman too, a prerogative of their own, which renders them independent of pope, of priest, or church; independent of all the dicta of the past. Not that he shall reject all this, but it confers on him the prerogative to examine all this for himself and ex cathedra pronounce upon it. It was, therefore, the sublimest [sic] declaration ever put forth by man; it was the glove of challenge thrown down among the nations, and, in a world where the masses had been slaves, it had to be fought for. It had to depend on the sharp edge of the sword to win. The eternal truth embodied in the Declaration of Independence had to be vindicated at the sharp point of the bayonet. Thought and truth gleamed at the point of steel, and muscle and will grasped the old flintlock and pulled the trigger. Then the contest commenced which goes on today. Then the divine right of man to rule himself and a republic founded on the eternal principles of manhood and right was declared and established, and the divine right of kinds received a black eye, from which it has not recovered and never can. This manifesto to the world of tyrannies was perfect, but the constitution sdopted to carry out and apply those principles contained provisions and compromises diametrically opposed to those principles.

The declaration had made the domain of freedom as wide as humanity itself, without distinction of color or race or creed; but the constitution drew a color line through itself and brought on a conflict in the very structure, in the very holy of holies of the new government. The conflict was inevitable, and it commenced at once; and the fight that then commenced went on, in one form or another, until it widened out into a sea of blood which reddened the shores of the two oceans, and the crash of its billows was heard around the world. In this conflict these, our immortalheroes, fought and fell. They did not fight for themselves, their homes and their alters simply, but for liberty, for the race of man, for the world, the world’s advancement. Thus every impartial thinker now reasons. The whole world has started forward, conscience in regard to the rights of the people has been quickened, and the people are everywhere demanding those rights with more startling voices and with means and agencies which cause sovereigns to tremble on their thrones. We cannot justify all the means and agents employed, but the people are moving forward on the plane of the Declaration of Independence; and he who listens shall hear the rumble and feel the tread of a moral and political earthquake, in which thrones and scepters and all the traps and equipage of authority, stolen from the people, shall go down in a crash that shall end the long and bloody ages of tyranny and oppression.

Thus, in the late war, we were fighting up and pushing forward the great platform of freedom on which we stand as a nation. And it is now only too clear for anyone to dispute it, that had the divisive movement of the South succeeded according to the program of the confederacy, the sun on the dial plate of the world’s progress must have gone back for centuries. For what was their manifesto? What did they declare to the world? The organ of the confederacy, the Richmond Enquirer, declared that manifesto in the following high sounding words:

“The establishment of this confederacy is verily a distinct reaction against the whole course of the mistaken civilization of the age. And this is the true reason why we have been left without the sympathy of the nations until we conquered that sympathy with the sharp edge of the sword. For Liberty, Equality and Fraternity we have deliberately substituted SLAVERY, Subordination and Government. Those social and political problems which rack and torture modern society we have undertaken to solve for ourselves, in our own way and upon our own principles. That among equals equality is right, among those who are not equal equality is chaos; that there are slave races born to serve, master races born to govern. Such are the fundamental principles which we inherit from the ancient world, which we lifted up in the face of a perverse generation that has forgotten the wisdom of the fathers; by these principles we live, and in their defense we have shown ourselves ready to die. Reverently we feel that the confederacy is a God-sent missionary to the nations with great truths to preach. We must speak them boldly, and whoso hath ears to hear let him hear.”

This language now seems the strangest possible. It brings to mind the saying, “Whom the gods would destroy they first make mad.”