| Cheshire |
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| || CIVIL WAR MONUMENT |
111 Church Drive
Dedicated: July 1866; rededicated July 4, 1916
Type: Granite obelisk with bronze plaques
Designer: Robert W. Wright
Principal benefactor: George A. Jarvis
CIVIL WAR MONUMENT, Cheshire, is significant historically because it is a tangible symbol of honor and respect offered by the community of Cheshire to those who served in the Civil War. Landmarks of Cheshire, page 9, refers to it as "the first Civil War monument in the state," but SOLDIERS MONUMENT, Kensington in Berlin (1863), SOLDIERS MONUMENT, Bristol (January 20, 1866), and possibly SOLDIERS' MONUMENT, Plymouth Green, Plymouth (ca.1865?), are earlier.
The initial dedication at Cheshire was to those who lost their lives in the war. The names of 14 men were listed originally, incised in the stone. Thereafter, strong feeling arose in the town that names of veterans as they died should be added. Finally, in 1916, four bronze plaques listing all who served were affixed to the obelisk. The use of the term Civil War, so surprising when associated with 1866 on first impression, was introduced in 1916, following the 20th-century practice. The plaques list 126 men.
Chief benefactor of the monument in 1866 was George A. Jarvis of Brooklyn, New York, a native of Cheshire, who gave $1,000 on condition that it be matched by local donations, which rapidly were forthcoming.
CIVIL WAR MONUMENT, Cheshire, is significant artistically because it is a good example of an early (1866) monument that relies on its simplicity and good proportions, rather than on embellishment, to achieve aesthetic excellence. The plinth, dado, and shaft form a dignified and impressive whole, although there is no sculpture. The carving of the moldings is competent but standard, with the exception of the lamb's tongue stops of the dado corners, which are fine. This feature and the overall effect of the memorial are found also at SOLDIERS' MONUMENT, Norfolk. Other contemporary works of similar character include LEDYARD BILL MONUMENT, Ledyard, and SOLDIERS' MONUMENT, North Branford.
Little information is at hand regarding the designer, Robert W. Wright of New Haven, and the source of the granite, Plymouth, Connecticut; both are unusual, but see SOLDIERS' MONUMENT, Woodbury, for another monument fabricated of granite from a Plymouth quarry. Use of the names LINCOLN and FOOTE is also unusual. President Abraham Lincoln is seldom mentioned on Civil War monuments. Admiral Andrew Hull Foote (1806-1863), born in New Haven, won recognition in 1849 for suppression of the North African slave trade. His forces captured Fort Henry on the Tennessee River in 1861.
CIVIL WAR MONUMENT, Cheshire, occupies a central location on the Cheshire Green in front of the Congregational Church and across the street from the town hall. The church holds title to the parcel of 4.5 acres which includes both the church grounds and the Green, a not unique arrangement, left over from the era of the established church before 1818.
The monument is a tall granite obelisk of plinth, base, dado, and shaft without sculptural embellishment, but with a bronze plaque on each face of the dado. The massive plinth is 6' x 6' x 2'. It supports the pedestal base, which is joined to the dado by scotia and fillet moldings. The top corners of the dado have pronounced lamb's tongue stops which give the tops of the dado faces a rounded shape. The bronze plaques are rounded to fit this shape. The base of the shaft is in two stages, the upper stage being inclined and rounded at the top. The shaft above is chamfered and tapered. A tree branch is close to the stone. Originally, the monument was surrounded by a wrought-iron fence.
Front (southeast) face of dado, 46" x 32" bronze plaque, raised caps:ERECTED TO THE
MEMORY OF THOSE WHO
ENLISTED FROM THE
TOWN OF CHESHIRE
IN THE CIVIL WAR 1861 - 1865
Northeast face of pedestal base, raised caps in recessed panel:FOOTE
Above, plaque:33 names)
Southwest, pedestal base:LINCOLN
Edith Cornell, "The Granite Shaft on Cheshire Green," Meriden Record , May 25, 1963, cited and adapted in Landmarks of Cheshire (Cheshire: The Cheshire Bicentennial Committee, 1976), pp. 9-11.