| Colchester |
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| ||UNION MONUMENT |
Erected: September 17, 1875
Type: Granite pedestal and figure
Sculptor: George E. Bissell
Height: Approximately 16'
UNION MONUMENT, Colchester, is significant historically because it is a tangible symbol of honor and respect paid by the community of Colchester to its sons who died in the Civil War. Sponsoring organization, cost, and other details about the monument are not known.
UNION MONUMENT, Colchester, is significant artistically because it is imaginative and well done. The design, for both pedestal and figure, is different from most Connecticut Civil War monuments. The pedestal is set apart from the standard Connecticut design by its Gothic arches, although they are not unique (see SOLDIERS' MONUMENT, St. Bernard Cemetery, New Haven). The figure, however, is unique. Instead of the typical uniformed soldier, Colchester's man has his overcoat cape unbuttoned, hat held in hand, and head turned downward, all indicating a contemplative mood.
Such independent interpretations of the standard Civil War theme are characteristic of the artist, George Edwin Bissell (1839-l920), who was a Connecticut native with European training (see OVERVIEW). Bissell was born in New Preston, Connecticut, the son of a quarryman and marbleworker. At 14 Bissell became a clerk in a Waterbury store, then attended Gunnery School at Washington, Connecticut. He served in the Civil War as a private in the 23rd Regiment, Connecticut Volunteers. After the war he resumed work in stonecutting with his family in Poughkeepsie, New York, and at age 32 received his first commission as a sculptor. Thereafter, he studied in Paris, Florence, and Rome. At the time of the Salisbury COLUMBIA/UNION/FREEDOM commission in 1891, Bissell was a resident of Salisbury.
Other Connecticut Civil War monuments by Bissell include CHATFIELD MONUMENT, Riverside Cemetery, Waterbury; WINCHESTER SOLDIERS' MONUMENT, Winsted in Winchester; and COLUMBIA/UNION/FREEDOM, Salisbury. In non-Civil War work, he produced the Elton Vase and private grave markers in Riverside Cemetery, Waterbury; a variety of busts and portrait sculpture; the Robert Burns monument at Ayr, Scotland; a statue of Abraham Lincoln and a slave at Edinburgh; General Horatio Gates at Saratoga, and many others. He received numerous honors and awards.
Source of the stone and identity of the carver are not known.
UNION MONUMENT, Colchester, is elevated on a 4' mound at the southern end of the 3.5-acre park known as the Town Green. Consisting of a base, tall pedestal, and soldier figure, all in granite, it is dedicated to those from Colchester who lost their lives in the war for the Union.
The high monument base of gray granite is heavily stained with black crusts. It supports the low base of the die, whose top edge leads up and in with a convex molding. The die is slightly tapered. Small cannon are carved in the chamfers of its corners (see SOLDIERS' MONUMENT, Plymouth Green, Plymouth). The chamfered cavity has a plumb line weight at the bottom and a stepped top. Each face of the dado terminates in a Gothic arch. On the front, raised lettering follows the shape of the arch, reading NOT OURS BUT / THE NATION'S. Under the lettering in an emblem divided by a diagonal line, the upper right area is filled with the Shield of the United States with vertical stripes and a square field of stars, while in the lower left the Seal of Connecticut is evoked with two raised trees or vines.
On the west and east, which are similar, the lettering which follows the Gothic arch shape is ROLL OF / HONOR. The south face is plain under the arch except for the raised date of erection, September 17, 1875.
The figure stands with his left foot forward, rifle butt between the feet and parallel with them. It is not held straight up; its muzzle rests against the left shoulder, cradled by the left arm. Hands are held down, joined in the front, right folded over left. The kepi is grasped by the left hand. The overcoat cape is unbuttoned and open, falling to the elbows. The bayonet is at the left hip and the waist belt, cartridge box, and cartridge box sling are in place. The face, which is tilted down in contemplation, features moustache and beard; hair is parted on the left.
Left of statue base, towards front, incised caps:BISSELL / PO'KEEPSIE
Front (north) face of dado, raised polished caps:COLCHESTER
HONORS ITS DEAD
IN THE WAR
FOR THE UNION,
1861 - 5.
West, caps incised in polished surface:ROLL OF HONOR (segmental curve) / (22 names)
South, raised polished caps:ERECTED / SEPT. 17, / 1875.
East, caps incised in polished surface:ROLL OF HONOR (segmental curve) / (22 names)
Baruch, p. 17.
The National Cyclopaedia of American Biography (New York: Jas. White & Company, 1924), pp. 278-280.
Laredo Taft, The History of American Sculpture (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1924), pp. 245-247.