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| ||ROBERT A. GRAY MONUMENT |
Fort Griswold State Park
94 Smith Street
Dedicated: July 4, 1916
Type: Granite pedestal and figure
Sculptor: Charles Conrads, attr.
Fabricator and supplier: Smith Granite Company
Statuecutters: Corduri and Marzoli
Donor: Robert A. Gray
Height: Approximately 19'-22'
ROBERT A. GRAY MONUMENT, Groton, is significant historically because it was the gift of a single individual, thereby joining the ranks of other individual gifts memorializing the Civil War such as BROWN SOLDIERS' MONUMENT, Preston, and KENEA SOLDIERS MONUMENT, Wolcott.
Robert A. Gray was born in Philadelphia on September 21, 1834. He became a partner in the Groton firm of Merritt, Gray & Company, granite and marble works, at Groton Bank, the section of the village along Thames Street. Mustered in as a corporal in Company C, 21st Regiment, Connecticut Volunteers, on September 5, 1862, Gray was promoted to sergeant on December 21, 1862. He was discharged on June 23, 1865. The battles mentioned on the monument are those in which Gray fought. For distinguished gallantry at Drewry's Bluff on May 16, 1864, he was, in 1897, awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.
After the war Gray returned to his Groton stoneyard. The fact that he was in the business may have influenced his decision to make a gift of a monument. Steampower first came to Groton Bank when Merritt, Gray & Company in 1873 purchased a steam engine to use in hoisting and polishing stone. Gray was active in community civic life, serving as a representative to the General Assembly in 1880-1881, and as a vice president of the Groton Heights Centennial Committee in 1881.
Gray gave the memorial to the Groton Monument Association by testamentary gift. Frederick Dill, one of his executors, and Charles E. White had charge of selection and erection of the monument. The dedication on July 4, 1916, was attended by about 200 people, a small crowd by Civil War-monument dedication standards, which suggests a decline in interest. The Moose Lodge band, Boy Scouts, Grand Army of the Republic, and Daughters of Veterans were among the groups participating in the ceremony.
ROBERT A. GRAY MONUMENT is significant artistically because it is an example of the pedestal-and-figure design gracefully executed with fine stonecarving. The overall shape of the pedestal is marked by a concave curved line, at the bottom, established by the edges of the pedestal base's three stages, balanced by the convex curve, at the top, of the dome-like section under the statue. The carefully detailed carving of the shields at the base and the wreaths at the base and cornice, together with the incised lines that set off the battle names, contribute to the cohesion and unity of the design. The figure appears to be conventional.
SOLDIERS' MONUMENT, Mystic in Stonington, produced by James G. Batterson's New England Granite Works of Hartford 33 years earlier, is quite similar. Indeed, records of Smith Granite Company, Westerly, Rhode Island, carry a notation of directive to use "the New England Granite Works model." Just what is meant by "the New England Granite Works model" is not clear, perhaps just the figure, since Mystic is not mentioned. However, both the pedestal and figure at Groton are similar to those at Mystic.
Smith Granite Company booked the Groton order directly, without aid of an agent, Groton being close to the Rhode Island border. The order was received on November 12, 1915, at a price of $2,500, and was shipped on June 9, 1916. In addition to the statuecutters Corduri and Marzoli, other craftsmen who worked on the monument were as follows:
| Carvers || A. Datson, J. Jenkins, V. Tolfa, and J. Bernasconi |
| lettercutters || Charles Greenman and Frank Cook |
| polishers || Walter Fitzgerald and James Collins |
| stonecutters || J.H. Bishop, James Tough, Absolom Francis, Caleb Mudge, William Mudge, R. Franchi, and William Crocket |
The date of the monument, 1915, is late. It may be one of the last Civil War memorials cut in Westerly.
ROBERT A. GRAY MONUMENT is a tall pedestal with figure executed in tan granite. Dedicated to all Groton men who served in the Civil War, it is located in Fort Griswold State Park, separated from the Fort Griswold obelisk by the Monument House Museum. No trees or shrubs are in the area.
The shallow plinth of the monument is quarry-faced with tooled margins, in speckled light gray granite; the balance of the monument is tan granite. The base of the pedestal is in three stages, forming a curved line from the plinth to the dado. Raised overlapping Shields of the United States and Connecticut embellish the front face of the top stage. The shields are partially surrounded by a laurel wreath.
The body of the dado has lettering, as recorded below, on the front face only. Two incised lines near the top of the dado set off a raised battle name, bordered by incised lines, on each of the four sides, as recorded below. Each cornice is embellished with a central raised wreath on rounded vertical surface in front of the top section, which is curved in the form of a square dome.
The infantryman figure stands at rest with his left foot far forward so that the toe projects over the front edge of the statue base. Rifle butt is angled to his right, and the rifle itself held to the right. Hands are on the muzzle, right over left. Accoutrements are suspended from waist belt, with bayonet at left hip. Overcoat cape is thrown back over his right shoulder. The soldier wears a moustache and kepi, looking to his left.
Front (south) face of dado, raised polished caps:ERECTED BY
ROBERT A. GRAY
AND DEDICATED TO
THE MEMORY OF
HIS BRAVE COMRADES
WHO OFFERED THEIR LIVES
FOR THEIR COUNTRY
IN THE WAR OF
1861 - 1865
Top of east face:PORT HUDSON
The New London Day, July 5, 1916, il.
Carol W. Kimball, Groton Municipal Historian, letter, May 17, 1994.
Isaac Gallup Smith, Jr., letter, November 11, 1994.
Isaac Gallup Smith, Jr., Smith Granite Company Record: 784.
Charles R. Stark, Groton, Conn., 1705-1905 (Stonington: Palmer Press, 1922), pp. 100, 304, 305.