| Meriden |
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| || SOLDIERS MONUMENT |
142 East Main Street
Dedicated: June 18, 1873
Type: Granite pedestal, obelisk, and figure
Designer, fabricator, and supplier: Batterson, Canfield & Company (James G. Batterson)
Sculptor: Charles Conrads, attr.
Height: Approximately 45'
SOLDIERS MONUMENT, Meriden, is significant historically because of its archetypical sponsorship and dedication ceremony. The project was sponsored by the local Merriam Post of the Grand Army of the Republic, as was so often the case. Cost was $11,000. The monument honors those from Meriden who died in the Civil War.
Dedication Day was an important civic event, typical of the occasion. The Daily Call, West Meriden, set the tone by recording that "By early morning trains of invited guests began to arrive." Festivities blossomed. "The gentlemen wore red roses in their lapels." "The Ever Ready Hook and Ladder, No. 1. was elegantly festooned in flowers,..." One fireman's daughter was dressed in red, white, and blue. The paper gave detailed descriptions of homes and businesses decked out in flags and bunting for the occasion. The line of march for the parade filled nine column inches and included G.A.R. groups, New Haven policemen, National Guard units, and many others. Spectators numbered 20,000.
On the speakers' stand distinguished personages included General Joseph R. Hawley, a Civil War hero and United States senator, Ex-Governor William A. Buckingham, who had served in the office during the war, the mayor and ex-mayors, town council members, clergy, and others.
Two-thirds of the Call's account is devoted to description of the arrangements, festivities, and people. At the end, the remarks of General Hawley, the principal orator of the day, were noted. The general extolled God and the establishment, proclaiming that "God charged us to keep this nation as one government, and ours, forever." And, he said, "I maintain that the young men of our churches, Sunday schools and academies, could be depended upon more than the roughs or men of the lowest dregs of society." By 1873 the message was to encourage citizens to stay in line in support of the political leadership, which was inspired by God. General Hawley was perhaps Connecticut's most popular orator for Civil War monument dedications. He spoke at many, and as time went on, the emphasis of his remarks developed. He gave decreasing attention to standard Civil War aphorisms and increasing attention to late-19th-century social progress. See SOLDIERS' MEMORIAL HALL, Madison.
SOLDIERS MONUMENT, Meriden, is the archetypical Connecticut Civil War monument. It is a standard, although unusually tall, composition of Westerly, Rhode Island, granite pedestal, plaques, obelisk shaft, and figure produced by the James G. Batterson organization. The workmanship and attention to detail are good. The monument is in splendid condition after 120 years.
The four bronze plaques on the dado are unusual because their lettering is incised rather than raised. The incised lettering may indicate they were cast in Germany. Batterson had good European sources for bronzework. See also THE SOLDIERS' MONUMENT, Norwich. Also, the information of rank and date and place of death for each name is unusually complete. The plaque on the northwest face is streaked and blackened; the other three are in good condition.
SOLDIERS MONUMENT, Meriden, stands in front of City Hall at a busy five-street intersection. While the monument has been in this location since 1873, the building behind it has changed. The 1855 Town Hall, which was in place when the monument was erected, burned in 1904 and was replaced, 1905-07, by the present structure, now called City Hall. East Main Street comes down a hill in front of City Hall, with the result that grade falls off sharply for 7'/8' in front of the monument, giving prominence to its location. At one time an iron fence surrounded the monument, causing complaints that it was impossible to get close enough to read the names on the plaques. Also, four Confederate cannon were on the site. The fence and cannon were donated to the World War II scrap drive.
The monument's setting is now marked at its four corners by granite bollards, presumed to be original. They have raised shields on their sides and their tops carry crossed half-round raised channels which are decorated at their ends with incised trefoils.
SOLDIERS MONUMENT, Meriden, consists of base, pedestal with bronze plaques, obelisk shaft, and crowning figure. The shaft is said to be 38' high and the figure 7' (Record-Journal, August 19, 1983); the overall height is not clear, but is perhaps at least 45 feet. Above the plinth of two risers, the front (west) face of the pedestal is extended upward to accommodate the legend recorded below. Central wreaths are placed at the pedestal's cornice on all four sides. Above the front wreath is a trophy consisting of the Seals of Connecticut and the United States, surmounted by an eagle.
The slightly tapered obelisk shaft is divided by three pairs of torus moldings, two of which frame the battle names recorded below. The shaft thickens at its top to provide support for the conventional figure of a Union soldier standing at parade rest. The figure, 7' tall, has a weight of 1,500 pounds. His right foot is forward, with the direction of the musket butt parallel to the direction of the feet. His hands grasp the musket barrel, left over right. He wears overcoat with cape, moustache, and soft visored cap. At the figure's left rear a granite mass with foliated surface connects the bottom of the coat with the ground, an odd feature. Perhaps its purpose is to add stability. See also SOLDIERS' MONUMENT, Portland.
The Meriden monument has other fine details. The plinth of the statue is beveled inward with unusual care, in mirror image of the corresponding beveled surface of the statue's base above. Another minor but thoughtful motif is the small broaches which support the moldings below the battle names. The shaft itself is chamfered.
Nearby is a 35" x 44" plaque of Westerly granite affixed to City Hall in 1948, commemorating Abraham Lincoln's 1860 electioneering visit. It was supplied by Savitter Memorial Works, Inc. A 13" x 17 1/2" U.S.S. Maine bronze plaque on the building portrays in bas-relief a helmeted head and outstretched arm over a shield.
Front of base of pedestal, lower level, far right, incised large and small caps:BATTERSON, CANFIELD & CO. / HARTF0RD, CT
Front (northwest) face of base of pedestal, incised caps:TO THE MEMORY OF
OUR FELLOW CITIZENS
IN DEFENSE OF THE GOVERNMENT. 1861-65
Above, incised in bronze plaque:(40 names with rank and place and date of death)
Above, shaft:ANTIETAM / GETTYSBURG
Southwest face, bronze plaque:(40 names)
Above:VICKSBURG / FORT FISHER
Above:APPOMATTOX / ATLANTA
Above:NEW BERNE / ROANOKE ISLAND
Pier at north end of City Hall steps, above bas-relief, caps:ABRAHAM LINCOLN
IN SEARCH OF THE NOMINATION FOR THE
PRESIDENCY ADDRESSED A RALLY IN THE
TOWN HALL OF MERIDEN - MARCH 7, 1860
Below:" AND THAT GOVERNMENT OF THE PEOPLE,
BY THE PEOPLE AND FOR THE PEOPLE,
SHALL NOT PERISH FROM THE EARTH."
IN MEMORY OF THE CIVIL WAR VETERANS
OF MERIDEN, MAY 30, 1948
South pier:IN MEMORIAM
DESTROYED IN HAVANA HARBOR
FEBRUARY 15TH, 1898
CAST FROM METAL RECOVERED FROM THE U.S.S. MAINE
The [West Meriden] Daily Call, June 19, 1873.
Meriden Daily Republican, April 30, 1873, May 1, 1873, August 26, 1876.
Meriden Record-Journal, August 19, 1983.