Remembering the Civil War
Civil War Memorials
The most visible connection to our Civil War past are the monuments, statues, boulders, bronze tablets, and granite markers that stand proudly in nearly every community across the United States. Here in Michigan’s eighty-three counties, we estimate there are over 425 such memorials. Our goal is to locate each one and share it here on this website.
I have served in a number of Camp, Department and National positions within the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War but my most favorite is that of the Civil War Memorials Officer for the Department of Michigan and the General John A. Logan Camp No. 1 in Grand Rapids.
My interest in these memorials began in 1999 when I conducted a research project to learn more about the Kent County Civil War Monument & Fountain in Grand Rapids. This interest became a passion after meeting Dr. Weldon Petz, a great friend no longer with us but a man who had spent a considerable number of years trying to locate and identify Michigan’s memorials. His family has given me his research and my goal is to continue this work. It will be a fun but lengthy project.
Over time, it is my goal to not only post updates of Michigan’s memorials but Michigan’s monuments outside of the state as well as the buildings used by Posts of the Grand Army of the Republic (G.A.R.) for their meetings.
The answer is actually simple and can be found under “Purpose and Objects” in the Constitution of the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War which reads:
To perpetuate the memory of the Grand Army of the Republic and of the men who saved the Union 1861 to 1865; to assist in every practicable way in the preservation and making available for research of documents and records pertaining to the Grand Army of the Republic and its members; to cooperate in doing honor to all who have patriotically served our country in any war; to teach patriotism, and the duties of citizenship, the true history of our country, and the love and honor of our Flag…
As the legal heir to the Grand Army of the Republic (G.A.R.), it is our responsibility to do all within our power to locate, assess, preserve and sometimes restore the monuments and memorials erected by or dedicated to the G.A.R.
Almost immediately after the Civil War ended, combatants of both the North and South began to put their experiences to paper. They formed organizations that allowed them to continue the esprit de corps they had experienced serving side by side on the battlefield. Regimental histories were written and petitions were made in nearly every community calling for a public monument or memorial.
The reasons behind this were quite simple—they understood the importance of the events of 1861-1865 and they wanted future generations to remember their service and sacrifice while wearing the uniform of Blue or Gray.
Several examples of how much faith the soldiers placed in us can be found in the following:
At the 1885 dedication of the Kent County Soldiers Monument and Fountain in Grand Rapids, Michigan, Major Charles W. Watkins of the 10th Michigan Cavalry stated, “…that so long as grass grows and water runs, the deeds of the soldiers will be kept fresh and green in the hearts of the people.”
And at the 1904 dedication of the Michigan monument at Andersonville Prison, General James H. Kidd of the 6th Michigan Cavalry said, “It is a far cry from Michigan to Georgia, but Michigan will not forget or cease to honor the men who filled the ranks of her volunteers…”
Our efforts today honor the wishes of those no longer with us and helps educate todays and future generations about the Civil War.
The JOB DESCRIPTION of the Camp Civil War Memorials Officer reads:
The purpose of the Camp level Civil War Memorials Officer is to coordinate the locating, physical examination of, and recording of all memorials dedicated to Union Civil War soldiers and sailors (outside the care of the National Military Parks, and the U. S. Departments of Defense, or Veterans’ Affairs) within their respective geographic boundaries. This includes all sizes of monuments (with or without sculpture), those with Civil War era cannon and inert ammunition, memorial fountains, memorial buildings, memorial windows (stained glass), historical markers, and even small plaques.
To prevent a duplication of effort on the part of a Camp’s membership, the Camp Civil War Memorials Officer should: 1) coordinate the search for, physical examination of, photographing of, and recording of Civil War Memorials (as described above) located within the confines of the Camp’s geographical boundaries; 2) maintain observation of care and upkeep for “local” Civil War Memorials – and bring any shortcomings to the attention of the property owners and community government where the memorial is located; 3) provide documentation of location and condition of Civil War Memorials (via SUVCW Form CWM 61) to the Department Civil War Memorials Officer.