A Column about Historic Structures of New York's Southern Tier - by Roger Luther
Parade Rest
Monuments to the Citizen Soldiers of the Civil War

Soldier on the Soldiers & Sailors Monument, Courthouse Square, Binghamton, New York.
“Patriots of Broome! A Civil War, commenced by a combination of traitors and conspirators, now threatens the existence of our government and all that we hold most dear and sacred. Your country calls for your services.” This year marks 150 years since announcements such as this appeared throughout Broome County. It was 1861 and Civil War had begun.

That Fall the leaves were changing, and so was our nation. The war would continue for another four years and claim more American lives than all subsequent wars combined.

At least 4,000 men from Broome County responded to the call. According to county historian Gerald Smith that was more than half the eligible men of the county. Of those 4,000, there were more than 600 deaths and 2,000 returned wounded or diseased, said Smith.

For decades after the war ended, monuments were erected throughout the country to honor those who served. In 1878, a Soldiers and Sailors Monument Association was formed in Binghamton and a small plot of land on Courthouse Square was procured for construction of a monument. It wasn’t until Memorial Day, 1888 that construction finally began, and on July 4 of that year, a 49-foot-tall granite monument was unveiled.

Designed by the local firm Barnes & Congdon, there was no lack of architectural talent involved in the effort. Noted Binghamton architect Isaac Perry, who at that time served as New York State Architect and Capitol Commissioner, was the design consultant. Sanford Lacey of Perry’s Binghamton office contributed to the design.

An eight-foot tall granite sculpture of Lady Liberty stands at the top of the multi-tiered column. On pedestals at each side of the column are bronze figures of a sailor and soldier standing at parade rest. A close look at the base of the bronze figures reveals inscriptions, “C. Wagner, Sculptor”, and “Henry-Bonnard Bronze Company” a foundry in New York City.

In 1896 the courthouse burned and construction began on the building that we know today. At that time the Monument Committee was asked to move the memorial to the northwest corner of the square. Now under the direction of Civil War veteran General Edward F. Jones, the committee refused. Nearly twenty years earlier $1 was paid to lease the space for 999 years and they were not about to move.

A dispute with the County ensued, and finally, General Jones brought in the big guns… literally. In December, 1899, as finishing touches were put on the new courthouse dome, the Erie Railroad delivered four type-1841, ten-inch, 5850-pound seacoast mortars. Not only would the monument stay where it was, the base would now be expanded with one mortar placed at each corner. Noted local architect Elfred Bartoo designed the new configuration.

One of four seacoast mortars at base of the Binghamton monument.

The mortars were made by West Point Foundry in Cold Spring, New York. After the war they were obtained by Jones from Fort Jay on Governors Island, just off the southern tip of Manhattan Island.

West Point Foundry supplied most of the heavy cannons used by the Union Army in the Civil War, and according to artillery historian and author Jeff Kinard, the foundry produced only 33 of the ten-inch seacoast type. These mortars were capable of shooting a ten-inch diameter, 90-pound cannon ball over two and a half miles.

It is interesting to note that West Point Foundry was prestigious enough to have been selected by Jules Verne to manufacture the enormous fictional spaceship-launching Columbiad cannon in his 1865 novel From the Earth to the Moon.

Civil War monuments can be found throughout the area in public squares, parks and cemeteries, and locating them can make for a very pleasant and scenic day trip.

In 1877, Barnes & Congdon of Binghamton designed a memorial located in Monument Square, Montrose, Pennsylvania. A large plaque is inscribed: “Dedicated to the soldiers, sailors, marines, and army nurses who served during the war for the preservation of the Union.” At the base of the fifty-foot tall monument, sixteen stone tablets display names of Susquehanna County’s fallen soldiers.

The “Soldiers Monument” on Route 221 in Marathon, New York, was dedicated on Memorial Day, 1893. Another, dedicated in 1881, stands in the center square at Sherburne. Others are found on Main Street in Bainbridge (1904), Ouleout Cemetery in Franklin (1889), St. Andrew’s Cemetery in New Berlin (1877), and Memorial Park in Greene (1904).

In 1906 a 50-foot Soldiers and Sailors Monument was dedicated at Courthouse Square in Delhi, New York. Similar to the Binghamton monument, a female figure stands at the top and four cannons surround the base.

One of the most impressive is located in front of Tioga County Courthouse in Owego. “Tioga County Memorial” stands fifty feet tall, was dedicated in 1890, and according to the Smithsonian Inventory of American Painting and Sculpture, it was created by renowned sculptor Karl Bitter, who is also credited with sculpting the statue in Baker Memorial Fountain, on the opposite side of the courthouse.

In viewing Civil War monuments, it is interesting to note how similar the various statues of soldiers are. A close look at the bronze statue on the monument in Cortland reveals the inscription “C. Conrads” which provides a clue. Charles Conrads was the master sculptor for the Batterson monument firm of Hartford, Connecticut. It was this firm’s design of a soldier at parade rest, submitted in 1867 to the Antietam National Cemetery Board, that would set the standard for such statues around the country.

Parade rest is defined as “a position of rest for soldiers, in which they are required to be silent and motionless.” The design provides a fitting tribute to the 625,000 Union and Confederate fallen who rest silent and motionless, but never to be forgotten.

The Broome County Historical Society in collaboration with Roberson Museum and Science Center has assembled hundreds of objects and stories to tell the story of how the Civil War affected this area. The Civil War exhibit opened in October and will remain on display for the next two years in the Sears Harkness Exhibit area at the Roberson Museum, 30 Front Street, Binghamton. Museum hours are Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday, noon until 5:00pm, and Friday, noon until 9:00pm.

See More Photos of Local Civil War Monuments.