Waterville veterans wanted a bronze Citizen Soldier

My lovely wife has patiently toured so many Civil War battlefields, she claims that “when you’ve seen one cannon, you’ve seen them all.” Pertaining to all the green-hued 12-pounder Napoleons scattered from Gettysburg to Vicksburg and Malvern Hill and back, she’s right.

Waterville residents dedicated a Civil War monument on May 30, 1876. The bronze statue atop a granite pedestal is one of few such bronze Civil War statues in Maine. The Town of Clinton also has one, but of a different style. (Brian F. Swartz Photos)

She could also say the same for many Civil War monuments in Maine. Soldier-style monuments carved from bedrock granite are so ubiquitous across Maine that sometimes you cannot tell the monuments apart without a scorecard.

Then there’s the monument located at Monument Park on Elm Street in Waterville. The granite base is typically Maine; the bronze monument is not. When the members of the Waterville Soldiers’ Monument Association decided to erect a monument “To The Memory Of The Soldiers And Sailors of Waterville Who Gave Their Lives For the Preservation Of The Republic, 1861-1865,” they went all out.

On March 14, 1864, Waterville residents attended a concert, “the proceeds of which … were to be donated in aid of erecting a suitable monument to the memory of our soldiers,” according to The Centennial History of Waterville edited by Rev. Edwin Carey Whittemore and published in 1902.

At intermission, concert-goers formed “a permanent organization” to raise funds and build a monument. Called the Waterville Soldiers’ Monument Association, the group had as its president G.A. Phillips and as its vice president William A. Caffrey.

Some additional fund raising took place during the war, but Whittemore noticed “a hiatus of nearly ten years” before the monumental project moved forward.

The monument association had raised $1,000 by summer 1875, and the town had approved donating another thousand bucks. Headed by combat veteran Col. Francis E. Heath (his brother was killed while leading the 5th Maine Infantry at Gaines Mill in June 1862), the five-man committee assigned to design the monument wasted no time in finding something suitable.

What they wanted was just down the road in Massachusetts.

The design of the bronze Union soldier atop the Civil War monument in Waterville is called the Citizen Soldier. It was based on a sculpture by Martin Milmore.

In 1867, sculptor Martin Milmore had designed the statue set atop a complex granite base to form the Roxbury Soldiers’ Memorial at the Forest Hills Cemetery in Roxbury. According to the website Visual Culture of the American Civil War, Milmore’s statue “was one of the early depictions of the common soldier” and in 1867 was “one of the largest bronzes cast in the United States.”

This monument style proved so popular that “the common soldier monument became the dominant Civil War memorial by the 1880s,” according to the website.

Milmore called his bronze statue the Citizen Soldier. The design committee from Waterville wanted one just like it — or at least however large a bronze Citizen Soldier could be had for $2,000.

Voting to accept the committee’s recommendation, the Waterville Soldiers’ Monument Association members then appointed a much larger committee (including women) to find a site for the monument. Land on Elm Street was selected, and “the ladies of the committee” organized back-to-back fund raisers for May 16-17, 1876, according to Whittemore’s History.

“The entertainments were a grand success, in every way” and raised another $350 to cover the final costs related to the monument’s installation, Whittemore noted.

Association members raised a total of $2,772.84 for the project. The bronze statue cost $1,600, its transportation by railroad another $16.18, and the granite “pedestal, including foundation, $982.75.” The final cost for everything was $2,700.83, leaving the association a net balance of $72.01.

Waterville’s bronze Citizen Soldier was cast at the R. Wood & Co. foundry in Philadelphia. The completed “Waterville Soldiers’ Monument (statue and granite base) was dedicated with appropriate ceremonies on Memorial day, Tuesday, May 30, 1876,” according to Whittemore.

The land on which the monument stood was named Monument Park. The Citizen Soldier still stands watch from his granite perch, and other veterans’ monuments now grace the park.

Brian Swartz can be reached at visionsofmaine@tds.net. He enjoys hearing from Civil War buffs interested in Maine’s involvement in the war.

Brian Swartz

About Brian Swartz

Welcome to "Maine at War," the blog about the roles played by Maine and her sons and daughters in the Civil War. I am a Civil War buff and a newspaper editor recently retired from the Bangor Daily News. Maine sent hero upon hero — soldiers, nurses, sailors, chaplains, physicians — south to preserve their country in the 1860s. “Maine at War” introduces these heroes and heroines, who, for the most part, upheld the state's honor during that terrible conflict. We tour the battlefields where they fought, and we learn about the Civil War by focusing on Maine’s involvement with it. Be prepared: As I discover to this very day, the facts taught in American classrooms don’t always jibe with Civil War reality. I can be reached at visionsofmaine@tds.net.