Rededication of Civil War Monument at Forest Hill planned for July 1

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Two years shy of observing its sesquicentennial, the recently restored Civil War Monument at Greencastle's Forest Hill Cemetery will be rededicated in a ceremony on Sunday afternoon, July 1.

Originally dedicated on July 2, 1870 the monument was greeted with much fanfare before an estimated throng of 8,000 people -- an astounding number considering that at the time, fewer than half that many people actually lived in Greencastle.

Heritage Preservation Society (HPS) of Putnam County President Phil Gick (second from left) displays the 2018 Outstanding Grant-Assisted Rehabilitation Award after Mitch Zoll (left) of the Indiana Department of Natural Resources presented it to HPS and the City of Greencastle for the rehabilitation of the Putnam County Civil War Soldier's Monument at Forest Hill Cemetery. Also on hand to receive the award during a recent ceremony at Columbus are (from right) HPS members Margaret Kenton, Susan Price, Ken Eitel and (not pictured) Cammie Goldman.

Sculpted by Thomas David Jones -- who erected a like version in Pomeroy, Ohio -- the rare monument was titled "Western Soldier on Guard." History notes it was the first Civil War monument in Indiana to feature a human figure, and the only Hoosier memorial displaying a seated soldier.

The dedication ceremony included an appearance by Indiana Gov. Conrad Baker and special guest speakers Gen. Lew Wallace of "Ben-Hur" fame and Col. R. W. Thompson, proclaimed as "the silver-tongued orator from Terre Haute," along with the Indiana Secretary of State Max Hoffman and members of the Indianapolis City Council.

Special trains were run from Terre Haute to Greencastle that day to accommodate all those interested in attending the dedication of just the third such monument erected in the state dedicated in the five years after the war ended.

With its rededication, the HPS had hoped to recreate some of that excitement, replicating invitations to the governor and other 2018 counterpart officials who attended the 1870 dedication. However, Gov. Eric Holcomb will not be on hand July 2 due to a prior engagement, the HPS has been informed.

Specifics of the July 1 rededication ceremony will be announced at a later date by HPS members once details have been finalized. However, Forest Hill Cemetery Supt. Ernie Phillips announced at the June 14 City Council meeting that the ceremony is scheduled to begin at 2 p.m.

One thing that is certain is that the monument restoration project -- which from its conception to completion literally lasted longer than the Civil War itself -- has been awarded a 2018 state preservation award.

Standouts in preserving cultural resources for 2017 were presented with 2018 Indiana Historic Preservation Awards at the statewide historic preservation conference this spring. The DNR Division of Historic Preservation and Archaeology (DHPA) presented the awards during the "Preserving Historic Places" conference in Columbus on Wednesday, April 18.

In presenting the Outstanding Grant-Assisted Rehabilitation Award to the Heritage Preservation Society of Putnam County and the City of Greencastle for the rehabilitation of the Putnam County Civil War Soldier's Monument, the DHPA grant staff noted: "The monument was dedicated in 1870 to honor the 321 soldiers from Putnam County who died in the war. The memorial had deteriorated over the last 140 years. The Society received a $40,000 matching grant from the DHPA to repair and restore the monument, including replicating several missing pieces, installing new faces for 26 of the 40 massive sandstone blocks, and re-engraving the eroded names of soldiers to match the original appearance. This is a unique Civil War memorial, and the Society was dedicated to preserving it."

The DHPA presents awards annually to recognize outstanding efforts in historic preservation and archaeology. As the State Historic Preservation Office, the DHPA oversees the federally funded Historic Preservation Fund grant program, the federal Reinvestment Historic Tax Credit program, and the state's Historic Homeowner Tax Credit program. The agency also functions as the central repository for historic structure and archaeological site records.

The odyssey of the monumental restoration effort began with a 2011 HPS tour of Forest Hill during which the deteriorating condition of the Civil War memorial was noted, setting the stage for serious discussion at the 2012 HPS annual meeting and the march toward fundraising and restoration that followed.

The restoration project was finished on Sept. 29, 2017 by Blakley Corp., Indianapolis, although its completion came "not without any hiccups," Gick has said.

The principal problem was finding an engraver "who could mimic" the carvings of the names of Putnam County Civil War veterans on the 26 of 40 stone blocks of names that were replaced.

But the end result obviously not only pleased HPS members but also officials from the Division of Historic Preservation and Archaeology, who made a site inspection of the historic monument.

"If you haven't been out to Forest Hill to see it," HPS President Gick said, "I encourage you to do so."

July 1 would be the perfect time.

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