HPS to form community coalition for restoring Civil War monument

Monday, May 14, 2012
A committee is forming in hopes of retoring the 143-year-old Civil War monument in Forest Hill Cemetery.

Within Putnam County, located in the Greencastle Forest Hill Cemetery, stands a monument that could arguably be the most unique piece of Civil War Memorial sculpture in the state of Indiana.

While not as well known as the Victory Statue atop Indiana's Soldiers and Sailors monument in the Indianapolis Downtown Circle, the Civil War Soldier sculpture sits atop the third monument to Civil War soldiers to be erected in Indiana after the close of the Civil War. The life-size figure, atop a rather large pedestal, is considered the crowning eminence of Forest Hill Cemetery.

In 1865, within months of the end of the Civil War, a coalition of citizens formed the Putnam County Soldiers Monument Association. Col. John Mahan was chosen president, while William C. Allen and David W. Jones served as treasurer and secretary respectively.

By the spring of 1866, the sum of $5,000 was raised and a contract was signed for the work to commence. In 1867, activity began at the cemetery site, and in 1869 the Civil War soldier was installed upon its pedestal.

A coalition of planners and a vast number of the Putnam County populace accomplished in a period of four years the monumental task of memorializing the soldiers of Putnam County who lost their lives in the Civil War.

Today at the beginning of the sesquicentennial of the Civil War, the monument is in need of rescue from the ravages of time.

As in the case of the years immediately after the war, the economy is not at its prime. Yet citizens of Putnam County formed a coalition and in spite of difficult economic times addressed the task at hand.

The Heritage Preservation Society of Putnam County is setting out to enlist that same kind of determination from today's populace.

While the City of Greencastle and the Forest Hill Cemetery Board are the parties responsible for the monument, there are clearly no funds available to handle this very important need in a timely fashion.

Greencastle's Forest Hill Cemetery Board has given its approval for HPS to facilitate the development of a community committee to assess, stabilize and restore the monument. Hence, during Preservation Month (May), HPS is beginning to contact individuals, organizations and businesses likely to have an interest in being apart of this much-needed effort.

Likely there are individuals or groups that the HPS Historic Assets Committee might be unaware of having an interest in participating. It would not be there intention to omit anyone who would like to participate; hence interested parties should contact 848-1111 or 522-1430 or e-mail putnamheritage@gmail.com (Subject: Monument). An opportunity to convene interested parties will be announced at a later date.

Other activities slated for Preservation Month include an exhibit of Civil War era clothing constructed by Avery Huffman of Bainbridge. The exhibit may be viewed at the Putnam County Museum, following an opening night event on Thursday, May 24 at 6:30 p.m.

Huffman participates in Civil War re-enactments and has won Indiana State Fair awards for her creations.

Later in May, the HPS and the Putnam County Public Library will co-sponsor a Brown Bag Lunch and book signing with Nicole Etcheson, author of the recently published book "A Generation at War: The Civil War Era in a Northern Community."

Greencastle is that "northern community" of which the author writes. Etcheson is the Bracken Professor of History at Ball State University.

With family ties to the area, Etcheson spent many hours in Greencastle researching material for her book. The story of the involvement of Putnam County citizenry in the erection of the Forest Hill monument and of George Langsdale, Greencastle Banner editor, in the later erection of the Soldiers and Sailors monument at Indianapolis are topics for chapters in the book.

Etcheson will speak about the book and sign books for participants.

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