GAR & Civil War Monuments Assessment
What is a Monument?
After I'm dead, I'd rather have people ask why I have no monument than why I have one.
Marcus Porcius Cato (the Elder 234 BC - 149 BC)
The Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War (SUVCW) is committed to helping maintain the historic monuments, markers, and plaques honoring Union soldiers, and/or those containing significant text about the Civil War. However, not everything is a monument or marker.
Tombstones are not monuments! Cemeteries often have grandiose tombstones to the deceased that appear to be monuments, but are really not. Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) posts or comrades in arms or soldiers honoring someone they considered important sponsored the erection of true monuments over graves. Examples of this are that the GAR. created the monument over the grave of General John McNeil and soldiers’ groups created the monuments over the grave of the executed Major James Wilson and over the grave of General Sherman’s son, Willie.
Family tombstones are not monuments, no matter how grand they are. So, strangely, General W.T. Sherman's young son has a monument in St. Louis over his grave, but his more famous father does not! That is how we separate grandiose tombstones from monuments. This does not mean that we are not interested in soldiers' tombstones. They are represented in another program (graves registration) and this one is about monuments. However, there are certain tombstones we may consider for grant repair money despite this. We have funded repairs to the tomb of our founder, Major A.P. Davis. And I am sure that if Sherman’s grave was damaged, we would consider that also.
There are other types of monuments we consider in our program. Stain glass windows, buildings, flagpoles, cannons, plaques, cemetery gates, historical markers and more can be monuments worthy of inclusion in our records. If you don’t know, you can always ask.
Another concern is that the monument, marker, or plaque represents the true history of the incident commemorated or be of a patriotic nature. As such, monuments that posit a one-sided, self-serving interpretation of the war are not patriotic and are not recorded by us. Many markers expressing a Confederate or Lost Cause history rewrite fall into this category. One example is a marker near Arab, MO concerning the Battle of Mingo Swamp. While correct on the face of it, it fails to mention that the “farmers” who were tracked down and executed had earlier raided a Union camp and killed soldiers in a surprise attack. However, our program will accept recording monuments and markers that use some suggestive adjectives (like ‘the infamous Order No. 11), but not markers that do not attempt to tell the actual historical facts.
Additionally, the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War has a program honoring the last surviving veteran of the war for each county in a state by placing a marker on his grave site. This practice falls somewhere between a monument and a tombstone. The SUVCW has determined that the Monuments & Memorials Officer should maintain records of these and therefore they are included in these records.
If you come across a monument, marker, or plaque that may qualify for listing in our program or in need of repair, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org. Please provide as much information as you can especially about the location and a member of the SUV will check it out as soon as it can be arranged.