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Susquehanna Life

In-depth Look: The Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument in Lewisburg

Jul 24, 2015 05:59PM ● By Kevin

It was an admirable Fourth of July celebration in 1901. Bands were playing, flags flying, and the uniforms of patriotic orders were present everywhere. Following a procession, all waited at the corner of S. Third Street and University Avenue for the dedication of the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument. Its purpose, as stated in the address of Dr. John H. Harris, was meant to, “stand not only as a memorial of the past, but as a prophecy of the future, a grateful tribute to those who fought and fell in the preservation of the Union.”

Almost forty years after the Civil War, the borough of Lewisburg decided to raise funds to erect this commemorative monument. It was commissioned under the authority of Lewisburg native Judge Harold M. McClure, and was approved in 1893.

The 40-foot high granite obelisk is topped with a Civil War soldier in full uniform. The granite was supplied by the Harrison Granite Company of New York City. Their quarries were located in Barre, Vermont, where artists from all parts of the world immigrated due to the vast granite deposits. Lewisburg’s monument was likely sculpted by one of the many highly skilled immigrant craftsmen. 

At the base of the pillar stands an infantryman at parade rest and a sailor, which were made of copper sheeting. Neighboring counties like Snyder and Lackawanna erected identically styled soldiers’ and sailors’ monuments at the same time as Union’s was constructed. Artisans employed by the Friedley-Voshardt Company of Chicago, who manufactured architectural sheet metal ornaments and statuary, designed and fabricated the men.

The Cannon

Photographs show that a gun flanking the base of the obelisk was not present at the dedication ceremony, but was added a short time later. An 1896 Federal Act allowed obsolete cannons in the federal inventory to be given to municipalities that applied for them. After the Civil War, Fort Mifflin in Philadelphia was one Army supply base that housed such inventories. It is recorded that the gun was shipped from the fort on June 26, 1901 to the Commissioners in Lewisburg.

In 1859, the West Point Foundry in Cold Springs, New York made a smooth-bore 42-pounder seacoast gun, such as the one received by Lewisburg. On the knob and right rimbase it bears the Foundry Internal Control No. 143. The bore is 7-inches, as are the trunnions, and the overall length is approximately 129-inches. The first reinforce is about 27-inches, while the full reinforce is about 55-inches. The Army Registry No. 126 on the muzzle indicates that this is the 126th cannon of this pattern made for the Army.

West Point Foundry operated from 1817 to 1911 and was established by Robert Parker Parrott. The company became famous for its production of Parrott Rifles invented by the owner and other munitions during the Civil War. Its importance to the war effort can be measured by the fact that President Abraham Lincoln visited and inspected the foundry in June 1862. Both the foundry’s initials W.P.F. and Parrott’s R.P.P. can be found on the gun tube.

Southern ports received considerable emphasis on coastal defenses that played into the early stages of the Civil War. With countless new forts to arm, in 1855 the Army opted to use improved patterns for contracts, such as Model 1845. The West Point Foundry, much like the Tredegar Foundry in the south, produced over a hundred of these guns from 1855 to 1860. Today, there are only twenty-nine catalogued in existence, which includes Lewisburg’s gun.

In the late 1850’s, the Army placed orders for more siege mortars. Before the two sides exchanged shots at Fort Sumter, West Point Foundry delivered five additional 8-inch guns, all inspected by future Confederate General Benjamin Huger. He served as Inspector General of ordnance for the Confederate Army from 1862 to 1864. The fact that Huger’s initials can be found on the muzzle of the gun reinforces the possibility that it may have been captured by the Confederates at Fort Sumter in 1861.

Both sides, seeing limited value of the 42-pounders against ironclads, banded and rifled guns in an attempt to make something of otherwise obsolete weapons. Lewisburg’s cannon was most likely banded and rifled with nine grooves for the Confederate government at the beginning of the Civil War. Accounts of Fort Sumter’s late-war armament and Army inventories mention four rifled cannon were still at the fort by the end of the war. During the postwar years, three of the rifled cannon were presumably removed. 

In addition to the gun, forty 8-inch mortar shells were shipped the same day to Lewisburg from the Allegheny Arsenal near Pittsburgh, which was an important supply and manufacturing center for the Union Army during the Civil War. Each shell weighs about 45 pounds and some show traces of the original fuse remaining in the fuse hole. These shells are not currently displayed at the monument. 

Despite decades of change, the obelisk memorial flanked by its Model 1845 cannon stand resolute, their symbolism following the flux of history. Fifty years after the end of World War II on July 4, 1995, the inspiring and patriotic words of Dr. Harris reverberated as the monument was rededicated in honor of all veterans of military service. While the events that are associated with the purpose of this memorial have remained long remembered, now the intriguing past of the monument itself can share in its significance.  

Researched by Jack Fisher and Kim Mattern.
Article prepared by Alicia Pucci.

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