Ohio’s American Civil War soldiers and civilians sought to commemorate the troopers’ devotion to and service with the United States by constructing monuments and other memorials.
During the American Civil War, Ohio provided the federal government with 260 regiments of men, including infantry, artillery, and cavalry units. Ohioans also served in several other regiments from other states, most notably from Kentucky, West Virginia, and Massachusetts, as well as in federal units. Almost 330,000 Ohio men, including 5,092 African Americans, served in the Union military during the conflict.
Ohio’s soldiers and civilians sought to commemorate the troopers’ devotion to and service with the United States by constructing monuments and other memorials. Ohioans completed the first of these commemorations during the Civil War, with hundreds more being built after the conflict. Ohioans have built at least 295 monuments to commemorate Civil War veterans, civilians, political leaders, and war-related events in the state. Eighty-six of the state’s eighty-eight counties contain Civil War monuments, with Hamilton County, Lucas County, Lorain County, Brown County, and Franklin County each boasting ten or more memorials each. Only Clinton County and Noble County do not contain Civil War monuments.
Ohio’s earliest monument commemorating the Civil War and events that led to the conflict was completed in 1860 in Oberlin. Residents constructed an obelisk to honor three African-American men who died during or because of their participation in John Brown’s Raid on Harper’s Ferry, Virginia (present-day West Virginia) in 1859.
Prior to the Civil War, many Oberlin residents were committed to the abolition of slavery. African Americans John Anthony Copeland, Jr., Shields Green, and Lewis S. Leary were former residents of Oberlin who joined Brown's raid. Copeland and Green were captured during the raid and executed, at Charleston, Virginia, for their actions by the State of Virginia on December 16, 1859. Green was shot during the raid and died from his wounds at Harper's Ferry on October 20, 1859. Oberlin residents constructed the monument to honor the contributions of these men to ending slavery.
The monument consists of a one-foot base made of granite and a seven-and-one-half foot shaft made of marble. Oberlin residents had the monument inscribed with the following inscription: "These colored citizens of Oberlin, the heroic associates of the immortal John Brown, gave their lives for the slave. Et nunc servitudo etiam mortua est, laus deo. S. Green died at Charleston, Va., Dec. 16, 1859, age 23 years. J.A. Copeland died at Charleston, Va., Dec. 16, 1859, age 25 years. L.S. Leary died at Harper's Ferry, Va., Oct. 20, 1859, age 24 years."
The Latin phrase means, "And thus slavery is finally dead, thanks be to God." Today, the monument is in poor condition, and the inscription is practically unreadable.
The monument was originally located in Westwood Cemetery, but in 1971, Oberlin's Neighborhood Youth Corps moved the memorial to Martin Luther King, Jr., Park on East Vine Street.