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.
In 1893, Athens County, Ohio Civil War veterans, led by resident General Grosvenor, sought to raise funds to commemorate their service. Earlier attempts to build a monument had failed, chiefly over where the monument would be located and the suitability of Ohio University in maintaining a monument. These issues were resolved by 1893, and Grosvenor led the community in the formation of the Athens Monument Association to raise funds for the monument.
Costing 18,000 dollars, the memorial stands fifty-eight feet tall. The base, which is constructed of granite, stands fifty-feet tall, while an eight-foot tall bronze statue of a Civil War soldier tops the monument. Three other statues are located on three of the memorial’s four sides and includes a sailor and two soldiers, all made from bronze. Multiple plaques are located on the monument, with the inscriptions reading:
The people will ever remember how much of our national prosperity is due to the patriotism and valor of the men who died in the service of their country. Athens County contributed twenty-six hundred and ten men as soldiers and sailors in the War for the Union 1861-1865. Dulce et decorum est pro patria mort. The people of Athens County erect this monument in memory of those who volunteered as soldiers and sailors in defense of the Union and to perpetuate free government.
The Latin line translates as, “It is sweet and glorious to die for one's country.”
David Richards designed the memorial, with Maurice J. Power’s National Fine Art Foundry of New York, New York casting the statues.
In 1907, Athens County commissioners decided to add six cannons to the Commons surrounding the monument. The following newspaper stories document the cannon’s addition and subsequent issues:
An article from April 19, 1907:
ARTILLERY HAS NOW ARRIVED:
Cannons Presented to the Monument Association Are Now Here for monument site.
From Depot to Campus Was Begun Friday Afternoon..A Large Number of Cannon Balls Accompanied the Guns..County Commissioners Will Build the Carriages.
The six cannons and about a hundred cannonballs that were presented to the Athens Monument Association of this city, through the influence of General Grosvenor, have arrived and are being hauled to the monument site. The work of transferring them from the cars to the campus was begun Friday afternoon.
Four of the cannon are of brass, while the other two are of iron. The latter are 30 pounder Parrott Rifles, which were secured from the Watervliet Arsenal, opposite Troy, N.Y. The brass cannon are 12 pounder light field guns and were sent from the New York Arsenal, Governor's Island, N.Y. The brass guns were secured by an act of Congress, approved March 2, 1907, authorizing the Secretary of War to donate these implements of war to the Monument Association of this city.
The cannon balls are 10 inch shells from the Watervliet Arsenal. There are enough of them to make two large pyramids.
Carriages were not furnished with the guns, as the War Department does not have any that are available for such purpose. The Athens County Commissioners, at a recent meeting, appropriated $250 for the proper placing and equipping of the cannon and cannon balls. With this money the carriages will be built and the guns set up in actual military style. The artillery will be placed in the north west corner of the campus, and will present a truly war like appearance when the work is completed.
An article from February 28, 1917:
HEAVY DAMAGE DONE BY CANNON BLAST IN NIGHT
One of the field pieces in the Monument Park in front of the University Campus was fired off again last night, but it was so heavily charged that great damage resulted to adjoining buildings, and the police are hard at work. Arrests or settlement may be expected shortly, and it is probable that the authorities will now take steps to "fix" the six old Civil War cannon in the campus so they cannot be fired again–ever. Such action is being demanded by residents about the campus.
About 1:30 this morning the small cannon pointing toward the Agricultural Building was fired. Its roar was followed by the crash of costly plateglass in the Masonic Temple and smaller glass at Howard Hall, just across the street. Ten large windows in the Masonic Temple were shattered and one large window in Howard Hall was broken also. Many pictures were shaken from the walls in all of the surrounding buildings.
It was estimated at noon today that between $150 and $200 worth of damage had been done by the explosion and the parties who have suffered loss are demanding that the guilty parties be found and punished, or be made to pay for the loss. It is supposed that some of the students are involved, because students are believed to have been the guilty parties, or have had a hand in past affairs of the same sort.
One of the cannon was fired off several weeks ago, but then a light charge was used and there was no loss of property. Several years ago another one of the cannon was fired one night and a number of windows were broken. Then a reward was offered, but was withdrawn later and the damage was reported to have been settled for.
Today, the monument remains in very good condition. The memorial is located at the Ohio University Commons at the corner of Union Street and Court Street in Athens.