21st Regiment Monument, New London

The Civil War 21st Regiment, Connecticut Volunteer Infantry, is honored with a granite obelisk in New London’s Williams Memorial Park.

The monument, near the north corner of the park, was dedicated in 1898 to honor the soldiers of the 21st regiment, which was founded in 1862 and recruited primarily members from eastern Connecticut towns.

The front (north) face of the monument is inscribed, “21st. Regt. Conn. Vol.,”  and the unit’s service years of 1862-1865 are listed above. A little higher on the north face, a dedication reads, “Erected Sept. 5, 1898, by the state of Connecticut in honor of her citizen soldiers.” (The monument was dedicated on Oct. 20, 1898.)

The north face also lists the unit’s service at the battles of Drewry’s Bluff and Petersburg, and the west face lists battles of Fort Harrison and Richmond. The south face lists the battles of Fair Oaks and Suffolk, and the east face honors the battles of Fredericksburg and Cold Harbor. (All the listed battles took place in Virginia.)

Survivors of the regiment originally voted to place the monument in Willimantic, but a disagreement over the monument’s location (the regiment wanted in front of Town Hall, while local officials preferred the high school grounds) led to an offer to erect the monument at its site in New London.

A wayside marker near the monument, part of a downtown walking tour, describes the significance of the monument and the surrounding neighborhood.

Source: Connecticut Historical Society: Civil War Monuments of Connecticut

Williams Park, New London

New London honors Nathan Hale and veterans of recent wars with a trio of monuments in its Williams Park.

The Nathan Hale statue near the center of the Broad Street park is a 1935 copy of an 1890 statue in New York’s City Hall Park. The statue features Hale, a Connecticut schoolteacher and Continental spy who was hanged in 1776 by British forces at the age of 21, standing atop a round marble base with ropes binding his arms and legs.

An inscription on the front (southwest) face of the monument reads, “Nathan Hale, born in Coventry, Connecticut, June 6, 1755. A schoolmaster in New London, a captain in the Continental Army who resigned his life [as] a sacrifice to his country’s liberty at New York, Sept. 22d 1776.”

The base is also inscribed with Hale’s reported last words, “I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country.”

The New London statue is a copy of a statue by Frederick William MacMonnies, who many other works include the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Memorial Arch in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park and a statue of Charles Lindberg in a Harvard art museum. The text on the base of the New York edition, which was designed by Stanford White, omits the references to Coventry and New London.

The New London version was cast in 1934 as part of the celebration of Connecticut’s tercentenary in 1935. New London was chosen because Hale had taught school in a small schoolhouse immediately before his service in the American Revolution (the schoolhouse now stands downtown, not far from the Soldiers’ and Sailor’s monument).

Williams Park also honors veterans with a monument featuring a tall stand of shrubbery near the southeast side of the park. The monument, dedicated in 1961 by the Jewish War Veterans, also includes a granite marker inscribed, “Gratefully dedicated to those who gave their lives in the service of our country in order to preserve its ideals of liberty and democracy.”

The middle of the southwest side of the park (along Broad Street) features New London’s monument to its World War II, Korea and Vietnam veterans. The central section of the stone monument lists nearly 125 residents killed in World War II. The left and right sections honor Korea and Vietnam veterans, and both plaques are inscribed with a dedication reading. “This memorial is dedicated to those who served when the call of their country was heard. Self was forgotten. Their deeds and efforts shall never be forgotten.”

Source: Smithsonian American Art Museum, Art Inventories Catalog

G.A.R. Civil War Monument, New London

One of New London’s three monuments to its Civil War veterans anchors a burial plot in the city’s Cedar Grove Cemetery.

The ornate monument, near the cemetery’s main entrance, features an infantryman standing atop a multi-staged pedestal. A dedication on the front (north) face of the monument reads, “In memory of our comrades 1861-1865.”

The front face also bears the inscription “Erected by W.W. Perkins Post, No. 47, G.A.R.,” and features a medal symbolizing the Grand Army of the Republic, the post-Civil War veterans’ organization.

The monument is not dated, and information about its construction has not come to light. Based on the ornate decorative elements on the pedestal, Connecticut Historical Society estimates the erection date as about 1900.

The monument stands at the center of a triangular plot featuring 33 headstones of Civil War veterans in two rows. A plot with veterans of more recent conflicts stands south of the Civil War plot, and the prominence of Naval veterans reflects New London’s proud maritime heritage.

A tree just east of the plot was planted by the local Woman’s Relief Corps, a G.A.R. auxiliary organization. A different WRC branch erected the nearby Civil War monument in Stonington.

The G.A.R. Post was named after William W. Perkins, a New London resident and first lieutenant in the Tenth Regiment of the Connecticut Volunteer Infantry who was killed while fighting near Kinston, North Carolina.

Source: Connecticut Historical Society: Civil War Monuments of Connecticut


Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument, New London

A privately funded, 50-foot tall obelisk in downtown New London honors the city’s Civil War veterans.

The 1896 Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument features an obelisk with alternating granite bands topped by an allegorical figure representing Peace. A dedication on its front (west) face reads, “Presented to their native city by the sons of Joseph Lawrence, May 6, 1896.” (Joseph Lawrence was a successful New London whaler, and he and his family also founded a number of successful business and philanthropic ventures.)

The west face also bears a bronze plaque with the Connecticut and New London seals.

The dedication on the east face reads, “In memory of New London’s soldiers and sailors who fought in defence of their country. Erected on the site of her first fort, fortified 1691, dismantled 1777.”

The south face honors the city’s proud naval heritage with a statue of a mariner holding a telescope and a rope. The obelisk is engraved with the names of several Civil War, War of 1812 and American Revolution battleships, including the Kearsarge, the Hartford, the Chesapeake, the Constitution and the Trumbull. The south face also lists the word “Defence” as well as the “Don’t Give Up the Ship” motto (the dying words of USS Chesapeake commander James Lawrence (who does not appear to be related to the New London Lawrences)).

The north face features a Union soldier in a traditional monument pose, with an upright rifle between his hands. The obelisk shaft above him is engraved with several Civil War and American Revolution battle sites, including Gettysburg, Port Hudson (La.), Fredericksburg (Va.), Antietam (Md.), Groton and Bunker Hill.

The west face is also inscribed, “Erected by Sebastian D. Lawrence,” who was one of Joseph Lawrence’s sons and president of the National Whaling Bank. The family also helped found the city’s Lawrence & Memorial Hospital.

The monument is the centerpiece of downtown’s Parade plaza, near the intersection of State and Water streets. Renovations to the Parade have opened views of New London Harbor from the plaza, as well as downtown from Union Station (the building east of the monument). The area also features a red schoolhouse in which Nathan Hale taught (the small red building north of the monument, next to  parking garage).

Hale is also honored with a statue in a park we’ll highlight later this week.

Source: Connecticut Historical Society: Civil War Monuments of Connecticut