Autumn Guard


They’re nearly ubiquitous across the north: Civil War soldiers standing vigil in the town square or the city cemetery. I came across this one, with the autumn amber splayed across the sky behind him, in Allegany, NY, the small college town where I teach.

The pedestal features a bas-relief ribbon of the Grand Army of the Republic and an inscription that says, simply, “Monument in Memory of the Soldiers and Sailors of the Civil War 1861-1865.” A cannon that sits next to the monument bears inscriptions on each wheel: “Ira Thurber Post 584 G.A.R. Allegany, N.Y. A gun of the Civil War 1861-1865”

The 188th New York Volunteers came from this neck of the woods. I just started reading the memoirs of a member of that company, From Allegany to Appomattox: The Life and Letters of Private William Whitlock…. The 154th New York had guys from this county, too.

I see these statues everywhere (a New England statue manufacturer was responsible for most of them), but maybe because they seem so common, we forget to really see them. That’s my challenge this fall: in the midst of the riot of autumn color, I want to see these statues and remember the men they honor.


6 Responses to Autumn Guard

  1. Chris, how tall is the statue? (And the length of the cannon?) From the pictures, they look pretty tall and long respectively. And where in the town is the statue? (I went where you now teach so I know the place–from memory).
    Bob (SBU ’67)

    PS–I see the weather at this time of year up there hasn’t changed–still beautiful.

    1. Hi, Bob. Unfortunately, I don’t know the height or length you ask about, but if I had to guess, the statue probably tops out at twenty feet…maybe a little less. The statue is in Allegany, in the cemetery across the street from the elementary school, next to the school district’s bus garage, on Maple Street.

      Go Bonas!

  2. There is one in my hometown of Mason City, Iowa, with plaques on each side for troops from the county who fought at Shiloh, Vicksburg, etc. When I was a very young kid I used to ride my stingray bike (the kind with the cool banana seat) to the library, check out a Civil War book, and pedal to the small central park, sit with my back against the sun-warmed granite . . . and read.

  3. I grew up in Allegany, NY and have done a good bit of research on this particular monument and the accompanying cannon. On October 26, 1901 a petition was signed by many of the local veterans for a town appropriation of $500 for the monument. This appropriation was given and a portion of the monument arrived in the cemetery near the end of April 1902. The local newspaper, the Allegany Citizen, wrote an article on January 16, 1904:
    “OUR SOLDIER’S MONUMENT Ira Thurber Post No. 584, GAR are making preparations to hold a grand dedication celebration on Decoration Day, Mon. May 30,1904. In order to make this noble event successful and fitting it will be quite necessary that the good citizens of Allegany contribute liberally towards the fund to defray the expenses of the celebration. A solicitor duly appointed by the local Post will call on all in the near future to gather funds. Don’t turn him a cold shoulder but give what you are able and with cheerfulness. It is expected that two or three hundred veterans from the surrounding country will be present at the dedication, May, 30, 1904.”

    As for the cannon, the Allegany Citizen of September 17, 1898 wrote: “War Relic for Allegany Ira Thurber Post GAR of this city has a proposition on foot in which Old Vets intend to procure one of the big obsolete and condemned guns from Fortress Monroe, one of which has been offered the vets free of charge. The piece selected in the catalogue is an eight inch bore, cast iron Columbian and weighs 5 tons…It will cost about $75 to transport the tremendous ordinance to Allegany and put it in position…” Again on October 7, 1899 the citizen poetically printed “The big Cannon now rests on a substantial base in the Allegany cemetery. Anyone wishing to see it and desires to take the trouble, can make the pilgrimage to the city of the dead on the hill, and there behold the once famous destroyer of life.”

  4. I’m working on an article about guns designed by Sylvanus Sawyer, and I came across a reference to this one. The reference is “The Big Guns” by Olmstead, Stark, and Tucker and identifies this gun as a very rare weapon on p. 205. It’s one of four cast for experimental purposes at the West Point Foundry, Cold Spring, NY in 1857-59. These guns were cast from a 42-pounder block with a 24-pounder (5.82-inch) rifled bore. I think it’s the only weapon I’ve seen with only two rifling grooves. This gun or another of the four was at Fort Calhoun/Fort Wool in 1861 and on the Peninsular Campaign of 1862.

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