“Death comes to all, but great achievements build a monument which shall endure until the sun grows cold.”
Most prominent among the statuary found around Washington are those of Civil War generals. Of the 18 grouped together by the National Register of Historic Places, half of them are equestrian statues. Only three of the non-equestrian statues are dedicated to a single individual. Not included on the list – but more than worthy of inclusion – is the African American Civil War Memorial that was completed 70 years after the last memorial was built.
Ten of the 18 monuments had dedication ceremonies that were attended by sitting presidents; three didn’t even have a ceremony. The first was dedicated in 1874 (nine years after the end of the war) and the last (before the African American Civil War Memorial was built) was dedicated in 1927. Read more for quick facts about these 19 monuments.
- Brevet Lt. General Winfield Scott was the first erected (and the second outdoor sculpture in D.C.) in 1874, and it was made from cannons captured during the Mexican-American War.
- General John A. Rawlins was made from captured Confederate cannons and is the only general represented who never directly commanded soldiers. Read more…
- The Emancipation Memorial was paid for entirely by freed slaves and was the first whose dedication was attended by a president – Ulysses S. Grant.
- Major General James B. McPherson was made from Confederate cannons from the Battle of Atlanta, where McPherson was killed. Although no president attended its dedication, Generals Logan and Sherman were present.
- The Peace Monument was the least expensive of the Civil War memorials at around $9,000 (approximately $196,000 today).
- Major General George Henry Thomas was attended by one of the largest crowds at the time, and President Rutherford B. Hayes spoke at the dedication. It is considered one of the best statues in D.C. Read more…
- Admiral David G. Farragut was the first monument in the District to honor a naval hero and was made from the brass of the propeller of Farragut’s flagship, the USS Hartford. Read more…
- You might recognize General Winfield Scott Hancock from the House of Cards. Its dedication ceremony was attended by President Grover Cleveland.
- Major General John A. Logan is unique because it has a bronze base. It was the first Civil War memorial erected in the 20th century.
- Brigadier General Albert Pike is the only monument to a Confederate general in Washington, D.C. It shouldn’t really be counted with the rest, however, because it focuses on his Masonic ties.
- The artist who created the General William Tecumseh Sherman Monument died before its completion. Its dedication was the first of three attended by President Theodore Roosevelt.
- Major General George B. McClellan was the first statue to a general of the Army of the Potomac. Its dedication was also the first (of three) attended by future president William Howard Taft, then Secretary of War.
- General Philip Sheridan was the last sculpture to receive its own circle. It was sculpted by the same artist who would go on to create Mount Rushmore, Gutzom Borglum.
- Stephenson Grand Army of the Republic Memorial is the only Civil War memorial to honor an organization. Its dedication was the only one Taft attended as president.
- The Rear Admiral Samuel Francis Dupont Memorial Fountain is the only fountain commemorating the Civil War. A statue of Du Pont was dedicated in 1884, but his family asked that it be removed. The sculptor and architect who made the fountain are also responsible for the Lincoln Memorial.
- The Ulysses S. Grant Memorial was the last equestrian statue of the Civil War monuments. Its dedication would be the final one for Taft – then Chief Justice – and the first for future president Calvin Coolidge. It is also the only dedication that was filmed.
- Nuns of the Battlefield is the only Civil War monument dedicated to a single religion. It is also the only one dedicated exclusively to women.
- The George Gordon Meade Memorial was the last Civil War monument erected (in 1927) before the African American Civil War Memorial was dedicated in 1998. It was also the most expensive, costing $400,000 originally (which would be almost $5.5 million today).
- The African American Civil War Memorial, or Spirit of Freedom, is the latest Civil War memorial in the District. It is located in the Shaw neighborhood, which is named for Robert Gould Shaw, who commanded the first all-black regiment and was made famous in the 1989 film Glory.
- The John Ericsson National Memorial was dedicated in May 1926. Ericsson was the designer of the Civil War era ship USS Monitor, the first ironclad warship with a rotating turret. His mechanical engineering genius changed naval warfare forever.
- The James A. Garfield Monument was raised in tribute to the president’s life and works, not just his service during the Civil War. Garfield won the Battle of Middle Creek in 1862 and was promoted to brigadier general for his actions.