Ulysses S. Grant Memorial

7 02 2012

The setting at the foot of Capitol Hill is magnificent. Up close, the triptych in memory of U. S. Grant (the mounted sculpture of him alone is the second largest equestrian statue in the world) is massive, but set in Union Square between the Capitol and the reflecting pool it shrinks and is strangely isolated – not the impression intended by the Senate Park Commission’s 1902 plan. Sculpted by Henry Merwin Shrady and dedicated in 1922 (the same year as the Lincoln Memorial on the opposite end of the Mall), the bronze work consists of Grant and two tableaux depicting artillery and cavalry, 13 horses in all. It is recognized as the world’s preeminent equestrian sculpture.

You can spend days photographing it.

The content is stark. Not so much symbolism, as in the Meade Memorial, so not much interpretation is needed. War is men and equipment and movement. Movement, terror, and tension abound in the faces and bodies of the animals, troopers and artillerists as they move quickly, desperately, to some unnamed point. And amidst – in fact, above - all the action sits the steady, determined figure of Grant. While the movement is toward the general, his gaze is inexorably fixed on a far off, larger objective. There’s a whole lot to see, but to see all one need do is look. You don’t need a weather vane to know which way the wind blows.

For more on the story of the memorial, I once again refer you to Testament to Union: Civil War Monuments in Washington, DC, by K. A. Jacob. Below are some shots I took, unfortunately in low resolution, back in June 2011. Here are a few of the longer shots – click on the thumbs for larger images:

     

Next, the central figure:

            

Now let’s take a look at the “left” group (when facing the front of the monument), the Cavalry. I can only suspect that cavalry made a more interesting artistic subject than infantry, given the minimal contribution of the former arm to the outcome of the war – there, the bait is set:

     

And last, the King of Battle:

        

A must see for anyone visiting the capital. Well worth minor pedestrian/car traffic inconvenience.





Ford’s Theater

2 02 2012

As part of my little tour of Washington, D. C. back in June 2011, I walked over to Ford’s Theater. I’d never been there before. The current complex has a much larger footprint today, but you can still make out the original building (click on all the below images for larger ones):

The Petersen House across the street, where AL died, was closed for renovations:

 

There’s a lot of cool assassination ephemera in the basement museum, including the door to the President’s box, the gun that did the deed, the boot that Dr. Mudd cut off Booth’s broken leg, and one of the hoods worn by (most of) the conspirators as they made their way from their cells to the courtroom:

   

But my favorite was this fundraiser quilt that was signed by notable figures of the day, including my two favorite Georges:

   

I feel bad for Zach Harton (2nd panel, top row), don’t you?

The tour concluded with the reconstructed theater:

  

Of course, I’m always looking for the sights and sites less seldom seen. In this case, it was the back of the building, and as usual I had the place to myself. I made my best bet as to which doorway was the one used by Booth to exit the building, mount his Peanut-tended horse, and make his escape up the alley (he had to make a left right around the spot where I took the first photo below). Even without the lovely Carol Merrill’s help I think I picked the right door, based on what I found on the threshold:

    

Craig Swain’s visit to the Ford’s Theater museum.

Robert Moore’s relative was on stage that fateful night!





George Meade Memorial, Washington, DC

1 02 2012

Back in June 2011, I had a chance to do a little sight-seeing in our nation’s capital. While on my way to the Capitol, I came across the memorial to Major General George Gordon Meade between 3rd & 4th Sts. NW on Pennsylvania Ave. OK, I didn’t just happen upon it, I was seeking it out. Meade is a favorite of mine – I think he gets the short end of the stick, memory-wise. But his statue is as glorious as it is touching (click for a larger image):

Here’s the message in the pavement:

There was a trio of young adults from somewhere south of the border who asked me to take their photo in front of the statue. I suspect they just thought it was a cool sculpture - and it is - but who knows? Maybe they knew exactly who Meade was.

Testament to Union: Civil War Monuments in Washington, DC, by K. A. Jacob is a wonderfully written and illustrated book that I highly recommend for anyone touring the city. It tells me that the Meade memorial was sculpted by Charles Grafly out of marble and was dedicated in 1927, after 12 years of bickering over the design. Meade and seven other figures circle the memorial. Loyalty and Chivalry lift the mantle of war from Meade’s shoulders, “as he strides confidently toward the future.” In the rear of the memorial, which I did not photograph for some reason which I photographed 7/22/2013, the winged figure of War stands with his back to the General, glaring into the past. You can see the wings framing the symbol of the Army of the Potomac above Meade’s head in my photo. Making up the rest of the total of eight figures are Energy, Fame, Progress and Military Courage. War strikes a less imposing figure now than he did in 1927: his smallish nose is a replacement for a more brutal one that broke off years ago.

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Meade was originally installed in front of and to the north of the massive U. S. Grant memorial at the base of the Capitol. In 1969, it was dismantled to allow for construction under the mall, and was stored away for 14 years before being reassembled in 1983 in its current location to the northwest. Ms. Jacob describes the significance of the new site’s perspective:

Meade looks out onto Pennsylvania Avenue to the spot that marked one of his proudest days. At nine o’clock on the morning of May 23, 1865, Meade rode down the avenue on his garlanded horse at the head of the Army of the Potomac as the leader of the Grand Review of troops. As he passed, the enormous throng picked up the chant of the Pennsylvanians in the crowd, “Gettysburg, Gettysburg, Gettysburg!”





The Lincoln Pew

30 01 2012

In early June, 2011, I made  a trip to Washington, DC to speak to the Capitol Hill Civil War Roundtable (you can read about it here). It was a logistically challenging trip. I stayed with friends in Arlington on Sunday evening, then headed into the District Monday morning on the Metro. It was a hot day and I intended to do some site seeing, so I took my speachafying clothes and dropped them off with friend Ron Baumgarten. Then it was off on a free form tour. I’ll share some of the photos from that sojourn over the next few days or so.

My first stop was one I think most folks don’t make: the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church. This church – albeit in a different building at a different location – was frequented by the Lincoln family while they lived a few blocks away on Pennsylvania Avenue. Inside the new building is a very cool artefact (click the icons for larger images):

  

The Lincoln family pew. I had the whole place to myself. And yes, you can sit in the pew. And yes, you can scoot your butt from one end to the other just to make sure you were in the right spot (though AL often stood during service). Check it out, but be respectful.





Recap of Capitol Hill Civil War Roundtable

18 06 2011

Sorry for the delay in posting this. Last week – precisely Monday, June 6 – I made the second presentation of my program on Peter Conover Hains, in to the good folks of the Capitol Hill Civil War Roundtable. The group met in a judiciary committee hearing room of the Rayburn House Office Building on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC – not the same room where the Watergate hearings were held, but not too shabby.

It was a logistically challenging day. First I Metroed in from the home of my good friends Kathy and Dan Carson in Arlington. I lugged my computer, projector, materials and a change of clothes to the office of Ron Baumgarten of All Not So Quiet Along the Potomac, in the US Trade Representative complex in the Winder Building, of which he gave me a quick tour. It was nice to finally meet Ron so I don’t have to call him an e-quaintance any more. Then I had to kill time and wound up walking all day through Washington. I’ll cover that walk in another post.

After a long and very hot day I met RT president George Franks, III and other officers at Bullfeathers, a popular Hill watering hole and restaurant. Needless to say I required significant watering. Then it was up the Hill to the venue. Here are a couple of pictures of the room – click on the thumbs for larger images.

 

About 15-20 folks were present, and they were quite familiar with local District history, which was challenging considering my program included a good bit of it. As usual I ran a little long, but there was time for a few questions which were very good. George presented me with a beautiful miniature of the Statue of Freedom that sits atop the Capitol dome.

Thanks to everyone who made it out. You’re a great group!





A Few Washington, DC Civil War Sites

28 01 2009

A couple weeks ago my son received an invite to tour the White House, so on the spur of the moment we headed on down that way (see here).  We didn’t have any time to visit with any friends, but we did manage to squeeze in some sightseeing.  Click smaller images for great big giant ones.   First up was the Blair House, across Pennsylvania Ave from the White House:

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This was the home of publisher Francis Preston Blair, Sr., adviser to Presidents back to Andrew Jackson, and father of Montgomery (Lincoln’s Postmaster General) and Frank Jr. (Union Major General who commanded a corps under Sherman during the March to the Sea and Beyond).  Frank Sr. was also the great-great-great grandfather of actor Montgomery Clift, who served in the Union Army in Raintree County:

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The Clift-Blair relationship is murky – Clift’s mother claimed to be the illegitimate child of Montgomery’s son Woodbury, but it was never proven beyond a shadow.  Photos show a strong resemblance between an older, beat-up Clift and Great-Grandpa Montgomery Blair.  At least, I think so:

clift blair 

It was here in the Blair House that Colonel Robert E. Lee, prior to his resignation from the United States Army, was “felt out” for command of a Union army (not “the” army, as is commonly said, but as Lee himself said, the army that was to take the field – probably either Patterson’s or McDowell’s army) by Frank Sr.

Today, the complex of houses (four, I think) makes up the President’s guest house, used by visiting heads of state.

After that we took a walk around the White House…

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…via the Treasury Building, behind which is this monument to Uncle Billy:

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We took a long walk to the Mall and the Lincoln Memorial, which was the one place other than the White House my son wanted to see (there’s a good boy):

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I’m always better for visiting the memorial.  This time I had a nice conversation with the ranger on duty, while my wife and son were in the gift shop. 

We returned to the White House via 17th St., and stopped briefly at F to take a picture of The Winder Building.  Today the building serves as the headquarters of the United States Trade Representative (USTR).  When it was built in 1848, at five stories it was the city’s first skyscraper.  In 1854, it was purchased by the Federal government, and during the war served as the headquarters of Winfield Scott, Henry Halleck, the Quartermaster General, the Army Ordnance Department, and the Bureau of Military Justice.  This is where the President lamented that “the bottom is out of the tub”, and where JAG Holt conducted the investigation into Lincoln’s assassination.

winder1

The Winder building plays a prominent role in the often used account of First Bull Run written fifty years after the battle by Peter Conover Hains, whose 30 pdr Parrott opened the fight.  At the beginning of the Cosmopolitan Magazine article Hains recounted that his June, 1861 West Point class mustered into Federal service “in the old Wilder [sic] Building, opposite the war department” on June 25th, 1861.  He wrote that there President Lincoln shook hands with each member of the class.  I’ve been annotating the article – very, very slowly – and have found a number of problems with it, including this otherwise innoccuous episode.  More on that later, but keep in mind that Cosmo published much of the writings of one Sally “LaSalle” Pickett.  The army also had its central signal station on the roof of the building:

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I’m hoping to get down to Washington in the spring or summer, and hope to have a few days to spend sightseeing and visiting friends and e-quaintances.  So much to see, so little time.








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