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.



8 responses

7 02 2012
Bob Huddleston

In addition to Jacobs, another excellent read is Grant Memorial in Washington, _Grant Memorial Commission, Lieutenant Colonel Clarence O. Sherrill, U.S.A._, Washington: Govt Printing Office, 1924 which has lots of details about Shrady and his creation of the statue.
It is my absolute favorite among all the statuary in the DC area. Notice Cincinnati’s ears are cocked forward: he is listening to the battle.

7 02 2012
Harry Smeltzer

Thanks, Bob. I have the book put out by the Society of the Army of the Tennessee for the Sherman Memorial. I’ll have to see if I can scare up a copy of the Grant book.

7 02 2012
Chris Evans

One of the great monuments to American Military history. It truly deserves to be better known.

‘Testament to Union’ is a great book. I picked it up after you mentioned it on the site last year.


7 02 2012
Harry Smeltzer

Hope you like it, Chris!

7 02 2012
Robert Redd

Hi Harry, Just ordered Testament to Union based upon your recommendation. My wife is just ecstatic to say the least. Her loss. Any way, thanks for the great post. I really enjoy your blog!

7 02 2012
Harry Smeltzer

Hope you enjoy the book, Robert. Thanks for stopping by, and keep up the good work at Confederate Book Reviews.

10 02 2012
Patrick Acton

Great pictures of dramatic and moving statuary. Thank you for sharing.

10 02 2012
Harry Smeltzer

Thanks, Patrick!

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