Friends Awarded Grant for Civil War Monument Preservation
The Friends of Mount Auburn Cemetery is pleased to announce that it has been awarded a $7,500 matching grant from the Massachusetts Sesquicentennial Commission of the American Civil War for a $15,000 project to conserve eleven of its most significant Civil War monuments that are in urgent need of conservation treatment. The monuments commemorate individuals – lieutenants, colonels, a private, a major, a captain, a commander, a commodore, and a surgeon – who participated in the major conflicts of the Civil War. Together their stories and the ways in which loved ones commemorated them present a varied and personal perspective of the Civil War narrative. Once matched, the grant will enable the Cemetery to preserve these unique works of funerary art that would otherwise be lost to history.
The eleven Civil War monuments have been selected because they are most in need of care. They are often included in lectures and tours at the Cemetery and are frequently visited for their Civil War connections and symbolism. Inscriptions on the monuments provide information about rank and biographical details of these individuals who fought and served. Personal military effects—hats, belts, swords—belonging to soldiers adorn many of the memorials. The stones are embellished with carved boughs of laurel leaves symbolizing victory over death, and oak leaves and acorns for strength, loyalty, and regeneration.
These monuments have suffered from over 150 years of exposure to the harsh New England climate. They are covered with dirt and biological growth. Their surfaces have also been etched by acid precipitation and have eroded resulting in a loss of carving detail. Conservation treatment will stabilize the stones and preserve the sculptural elements and inscriptions. Support from the Massachusetts Sesquicentennial Commission of the American Civil War, with matching funds raised by the Friends of Mount Auburn, will ensure the long-term survival of these threatened cultural artifacts of Civil War history.
In order to receive the grant monies, the Friends of Mount Auburn must match the $7,500 with donated funds.
Two of the monuments in need of conservation that would be served by this project include:
Joseph S. Hills enlisted on July 12 1861 at the age of 20 and engaged in some of the heaviest fighting in the Civil War, before losing his life in the Battle of the Wilderness on May 6th, 1864. His monument includes a carved likeness of his hat, sword, tassels, and belt. The names of the battles in which Hills fought are carved along the bottom of the monument.
John Downes, Jr., Commander of the ironclad monitor USS Nahant, participated in the attacks on Fort Sumter on April 7, 1863. On July 1, 1865, he took command of the Gulf Squadron at New Orleans and was killed while in service. The marble memorial dedicated to him is decorated with a naval cap and sword with sword belt.