Saturday, May 31, 2008

24th Michigan / Iron Brigade Waymarkers and Soldiers' and Sailors' Monument at Campus Martius in Detroit

For those of you who have been asking, here some images of the historical marker at Campus Martius at the intersection of Woodward and Michigan Avenues in downtown Detroit that honors the 24th Michigan Infantry and the Iron Brigade. It was erected in 1995 by the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War, M.O.L.L.U.S., 24th Michigan Volunteer Infantry Regiment, Inc. It is a dual-sided marker: one side honors the 24th Michigan Infantry and the reverse side honors the entire Iron Brigade.

The 24th Michigan was born at Campus Martius at the request of the President, Governor Austin Blair, who called for six new regiments of volunteers. On July 15, 1862, Detroit civic leaders held a rally in Campus Martius to recruit voluteers. Some in the crowd, mistaking the call for the imposition of a draft, began to protest and the rally turned into a riot. Rally leaders, including the octagenerian Lewis Cass, (former governor, Secretary of War, and Indian fighter) were escorted into the nearby Russell House Hotel under the protection of the Wayne County sheriff.

The riot was seen as a black mark upon the patriotism of Detroit, Wayne County, and Michigan. To remedy this, the governor called for a special regiment of volunteers outside the six requested by Lincoln; potential enlistees were encouraged to "rescue the honor of Detroit." Another rally was held at Campus Martius and this time things went smoothly. After finishing their training at Camp Barnes located at Woodward and Eight Mile Road in late August, the 24th Michigan Infantry paraded through the city to the riverfront where they embarked on an Eastern-bound steamer.

After the fire of 1805, Campus Martius (Latin for "Field of Mars," where Roman heroes walked) was the focal point of judge Augustus Woodward's plans to rebuild the city. It is where the "point of origin" of Detroit's coordinate system is located. Seven miles north of this point is Seven Mile Road, eight miles north is Eight Mile Road, etc. The precise point of origin is marked by a medallion embedded in the stone walkway. It is situated in the eastern point of the diamond surrounding the Woodward Fountain.

The original park covered several acres and was a major gathering area for citizens. The park was lost in the 1900s as the city's downtown was reconfigured to accommodate increased vehicular traffic. Hart Plaza on the riverfront was designed to replace Campus Martius as a point of importance. But as Hart Plaza is a primarily hard-surfaced area, many residents came to lament the lack of true park space in the city's downtown area. This led to calls to rebuild Campus Martius.

The new Campus Martius Park was dedicated on November 19, 2004. It includes two stages, sculptures, public spaces and a seasonal ice skating rink. The park's skating rink is designed to resemble the one at Rockefeller Center in New York City.

Campus Martius is also home to the Michigan Soldiers' and Sailors' Monument. In 1865, the Michigan Soldiers' and Sailors' Monument Association was established by Governor Austin Blair in order to collect funds for a monument commemorating Michigan's sailors and soldiers killed during the Civil War. Voluntary subscriptions from citizens were collected and sculptor Randolph Rogers, who had created similar Civil War commemorative monuments in Ohio and Rhode Island, was chosen as the artist for the monument. Rogers' design consists of a series of octagonal sections or that rise up from the base of the monument. The lowest sections are topped by eagles with raised wings that guide the eye upward to the next section which is surmounted by four male figures depicting the Navy, Infantry, Cavalry, and Artillery branches of the United States Army. Four female allegorical figures, resting on pedestals, are above the male statues and represent Victory, History, Emancipation, and Union were not added to the monument until 1881. Local lore claims Rogers used Sojourner Truth, the famous African-American abolitionist, as his inspiration for the Emancipation statue, but little evidence exists to document this belief. There are also four plaques containing bas-reliefs of the Union leaders Lincoln, Grant, Sherman, and Farragut. Capping the monument, the heroic Indian warrior figure Michigan, or Victory, brandishes a sword in her right hand and in her other she raises a shield, prepared for attack.

The state's foremost Civil War monument was unveiled on April 9, 1872. Attending the dedication were Generals George Armstrong Custer, Philip H. Sheridan and Ambrose E. Burnside.

In 2005, a re-dedication ceremony was held following the completion of the new Campus Martius plaza in downtown Detroit. The time capsule contained in the monument was opened and the list of Michigan War Dead was updated to reflect all those killed from the Civil War up to April 2005 in Iraq and Afghanistan. Civil War re-enactors, members of the Grand Army of the Republic and associate organizations, representatives from the Detroit City Council, the Michigan National Guard, and the Second Baptist Church men's choir participated in the ceremony.

The April 9, 2005 re-dedication ceremony of Detroit's Soldiers and Sailors Monument. Left to right are: Michigan Senator Jacob Howard (responsible for writing and initiating the 13th amendment to the US Constitution to abolish slavery), President Abraham Lincoln, and Michigan Governor Austin Blair.

The Soldiers' and Sailors' Monument stands on the southeast tip of Campus Martius Park where five principle thoroughfares -- Michigan Avenue, Monroe Street, Cadillac Square, Fort Street, and Woodward Avenue -- convene on the reconstructed traffic circle.


Iron Brigade / 24th Michigan Infantry marker images courtesy of
Soldiers' and Sailors' Monument images courtesy of
Re-dedication ceremony photo courtesy of Dave Tennies.

1 comment:

Skies of Blue and Gray said...

Very interesting blog! I've always been fascinated by the Iron Brigade and particularly by the 24th Michigan --- not sure why. I've stood where they fought so valiantly at Gettysburg. It was a great experience.