The Illinois Andersonville Monument Commission

Guest blog entry by Noah Neiber

In 1864 during the Civil War there was a Confederate prisoner of war camp constructed near Americus, Georgia. The name of that camp was Andersonville and it became well-known as one of the harshest camps in the Civil War. Many Union soldiers died at that camp of malnutrition and heat stroke. 889 of those were from Illinois. The ones who survived were in wretched condition but at least made it out at the end of the war.

Among those survivors were five men who would not soon forget what pain they had to go through. And because of this fact they could not allow the sufferings of their brothers to go on unremembered. So that future generations would remember what they had to go through for their cause, these men decided to form a committee and erect a monument in honor of those from Illinois who died at Andersonville. These men were A.H. McCracken of Chicago who was the president, G.J. George of Springfield who was the Vice President, Lewis F. Lake of Rockford who was the secretary and treasurer, William H. Hainline, and James M. Swales. Together they formed a commission in 1907 to erect the monument.

But in order to do this they had to find a contractor to submit a good design and to erect the monument. It took them a while to find the contractor that they thought could do the monument correctly, but they finally chose the Trigg Monument Company of Rockford, Illinois.

Trigg Monument Works, c. 1880s

Now from here it was not smooth sailing. The monument should have been done within a year, but there were so many delays due to things that ranged from the health of the commission members that stalled meetings, to weather in Andersonville that cracked the foundations of the monument, to the misinterpretation of what the commission wanted the monument to look like.

Because of such delays the monument took years to build, but it was completed in December of 1912, and finally dedicated on the 20th of that month. When completed the  granite pedestal was 20 feet by 24 feet and the monument itself was 18 feet overall. The monument depicts large figures of “Columbia with Youth and Maiden” that are supposed to depict nations to come. Engraved in it are the last clause of Abraham Lincoln’s first inaugural address and the last clause of his Gettysburg address. There are also two figures on the side of the monument that represent veterans of the Civil War as a sad reminder of what they had to go through in that war.

The dedication of the Illinois Andersonville Monument, December 1912

The men of this commission had many battles of their own during the construction of this monument. It was a long and hard process that required a lot of sacrifice from each member; however, in the end though it was all worth it, because their hard work could finally help generations to remember the sacrifice that the prisoners at Andersonville made, not just at Andersonville, but throughout the whole of the war. The monument they built is there to remind us of the cost of freedom and how it affects even the very place we live.

A close up of the Illinois Andersonville Monument

If you would like to learn more about the Illinois Andersonville Monument Commission, the records of the exploits of these men are at the Midway Village in our collections and research department. Also, if you would like to learn more about the Civil War in general, please join us on Saturday, January 21 from 10 am -2:pm for our 10th annual Civil War Symposium.

For more information about the Civil War Symposium, please visit our event page: http://www.midwayvillage.com/event_calendar.cfm?id=1048

Noah Neiber is a Midway Village Museum volunteer. In addition to being a junior interpreter, Noah also volunteers in the Collections Department. He and his mother, Michele, recently cataloged the Illinois Andersonville Monument Commission collection.

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “The Illinois Andersonville Monument Commission

  1. Fred

    I wonder how many know that most of those deaths could have been avoided but Mr Lincoln and his Generals declared medicine as contraband therefore the South had no way to treat the prisoners. The Confederate prison at Rock Island has been compared to Andersonville by many historians. It
    works both ways but you only hear what history wants you to hear.

  2. vince

    Hey Fred what is your point? What is obvious is that there was mistreatment at the Andersonville camp. I don’t see how your criticism of Lincoln and his generals is even valid. Lincoln had nothing to do with the squalor and overcrowding that was obvious and the starvation and disease that resulted from these conditions is what killed most of the prisoners there.

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