Saturday, September 26, 2009

Living Memory

Today's will be the first in a running series of posts dedicated to extra-ordinary memorials I've stumbled across in my Civil War travels. Various aspects make a memorial atypical, such as its design, location, and subject. Also helping a memorial to stand out are the answers to important questions: Who funded and raised the monument? Why did they choose this subject? In what context was it completed? In this sense, a memorial adds much historical value to its many stories it shares. Please join me in exploring this unique side of Living Memory.

Visiting Frederick, Maryland's Mount Olivet Cemetery is always a moving experience. In fact, that will be the subject of an upcoming post. For now, let's just walk towards the crowded crest in the center of the grounds. We'll pass a row of tombstones to our right that seems to extend for miles. These are Confederate soldiers killed mostly in the nearby battles of South Mountain, Antietam, and Monocacy. Turning south, we view the Monument to the Unknown Southern Dead. It would be easy to end our visit here; however, we'll follow the circle walkway until we find this "Living Memory" lying low to the ground.

So far, this is the only memorial I've seen that chooses to honor the children who "served and died in the Civil War."

Here is a close-up of the artwork. This nonpartisan lament depicts a drummer boy with Union and Confederate flags spread as angels' wings.

Loving hands recently visited as evidenced by the offerings placed before the memorial.

Brian Downey's highly regarded site, Antietam on the Web, provides the example of Johnny Cook (1847-1915), a former paper boy from Cincinnati, Ohio. This fifteen year old bugler of Battery B, 4th U.S. Artillery earned a Medal of Honor for his brave actions at Antietam. His medal citation explains that after many of his comrades were killed or wounded along the Hagerstown Pike Cook "volunteered to act as a cannoneer, and as such volunteer served a gun under a tense fire of the enemy." Here is the site of this action.

As the memorial attests, not all child volunteers survived the war. In fact, while viewing this tribute I thought of the fact that many of the soldiers on both sides were children themselves. Those on the homefront suffered tremendously, too. For an intriguing study of the effect of the Civil War on our nation's youth, read James Marten's The Children's Civil War. In addition to a thorough study, Marten includes an excellently detailed bibliography that provides an ideal starting point for further research. Next time I visit the children's memorial at Mount Olivet, I'll try to remember Marten's words: "There may be no statues . . . [to] children among the tens of thousands staring out over old battlefields, no tarnished medals on frayed ribbons lying in velvet-lined museum displays. But Civil War children will be remembered; their stories are their monuments" (Marten, 5).


  1. LOVE!!! About time you got all this posted! The site looks great and I cant wait to learn more about History. Crazy as it seems, it used to be one of my favorite passions... it somehow got lost. Thanks for sharing and reawaking my angst to learn! :)

  2. Dylan, I'm so happy that you got your blog started. I've actually read 'The Children's Civil War' and it's a great recommendation. We rarely hear about what those times meant to children. We don't even hear all that much about what it meant to the women who helped in the efforts.

    I studied Civil War medicine when I worked at the Museum of Health and Medicine. The period is fascinating.

    I'm really looking forward to reading more from you. Thanks!

  3. I find that quite an interesting monument. It's very unique. I remember stopping in Frederick, Maryland for a night when my family and I journeyed east earlier this year. It's a great place and I want to go back and explore it more.

  4. Celly - Thank you for the kind words. If you ever want to make a historical trek, let me know!

    Secondarycolors - That sounds like a great experience; the museum there has some wonderful exhibits. I was fortunate enough lately when Director George Wunderlich of the National Museum of Civil War Medicine gave a presentation to our small group in a local historical chapel. I agree . . . it's a fascinating topic! Women have gained more attention from scholars only very recently. Try checking out Karen Cox's work (mostly regarding the Daughters of the Confederacy and Lost Cause mythology); Drew Gilpin Faust's This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War; or click on Civil War Talk Radio under my subheading Trekker Essentials on the right, and listen to the 9/18/09 episode. The guest speaks on the topic of northern women in the war.

    Rebecca - I'm glad you enjoyed your brief stay in Frederick. There is so much history here it can by dizzying. Thanks for stopping by my blog; I've enjoyed reading yours for some time. My father and I are major Lincoln nerds, so I've especially enjoyed seeing the Springfield sites you visited. I'd love to make it out there some day!