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The Battle Monument at West Point
 

Foundations of America

QU201 Prof. Scott Leone

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Home Stony Creek Granite Sites Monuments & Parks The Battle Monument at West Point

The Battle Monument at West Point

Stony Creek Granite has been around for some 600 million years, and has been used in all types of construction from sea walls, kitchens, to breathtaking buildings and monuments.  Even though granite, which originates from southern Connecticut, has been around for millions of years it has only been used on a large-scale use for a couple of centuries.  Stony Creek granite was quarried in Branford, Connecticut usually from one of three major quarries.  The Stony Creek Red Granite Company, Norcross Brothers, and Guilford’s Beattie quarries are the three well-documented quarries which exported this magnificent pink-granite.  All three quarries are very well-known for historical buildings, monuments, sculptures, etc. including the base of the Statue of Liberty, the post office at Grand Central Station, South Station in Boston, and the Brooklyn Bridge. One of the more prominent sites where Stony Creek granite was used was at the Battle Monument at West Point Military Academy in West Point, NY.

West Point Military Academy was institutionalized because many influential men in the United States’ history decided an institution dedicated to the arts and sciences of warfare was necessary.  The soldiers and legislatures who were heavily involved in the Academy’s founding ranged from George Washington, Henry Knox, and John Adams, who all wished to eliminate the need for foreign engineers and artillerists.  The current President of the United States, Thomas Jefferson, signed the legislation which started the Military Academy in 1802.  Thereafter, West Point Military Academy was based upon honorable conduct and strict military discipline while having engineering being the core curriculum.  Being a student at West Point was and still is today a very big honor due to the fact that its reputation has only greatened since its founding.  West Point’s campus is a collection of the United States’ military history and many important monuments have been erected here, mostly dedicated to those soldiers who have served the United States.

One of many monuments and statues at West Point Academy is the Battle Monument at Trophy Point.  The Battle Monument was dedicated in 1897to 2,230 fallen soldiers in the Civil War, all of whose names are carved on the shaft of the monument. “Following the Civil War, Americans’ attention turned toward commemorating the men who courageously served during the conflict. Nowhere was this sentiment more movingly expressed than at the Battle Monument of the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York (1897)” (Deford 162). In 1863, a committee was formed to construct a proper memorial to honor those fallen.  The committee was assembled of graduated West Point soldiers who survived the Civil War, the “War of Rebellion.” They decided to form a committee to honor those fallen with some sort of monument.  The final inscription at the bottom of the monument sums up the reasoning perfectly: “…this monument is erected by their surviving comrades.”  The funding for the monument came out of soldiers’ pay.  The higher the rank, the higher dollar amount was taken out.  Over a one year period, 1864-1865 about $14,400 was raised.  These funds were sufficient, but the necessary amount to fully fund the monument wasn’t available until 1890.

The year after the committee was assembled in 1863, West Point Academy held a dedication ceremony of the site of the monument – Trophy Point.  On June 15, 1864 the ceremony took place and many influential members were present.  On the day of the site dedication, instead of the monument, there was a stand where the orator was going to speak.  The grounds were beautifully decorated with flags and emblems resembling pride of the Union and the United States.  To begin the ceremony a procession took place from the West Point Library to the place where the stand was located.  Upon the arrival of the procession a national salute was performed and a prayer began the ceremony delivered by Reverend Dr. French.  During the ceremony, the generals were adamant about the audience refraining from applause during any point to uphold the solemnity of the event.  After prayer, the band played “Hail Columbia,” (can we get a link to this song in the FOA article?) which was followed by General McClellan’s speech.  The ceremony was concluded with “The Star Spangled Banner” and “Yankee Doodle.”  Below is the actual program of that day:

PROG-RAMME OF CEREMONIES.

PROCESSION.

Assistant-Marshal. — Capt. Wilkins, 3d Infantry.

1. Military Academy Band.

2. Battalion of Cadets.

Assistant-MarsJtal. — Capt. Smtth, 8th Infantry.

3. Detachments of Troops, Stationed at and Visiting the Post.

4. Carriage containing the President of the Executive Committee,

the Chief Marshal, and State Executives.

Assistant-Marshal. — Lieut. Hamilton, 2d Artillery.

5. Senior Memher of the Committee, Orator, and Chaplains.

6. The Executive Committee.

7. Military and Academic Staff, Board of Visitors, and Invited Guests.

AssistanLMarshals. \ CaPt davies' 16th

(Capt. Barlow, Engineers.

 

PROCEEDINGS.

1. Prayer ................ Rev. Dr. French

2. Music — Hail Columbia ............... Military Academy Band

3. Oration .............. f. ............... Maj. Gen. McClellau

4. Music — Star-Spangled Banner & Yankee-Doodle. . . M. A. Band

5. Benediction ................ Kev. Dr. Sprole

6. Dirge ............................... Military Academy Band

 

All the committee needed now was a design plan and an architect to construct their vision for the dedication to the fallen soldiers. The committeeevaluated many architects and design plans to find the plan which fit their vision perfectly.  Architects like Richard Morris Hunt and Arthur Rotch were considered to design the monument.  Hunt is well-known for the façade of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty.  Rotch is well-known for various building amongst prestigious schools including Wellesley College, Bowdoin, and Phillip Exeter Academy.  The group who was commissioned for the project was McKim, Mead & White.  The drawing which the prominent and greatly talented Stanford White submitted was exactly what the committee was looking for.  White’s drawing was a tall standing column made of single piece of granite.  White wanted to make sure the column wasn’t going to compromise the beauty of West Point’s campus – subtle beauty.  Stanford White was a famous architect who built many homes, buildings, and monuments which are still standing today. He helped construct the Washington Square arch, the Second Madison Square Garden, many of the Newport mansions, and the Boston Public Library, just to name a few.

On top of the majestic 46 feet high shaft, a bronze figure was to top off the monument.  The bronze figure surmountedon top of the granite sphere, also at the top, was sculpted by Frederick MacMonnies.  This figure at the top was named “Lady Fame” or “Victory” due to the victorious pose she takes.  The pose she takes and even her name, display that fallen soldiers diedfighting for a worthwhile cause.  During the time of the monument’s construction Stanford White believed the original bronze statue of “Lady Victory” was awkward and not proportionate to the rest of the column. It was reconstructed by MacMonnies in 1894 and put back on top of the column in 1896.

Along with deciding which architectural company to use and which design was best fitting, the committee needed to decide where to get the granite.  The Norcross Company was the number one candidate out of the three most well-known quarries in Branford, Connecticut where the pink Stony Creek granite derived from.  The reason why the Norcross Company was chosen was because it was well-known for its ability to produce large stones from ledges of great length without seams.  The blast which produced the slab for the monument was a block 20 feet wide and 50 feet in length without a single crack!  Once finished the column produced was and still is the tallest single piece of polished granite in the western hemisphere standing at 46 feet tall.

The largest single piece of granite produced thus far, during the late 1800’s, the turning, shaping,  milling and polishing took two years to produce while the transportation, due to the size and weight of the column, took another seven weeks.  Crating and shipping of the stone was necessary in order for the 93-ton monument to travel the 191-mile trip to West Point, NY.

Finally on May 31, 1897 the Battle Monument was completely finished and entirely dedicated, 33 years later.  It all began with surviving graduates of West Point deciding a monument should be constructed to those fallen in the Civil War. From there the long process of finding an architect and granite, building, transportation, and necessary touch-ups began.

The battle monument at West Point Military Academy still remains today, overlooking the Hudson, just as magnificent as it was in 1897.  The only change to the Battle Monument was the change in 1894 to “Lady Victory.”  This monument shows the strength and durability of Stony Creek Granite and will forever be a part of history for all to see.  It is very relevant to United States’ history because it commemorates the fallen soldiers during the United States’ rebellion period, the Civil War.  People will forever be able to go and visit this monument and remember all of the fallen soldiers during the Civil War, while remembering all fallen soldiers.

For more information:

http://www.branford-ct.gov/History/Stony%20Creek%20Quarries.htm

http://www.waymarking.com/waymarks/WM483P_Battle_Monument_West_Point_New_York

http://www.archive.org/stream/historyofbattlem00battrich/historyofbattlem00battrich_djvu.txt

http://query.nytimes.com/mem/archive-free/pdf?res=9A06E5DA143EEE34BC4E52DFB066838F679FDE

Deford, Deborah. Flesh and Stone: Stony Creek and the Age of Granite. Stony Creek, CT: Stony Creek Granite Quarry Workers Celebration, 2000.

Bing's Bird eye view:

http://www.bing.com/maps/?v=2&cp=42.31163191082019~-70.96861494999996&lvl=4&sty=r&cid=B77D42FECB846F77!114

Google earth:

Battle Monument at West Point Military Academy.kmz

Last Updated on Monday, 08 November 2010 20:22  

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Flesh and Stone

Flesh and Stone - Stony Creek and the Age of Granite - buy at Amazon.com
Available on Amazon

Uncirculated: Shrink wrapped in clear plastic from original Italian publisher, 1999. Ships with fresh samples of sparkling Stony Creek pink granite for historians, collectors, geologists and classrooms. Additional samples available upon request.