Civil War memorial moved to museum in Louisville
Posted: Wednesday, August 25, 2010 8:01 pm
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — A weather-worn Civil War memorial that was carved by a Union soldier to honor 13 comrades killed in a Kentucky battle was moved Wednesday to a new home in the Frazier International History Museum.
Applause broke out when workers disassembled a crate holding the 3,500-pound limestone Bloedner Monument, which will be displayed in the lobby of the downtown museum that had nearly 100,000 visitors last year.
The memorial carries “exceptional historic significance” as the nation’s oldest existing Civil War memorial, said Karen Duhart, a regional acting director and chief of operations with the National Cemetery Administration.
Frazier Museum executive director Madeleine Burnside called the memorial “a huge piece of local history.”
The monument was carved by Union Pvt. August Bloedner in the weeks after the Battle of Rowlett’s Station near Munfordville in south-central Kentucky. Bloedner sought to pay tribute to fellow soldiers from the 32nd Indiana Infantry who were killed as the regiment of German immigrants warded off a Confederate attack on Dec. 17, 1861. The Union soldiers successfully protected a bridge during the hourlong skirmish, said Alec Bennett, a historian with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
Bloedner, a sculptor from Cincinnati, was promoted to sergeant during his three-year stint with the regiment, Bennett said. Bloedner returned to Ohio after his military service and died in 1872 at the age of 46.
Near its top the memorial displays an eagle with outstretched wings, its talons clutching American flags. A fading German inscription proclaims that the fallen Union soldiers “sacrificed for the free institutions of the Republic of the United States of North America.” It lists the 13 dead soldiers.
Originally, it was erected at the graves of 11 of the fallen soldiers near Munfordville. When the soldiers’ remains were reburied in Cave Hill National Cemetery in Louisville in 1867, the monument was relocated there.
For more than 140 years, the limestone memorial sat deteriorating in the cemetery as more than half of the inscription was lost to exposure to Kentucky’s weather extremes. It was moved indoors at the University of Louisville in late 2008 and professionally conserved to stop further damage.
Mark Dennen, executive director of the Kentucky Heritage Council, said Wednesday that his agency usually doesn’t recommend moving historic artifacts but made an exception in this case.
“We all agreed that it was better to compromise and move the Bloedner Monument to a place where it could be properly conserved,” Dennen said during the museum ceremony. “If it had not been moved, it would have not been long before the elements would have destroyed it beyond repair.”
The memorial is to remain on loan for at least 10 years to the museum, commemorating “the sacrifice that these soldiers made on the battlefield so very long ago,” Duhart said.
Published in The Messenger 8.25.10