Fundraising continues for Indiana County's Civil War memorial statue; bronze casting next step
As the nation continues its observance of the Civil War's 150th anniversary, work is progressing on a memorial to honor the roughly 2,800 Indiana County residents who fought in the history-defining conflict.
“Rest on Arms,” a life-size statue of a Union soldier, is to be cast in bronze this spring and later installed on the front lawn of Indiana's Silas M. Clark House. It's a particularly appropriate site since the local Grand Army of the Republic Civil War veterans' group met in the house and had its own plans for a memorial in the 1880s — a project that didn't come to fruition.
Three years ago the idea for such a memorial resurfaced due in large part to the efforts of Indiana Civil War reenactor Timothy Nupp. He solicited the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War, John T. Crawford Camp No. 43 to be the administrator of the memorial project and he was selected to chair the Indiana County Civil War Memorial Committee.
The Historical and Genealogical Society of Indiana County and the Indiana County Tourist Bureau signed on as supporters of the project. The historical society occupies the Clark House and an adjacent former armory.
Local artist John McCombie has been putting final touches on a full-size clay sculpture that will be used to create the memorial statue. The name “Rest on Arms” describes the pose selected for the statue of a Union private resting both hands on the stock of his rifle.
McCombie noted the soldier is depicted with a uniform and gear typical of Union soldiers in battle. Even though the soldier's pose is thoughtful, almost prayerful, the artist felt that some other emotion needed to be present.
“Without an anguished expression in the soldier's face and hands, the piece would have lacked an authentic feel,” McCombie observed. A brochure published to promote the project states that McCombie has crafted a figure that “leaves one free to ponder what it means to see the horror of war between brothers” yet still “believe in humankind.”
One final detail that is being considered, according to Nupp, is the addition of a pinky ring on the soldier's hand. Such rings have fallen in and out of fashion in different eras and were apparently favored by a number of men who answered the call to arms during the Civil War.
Included in that number was Nupp's great-great grandfather, Franklin Nupp, who served as a private in Co. D of the 78th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry. Timothy Nupp has portrayed his ancestor for reenactments and owns the ring that the Civil War veteran fashioned on Jan. 1, 1864 “out of a laurelroot,” as noted in his diary entry on that date.
“On the ring he has inscribed ‘Chickamauga,' where he was encamped at that time,” Timothy Nupp added.
Once the memorial image of the soldier is finalized, McCombie plans to have the casting completed this spring at a foundry in eastern Pennsylvania.
“John will first complete the clay model and then it will be disassembled into pieces for shipment to the foundry. At the foundry, a negative mold of the sculpture will be made,” said Amy Gresh, secretary-treasurer of the memorial committee.
Pieces of the statue will be formed in hot-cast bronze, and those pieces will be welded together, Gresh explained. She said the welds “will be buffed out to create a seamless look. At this point, the piece will receive a patina finish under John's supervision.”
Once the statue is finished, it will be returned to Indiana and McCombie will install it in front of the Clark House.
Excavation and placement of a footer must be completed as a first step before the installation can begin. As originally planned, the statue would rest on a base made of Indiana County barn stones — 34 in all, symbolizing the 24 townships and 10 boroughs that existed in the county shortly after the Civil War.
Use of barn stones is seen as especially fitting since the majority of Indiana County Civil War soldiers came from farm backgrounds. The stones are to be laid by an anonymous donor.
The ceremonial laying of a corner stone for the project has been tentatively scheduled for 10:30 a.m. May 18. “This service will be similar to one that the Grand Army of the Republic would carry out,” Gresh noted.
Since the project's inception, the memorial committee has included members from the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War, the county historical society and the county tourist bureau.
The historical society lost one of its representatives on the committee with the recent death of Chris Catalfamo, who held a doctorate in 19th century American history and was a past board president of the society.
“Her knowledge about the local Indiana history and the Civil War will sadly be missed as we complete the final phase of the memorial project,” Gresh said of Catalfamo. “We have no plans to replace her and, in her honor, we will keep her name listed as a committee member.”
Fundraising for “Rest on Arms” continues, with the committee setting a remaining goal of $12,000 to completely fulfill the original vision of the project. Total costs were estimated at $80,000 when the project was launched three years ago.
The committee has developed a tiered system of suggested giving levels. To date, it has presented five replica statuettes to donors who gave at the top “generals” level of support, with a minimum contribution of $2,800.
Other keepsakes have been given to thank donors at other levels.
For more information about the memorial project and about making a donation, visit www.restonarms.wordpress.com.
Kevin Judge is a freelance writer.