Brother Tom Gaard (Grenville M. Dodge Camp # 75) has spent the better part of the past few years searching out and documenting Iowa’s Civil War Monuments both here within the state and all across the battlefields where Iowans fought, died, and persevered one hundred and fifty years ago. Ever seeking to record for posterity the monuments left behind by our ancestors, Tom’s own journeys have taken him to every corner of this state and to battlefields as distant as Vicksburg, Shiloh, Kennesaw Mountain, Atlanta, and so on. In all of his travels, Tom once confided, “I don’t think I have ever seen a monument in sadder condition than the statue at Eddyville”.
If not the very first Civil War monument built in Iowa (by the returning veterans of the war) the white marble column bearing the names of their fallen comrades, was erected just a couple of years after they came home to this small Southeast Iowa town in Mahaska County; and, is very likely the first to bear only the names of the seventy-eight who perished in the service of their nation. Many of those whose names appear on the four side of the original marble “die” (the oldest portion of the statue that sits atop the cement base and below the capping “plinth” and carved Indiana limestone figure of a soldier that sits atop the monument) are those who lay in unknown and unmarked graves, on the fields where they fell. The whereabouts of their earthly remains now know but to their God.
The exact story of the beginning of this monument is shrouded somewhat by the mists of time, but the general story has been pieced together over the years, and is worth repeating.
When the men who fought for Union and freedom mustered out of their nation’s service at the end of hostilities and returned home to Eddyville they learned that a man named “Hazelton” had set up business in the town as a stone carver working in marble in a small shop near the center of the town. Whether a group of the veterans approached this man first; or, whether the carving and erecting of a monument was his idea that was “peddled” to the veterans is uncertain. There are credible accounts that tell the story both ways. Somehow, there seems to have been another person named George Maple involved in raising contributions from the veterans and their families and actual work was begun on the slab of marble, However, once an amount of approximately five-hundred dollars had been raised, these two gentlemen began pleading for more monies and when people objected to putting forward any further funds, the two left town, their project uncompleted.
For several years the partially carved marble monument sat abandoned in an alleyway until some of the aging veterans themselves moved it to the city park and sat it up on a stone base that eventually crumbled away and toppled the marble to the ground.
Over the years, much discussion took place across back fences and over coffee cups in the kitchens of the towns’ residents about what was to be done about the old monument that was rapidly de-grading and being defaced by vandals. Some favored moving the old stone up to the town’s cemetery, there to rest for eternity in the “silent city of the dead”.
Finally, in 1911, a man named J. A. Lafferty (himself the son of a veteran of the war, and member of the City Council) conferred with the local Grand Army of the Republic Post and then approached the city of Eddyville with a proposal that he be allowed to undertake the restoration of the monument by wiping away the old carvings and re-etching the names of the fallen once again onto a new and polished surface before placing it upon a concrete base custom poured for the purpose. Lafferty also proposed the addition of the plinth and statuary to be carved in Indiana and shipped in to complete the statue. Lafferty agreed to pay for all of the restoration efforts himself; but, insisted that his father’s name (1/Lt. T. J. Lafferty, 9th Iowa Cavalry) be carved onto the statue. This was, for a time, a “deal breaker” to some of the old-timers who meant no disrespect to the elder Lafferty, but insisted that the original idea was to honor only those who gave their last full measure, and he had survived the war and returned home. For a short time, I have been told, matters stood at a stand-still until it was decided that the erstwhile benefactor could be allowed to carve his father’s name onto the plinth of the statue along with the words, “Rebuilt and presented to the Town of Eddyville by J.A. Lafferty, 1911.”
And so it was that the hand chiseled likeness of a Union soldier of the western theater (wearing the tell-tale “slouch hat” of the period) and holding in his partially outstretch right hand a Springfield Rifle was placed about the restored marble die and set to stand watch facing South (as common “folk protocol” of the day dictated wherever possible…if one travels down among our cousins of the Southern persuasion you will usually find their soldiers and cannon pointing North!) for all of time to come.
Or so it was thought.
No one knows, or if they do they aren’t saying, how or when the right hand and rifle went missing, but it was awhile ago. Possibly as long at fifty years ago. At least that is what we have extrapolated over the dozen or so days spent down there working on the statue over the course of this summer. We talked to one gentleman who said that he was sixty-two and recalled a time when “Eddy” had both hands and his rifle, but thought that he first noticed them (rifle and right hand) to be, “gone by the time I was eight or ten years old.” Lance “Red” Johnson, who works for the City of Eddyville (and happens to be the son of Mayor John Johnson), told us early on, “Heck, I never knew the guy was supposed to have a rifle, I thought he was an amputee, or something”. Lance was joking, but only partly….he remembered the left hand and front hat brim being there when he was growing up, but those had gone (possibly the result of a lightning strike) by the time we found him.
The 49th Iowa first became aware of the monument and its sad condition when Brother Tom Gaard told us of his plight in the spring of 2009 while we were engaged in the efforts to raise funds for the restoration of the monument to Francis Herron’s Division at Vicksburg.
In July of 2009, Linda Bonnett, representing the Eddyville Historical Museum, contacted the regiment on behalf of the museum and the town of Eddyville and asked that we consider helping them to restore the monument. After further discussions back and forth, and upon the receipt of a Resolution of the City Council giving us legal right to affect whatever repairs we might deem necessary at no cost to the City of Eddyville, we placed the monument at the top of our “to do” list and began looking for an artist to give us guidance concerning what was possible.
Enter Rick Stewart….sort of.
Actually, the first artist that I contacted (an old acquaintance) that I knew to be capable of this sort of work, told me, “I could do it, but if it were my statue, I’d want a guy from Newton named Rick Stewart to do the work.” Good enough for me!
By January of 2009 we were in contact with the Mayor of Eddyville and had formally accepted the monument as our “next up” project upon receipt of resolution 2009-09-13 allowing us the right to work on the statue; and, by September of the year we had our sculptor “on-board” and began active funds raising efforts to gather together the monies needed to supply Rick with the materials needed to begin work.
By late February of this year (2011) studio work had begun on the re-sculpting of the missing hand and rifle in Rick’s Newton studio and by April of this year we were ready to formally re-dedicate the restoration work that was being constantly set back by the inclement weather the Iowa was experiencing.
It would be mid-May before the temperatures would moderate enough to allow work on-site to take place; and it has gone on at a fairly steady pace ever since with several trips per week being made back and forth with hundreds of trips up and down the scaffolding that we had to erect and take down with every visit; with quickly mixing hardening epoxy into composite stone material to fill in cuts and nicks, and scrapes and from which an entire new left hand and cap brim would be cast after an artist’s clay model was made on site, and a rubber mold of the hand was made back at the studio into which we would pour the liquefied stone of the new left hand and hat brim.
The day that we took the mostly finished right hand and rifle down to attach to the broken rifle stock and empty left sleeve, as small crowd of citizens had come to watch as we would place the new parts, mark the excesses, take it down, do some rough carving with an air-chisel and then place the hand again until we had a perfect match of new part to old stubs of statue. Once we were satisfied with the final fit, a high-strength epoxy cement was applied to both parts and then the better part of a roll of duct tape was ingloriously wrapped around and around the rifle, hand, arm and body of the statue to hold the parts in place and immobile for the twenty-four to forty-eight hours that it would take to fully “cure” and set.
Noting the somewhat skeptical looks on the faces of some of the crowd, I quipped, “in a year or two this duct-tape will fade out and pretty much match the color of the statue and you will hardly notice that it is here.” The silence was deafening.
Actually, it was Rick (who bears something of an uncanny resemblance to Red Green, the undisputed “King of Duct-tape”) who reinforced the story when he too assured the crowd that, “it really will hardly show.”
Such jokesters these city-boys!
Days of work, separated by days of other obligations and waiting for materials, or weather, bore on into weeks of enjoying the simple pleasures of getting to know many of the town's people who would come to watch and to visit for awhile. Gene Rouze from the Eddyville Fire Department was there practically every day with cold water and an offer to help provide anything that we needed; “Red” Johnson was there to lend a hand and do some of the heavy lifting when his own job duties allowed; several of his partners from the public works department would also drop by when they were not keeping a watchful eye on the rising Des Moines River which has flooded at least part of the town every year for the past four or five rainy springs. We got to know the ladies at the local grocery store/lunch counter who put out a mean pulled pork sandwich with a side for $5.00 every Thursday (and a great Ribeye Steak sandwich on Wednesdays...same price). There were the loans of scaffolding and a power washer from a local businessman who also happens to be a councilman. Sitting and talking one day with Rick and I and Jake Grim (who spent many days there with us working, as did David Sample when his time would allow) this gentleman spoke of removing the old trees that were shading the statue and causing mold and lichen to take hold and make restoration efforts more difficult. Within just a few days we would return one morning to find the trees and bushes gone, and would learn of other plans being “kicked around” for more and more park improvements, and landscaping around the statue, new park benches, a new flagpole (lighted) and the ever-popular (and only half joking) suggestion that, “the new statue be hooked up to 440volts to discourage anyone climbing on it and breaking it again.” The proponent of that idea shall remain nameless…but it sounded like a not unreasonable idea to me.
There were neighborhood kids who came by most days, and the lady across the street from the park who would send her grand-daughter over with cold Mountain Dews every now and again. There was the lady who came to the park to walk her dog and ended up leaving him with us to return home and bring back a twenty-dollar bill to give to us for our efforts. There were lots of people over the course of the weeks that we spent there who would pull up in their cars, stop and come over to say that they used to live there in Eddyville but have moved away over the years and were gratified to, “finally see this old boy being brought back to life.”
There was the gentleman in the pick-up truck who came by today and gave us $14.00 in cash and said, “Lunch today is on me.” Great Ribeye sandwiches and killer coleslaw, and the company of “Andy” who spent twenty-six year in the military and now visits small town parks between here and his home in Texas scanning the grass with his metal-detector looking for treasures lost and left. “I’m collecting for my grandkids college fund”, he said.
And then there was Rick Stewart.
Consummate artist, classic story-teller, art historian, teacher, friend, and new-found brother, the debt that this Regiment owes to this gentleman is beyond measure.
Rick has endured long days of scorching heat and wilting humidity, biting bugs, and sunburns beyond number to complete this restoration for us, and the paltry sum of monies that he has charged us for his work do not begin to match the scope of either his talent or his dedication to our cause. In this good man, we have found another true patriot who understands the importance of what we are doing and what we plan to accomplish to honor our (and his) ancestors who served this nation through its darkest days. Saying “thank you” to this man is wholly inadequate, but it is the best that we can do.
When we were just finishing the last of the work on the statue, our personal firefighter and partner in the project, Gene Rouze, showed up with Eddyville Volunteer Fire Department and Rescue hats and patches for us. And, Mayor Johnson dropped by to tell us of the town’s renewed enthusiasm for this park and this monument, and thanked us for the part that we have played in bringing that about.
We’re going to miss Eddyville.
But we have the deep-seated satisfaction of knowing that we are leaving her better than we found her. And though we came to restore, we find that in many ways we have ourselves been restored…or at least reminded that in service there is sacrifice. And in both of these there is honor. And honor, after all, is what this Regiment is all about.
In the years to come we can look back upon the work that we have done here to bring life back into the inanimate stone of this old monument to martyrs who laid their very lives upon the alter of freedom, and we shall know:
Is Nos Servo (This We Have Saved)
1/Lt. David M. Lamb Commanding
Company “A” 49th Regiment Iowa Veteran Volunteer Infantry The Governor’s Own Iowa Rifles