The Centennial of Monument Day and the Dedication of the Sussex County Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument

A Granite Sentry

There are no voices from the grave. The huzzahs have fled to the winds, the bitter pride and debate muted as the players stepped from the stage long ago. But amidst the flickering autumnal canopy of maples shading the Newton Green, a granite sentry yet stands above the fray, watching and waiting without noticeable enthusiasm, like a weather prophet gazing beyond the season to some approaching change in the climate. He casts a formidable shadow: standing eight feet tall, hewn of Westerly Granite, weighing 800 pounds. His cap, 33 feet above ground, surmounts a 90-ton memorial to the “Defenders of the Union” erected by the citizens of Sussex County in 1895. As long as he remains, nothing is forgotten and nothing is forgiven. This frozen hero at parade rest seems decidedly beyond approach, musket in hand, hopelessly defending a great castellated pile inscribed with the names of legendary battles. And so memory becomes art: the sentry has a tale and all the time in the world to tell it. He stands at ease, far from danger, betraying no hint of martial tension. Indeed he was not called to his present post until thirty years after the guns had fallen silent: the sculptural equivalent of locking the barn doors after the horse has been stolen. His stony expression betrays the convenience of hindsight: he does not confront his audience eye to eye, he does not challenge them at bayonet point. Instead, he is elevated, sentimentalized, almost sacrificial: honoring the quiet patriotism of the civilian soldier who rose to glory as a Defender of the Union. In fact, he is concrete proof of the exquisitely human tendency toward historical revisionism: a retrospective consensus worked in stone, formed after the storm of partisan enthusiasm had passed, a model of the most uncomplicated patriotic virtues given soft focus by the gradual compromise of competing emotions. This granite warrior has neither the look of an eager recruit nor of a returning conqueror. Instead, he seems the youthful reincarnation of the veteran, now middle-aged, absorbed by the concourse of daily commerce, long healed of his wounds but not of his memories.

Echoes of the Past
We have been advised many times that history does not repeat itself, but certainly we recognize recurring themes. However much cultural settings may change over time, the constancy of human needs leads us to expect (though not necessarily to predict) similar emotional responses to similar provocation. Take an interesting case in point: an unpopular president dragged into an unpopular war, an enemy flag is raised in the public square, a regiment of draft evaders skedaddles to Canada, large public protests dissolve into days of rage, soldiers on the front lines complain of treason on the home front, returning veterans receive a lack-luster welcome, and a public war memorial is decades in the making. Sound contemporary? Yet these events occurred one and a quarter centuries ago.

Sic semper tyrannus! We will never know if Abraham Lincoln heard those words uttered in his fading moments of consciousness as the mad American Brutus leapt to the stage, rending the national flag with the spur of his boot. Time dilutes the strength of emotions and the power of recall. In American iconography, Honest Abe has climbed to the dizziest heights of glory once reserved for the apotheosized Washington. Lincoln's contemporary opponents would revel in the irony of his image engraved as the Copper head of the now disdained American penny. For his ersatz antagonists were themselves known as Copperheads, taking the penny-image of the Goddess Liberty as their standard. In the eyes of the Copperheads, Lincoln was the crusher of American liberties, anathema for his bloody assault upon States’ rights, for his suspension of the writ of habeas corpus, for his political management of the press, for his imposition of the military draft and for his imperial edict emancipating Southern slaves. But Time is a filter placed over the lens of partisan perceptions, softening and blurring the harsh highlights and shadows of the Past! Thirty-six years later, an “On Looker ” communicated his youthful impressions of the home front in Newton:

“That first shot fired on Sumter. How the echoes crashed among the Sussex hills! The patriotic talk, as the young men sprang forward to enlist, and the older ones encouraged them by their contributions for their comfort. The marching away to the depot to take the train for the front. The great meetings on the Green and in the Court House. The gatherings in Park Hall to listen to the talk of some furloughed soldier. The news of the battles. The crowds at the bulletins of the telegraph office. Waiting at the Post Office for the evening mail, when Judge Ryerson would read to the crowd the details of the fights from the evening paper... Lieut. Griggs is sick. Ah, the Lieutenant, we heard him talking to Henry Grinton (afterward Major) in Mr. Warne’s bookstore before they had enlisted. He had been reading about Napoleon’s campaign to Egypt, and was explaining the method used by the French infantry to repel the attacks of the Mameluke cavalry. The two had it in their minds to go, and were awaiting for the occasion. The formation of the Harris Light Cavalry decided them to enlist. Captain Fitts, Captain Morford, Captain Wildrick, Captain Ryerson, Lieut. Kilpatrick, and the whole host of privates and officers, the contributions of Old Sussex to the great war. The historian is just turning over the leaves at the beginning of the events through which, by aid of those heroes and their like, this land became a great nation.”

Wide Awake with torch

These are vitascopic images of the home front in our county seat, one and a quarter centuries ago. But the historian in “turning over the leaves” also uncovers a sacred tradition of dissent, of vehement opposition to the centralization of power at the expense of cultural and political localism. The grand party of Jefferson and Jackson, which defined and developed that tradition, disintegrated in 1860 as Democrats divided into sectional camps supporting the Presidential candidacies of Vice-President John C. Breckenridge of Kentucky and Senator Stephen Douglass of Illinois. As Wide Awakes blazed new political trails for the Republican party, the Democrats were at each others throats. Attempts to patch together a national Fusion ticket only further divided Democratic voters. At the polls in November, Lincoln accumulated 180 electoral votes against 72 for Breckenridge and 39 for John Bell, a conservative Whig from Tennessee who headed the Constitutional Union ticket. Sussex County, however, presented the Fusion ticket with a majority of 404 over Lincoln and gave the Fusion and Douglass electors a majority of 1,316. Partisan passions reached the combustion point when South Carolina seceded from the Union on December 20, 1860. Opposition to restoration of the Union by force of arms was visible from the get-go: on March 3, 1861, the eve of Lincoln's inauguration, a secession flag was hoisted above the Clerk’s Office on the Newton Green. Upon its discovery in the dawn’s early light, Moses McCollum, “boiling over with wrath at the sight, and after a long time spent in getting a long enough ladder to reach it, finally succeeded in getting it and tearing it into strips.”

Having parted company with their Southern brethren, northern Democrats needed to restore some semblance of unity amongst themselves, develop a program to deal with the national crisis and to organize for the achievement of their political goals. Over the next several years, Peace Meetings were held at Glenwood in Vernon, at Walpack Centre, on the Newton Green, and near Dingman’s Ferry, where the party faithful worked heartily to publicize their views and to elect their candidates to office. The conservatives gradually gained the upper hand and excommunicated the so-called War Democrats from their midst. At the Fourth District Democratic Convention, held at Morristown on October 16, 1862, the Honorable George T. Cobb declined to run upon a platform which declared that “the emancipation proclamation of President Lincoln was both unconstitutional and impolitic.” As planned, Newton lawyer Andrew “Jack” Rogers immediately stepped into the void and captured the regular Democratic nomination, much to the disgust of Democrats loyal to the government. These War Democrats, disenchanted with their party’s platform and candidate, joined Republicans in a mass convention where they heartily and unanimously nominated John Linn for Congress — the old party stalwarts, Thomas N. McCarter and Judge Martin Ryerson, gave speeches long remembered for their earnest, impassioned language. However, on Election Day, November 4, 1862, these Union men, branded as “damned abolitionists,” were set back at the polls: Democrat Joel Parker was elected Governor by a 14,000-vote majority; his majority in Sussex County being 1,958. Newton lawyer Andrew Jackson Rogers won election to the House of Representatives, receiving a majority of 1,290 votes in Sussex County and 2,297 in the District.

The new regime was not long in promoting its objectives. On February 26, the New Jersey Senate passed Peace Resolutions denouncing the war by a strict party vote, 12 to 8. On March 5, 1863, Assemblyman Jacob Vanatta introduced a bill to prevent immigration of Negroes and mulattos into New Jersey. Disenchantment seemed to be spreading and lists of deserters published in local newspapers grew ever longer. When the Peace Resolutions passed the Assembly by strict party vote, 28 to 15 (4 Republicans and 5 Democrats being absent), the editor of the Republican Register remarked how:

“The infamy of this base deed will cling to all concerned while life endures, and then be transmitted to their children, and their children’s children. The tories of the Revolutionary war had infinitely more manhood than the miserable cravens, in the present crisis, who lay their bellies in the dust, and implore Jeff Davis to hold his hand, and grant them a respite, that they may propose terms of surrender which will be acceptable to him and his fellow Rebels.”

These Peace Resolutions aroused the indignation of New Jersey soldiers at the front who complained of “fire in the rear.” Union Leagues were formed in Sussex County to combat the activities of the Knights of the Golden Circle. Alarmed at hostile public reaction to their Peace Resolutions, Democrats quickly and publicly stated that they did not intend to promote forcible resistance against the United States government and they wisely postponed further action on Vanatta’s Negro bill, on a bill permitting soldiers to vote, and on Thomas Dunn English’s bill placing New Jersey in an attitude of organized hostility to the National government.

Andrew “Jack” Rogers of Newton was the principal speaker at a Copperhead mass meeting held in Newark on May 30, 1863, where display of a Rebel flag with a portrait of the Copperhead Vallandigham nearly provoked a riot as invalid soldiers from the nearby Military Hospital tried to tear it down. On June 4th, 2,000 citizens of Sussex County attended a Copperhead meeting in Newton to protest the arrest of Clement L. Vallandigham and his expulsion to the Rebel lines. Barely two weeks after the decisive Union victory at Gettysburg in July, draft riots consumed New York City in four days of anarchy and death.

It took only a year of desperate fighting and appalling casualties for the Lincoln Administration to realize that a prolonged war of attrition could not be won by volunteers enlisted for nine-months’ service. In August 1862, a National draft for 300,000 men was ordered. Sussex County’s quota was 363 men. The Federal and state governments, township committees, and even private citizens of means, offered large bounties to attract enlistment and thereby fulfill quotas without resort to conscription. Whether from conscience or cowardice, others chose to flee and the ?skedaddle rangers? headed for Canada. Within weeks, however, the presence of volunteers, with their wives and sweethearts, made the village of Newton a very lively place and business was especially brisk at the photograph and ambrotype studios, as every soldier had his picture taken before departing for the front. The bounty for enlistment reached $818 in August 1863, of which $240 was paid at muster. On September 15, 1863, President Lincoln took the unprecedented step of suspending the writ of habeas corpus to prevent further obstruction of the draft.

Under all enlistment calls made from July 1863 to March 1864, Sussex County was required to supply 759 recruits. Of this number, 334 had been supplied by volunteers, and after deducting about 100 re-enlisted veterans, over 300 men were yet to be raised by the draft. Locally, lawyers capitalized on inequities in the draft laws by offering substitutes for $530. On April 6, 1864, Democrats in the New Jersey Assembly denied a petition to give soldiers in the field the right of suffrage, by strict party vote of 31 to 19, in order to protect their majority status. Bounty hunters and bounty jumpers were profiteering by the chaotic situation. On June 25, 1864, one draft substitute escaped by lowering himself from a window in the Sussex Court House.

The Presidential campaign of 1864 furthered enflamed local politics. On November 8, 1864, Lincoln and Johnson carried every state except for the border states of Delaware, Kentucky and New Jersey which voted for the Peace Democratic ticket headed by McClellan and Pendleton. New Jersey provided McClellan with a 7,402 vote majority. Sussex County voters chose McClellan over Lincoln by almost three to one. Jack Rogers was duly elected to Congress. On the eve of the vote, Jack Rogers and the Copperhead clique comfortably stationed themselves at the McClellan House, across the street from the Newton Depot and its telegraph office, to await the National election returns. Stunned by telegraph despatches of Lincoln’s victory, Jack Rogers promptly boarded the train for New York to get the “correct returns,” Meanwhile, Republicans gathered at the Cochran House to celebrate Lincoln’s re-election and also the fact that they had produced a majority for all of their candidates in Newton for the first time.

In the waning months of the war, stories of bounty jumpers, fraud and misfortune multiplied. Instead of paying $300 for a substitute, one Lafayette farmer drafted in July fled from home but was arrested in Pennsylvania and sent to the front for three years. In February 1865, it was reported that one township in Sussex County had been defrauded of $1,800 paid out to unscrupulous brokers who promised three draft substitutes to fulfill the township's quota.

On January 30, 1865, it was reported that Congressman Andrew J. Rogers feigned illness in order to avoid the vote for the Fifteenth Amendment to the Constitution that abolished slavery. On March 2nd, 1865, the New Jersey Legislature, voting along strict party lines, refused to ratify the Fifteenth Amendment.

Although Copperheads predicted economic collapse, the demand for a wide range of supplies under Government contracts fueled an unprecedented agricultural and industrial boom. Prices for calicoes, unbleached muslin, sugar, tea, wheat, printing paper, kerosene and tobacco reached record highs. In 1863, one Sussex County farmer with 200 acres marketed produce worth $5,000 — the value of farmland reached heights not equaled again until the last quarter century. Furthermore, within the last two weeks of March 1863 alone, the Federal government issued $39,720,000 in pay to the army, much of which found its way to myriad home towns, proving an enormous stimulus to trade. Bounty payments also provided the families of citizen soldiers with a fat nest egg.

Union troops finally entered the Confederate capital of Richmond, Virginia, on April 3, 1865. On the following day, the Reverend George W. Lloyd, pastor of the Branchville Presbyterian church — already well-known for his Unionist sentiments — recited his poem “The Devil in Dixie” before a Branchville audience. Someone actually shot at Reverend Lloyd in his own church, but fortunately the assassin’s hand was deflected just as he fired and the ball harmlessly penetrated the wall. President Lincoln was not so fortunate: on April 15, 1865, he was assassinated at Ford's Theater. On three successive days, businesses were closed and church services held throughout Sussex County to commemorate the slain President. But on April 28th, the Democratic organ, The New Jersey Herald , reported that some people had openly rejoiced at word of the assassination. Certainly news of Lee’s surrender and the collapse of the Confederacy did not abate political passions. On July 4, 1865, Independence Day celebrations at Belvidere, New Jersey, were broken up by Judge Jacob Sharp and his son-in-law who interpreted Reverend T. H. Landon’s invocation before the assembly of people as “an abolition prayer” and “a n***** political speech.” On August 28, 1865, three to four thousand citizens massed to hear Sussex County war hero, General Hugh Judson Kilpatrick, speak in Newton. The General, twice-wounded in combat, who led the Union Cavalry on Sherman’s March to the Sea, was shouted down by Democrats led by Herald editor, Henry C. Kelsey, and the notorious Copperhead, Andrew “Jack” Rogers.

An Unholy or Righteous Rebellion?
Our appreciation of the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument erected on the Newton Green in 1895 largely depends upon an understanding of the sour atmosphere in which the idea of such a memorial was originally conceived. The proposal for a Sussex County Heroes’ Monument was made even before the guns fell silent at Appomattox. On March 9, 1865, a bill to incorporate the Heroes’ Monument Association for the purpose of erecting a monument to the officers and soldiers from Sussex County “who have fallen in the military service in the suppression of the present unholy rebellion” was given its second reading in the State Assembly. Assemblyman William M. Iliff of Andover moved to strike out the word “unholy” from the motion. The Assembly concurred. A number of motions to insert adjectives in place of the word struck out were defeated. Mr. Cleaver of Essex County moved to insert the word “unjustifiable.” According to the report of the debate carried in the Sussex Register on May 18, 1865:

Mr. Cleaver said that the gentlemen seemed peculiarly squeamish in their choice of adjectives. He thought the rebellion unholy, wicked, causeless and unjustifiable but the majority had shown their views by rejecting all these words. It appears that even on the question of erecting a monument this aversion to condemning the rebellion is shown. W. M. Iliff said he was quite willing to meet the gentleman on the question. This bill was a local bill to authorize the erection of a monument to those who have fallen, and it is improper to place in such a bill anything that may be calculated to stir up strife in the future. It was unnecessary and was out of place in a law to go upon the statute book. The motion was lost by 17 to 20; the bill was then postponed.

Stripped of adjectival qualifiers, “An act to incorporate the Heroes’ Monument Association” was approved on April 6, 1865. The fifteen trustees were: John Linn, George H. Nelden, Dr. Charles V. Moore, Rev. Geo. Lloyd, Gabriel L. Dunning, Maj. Gen. Judson Kilpatrick, Thomas Lawrence, John Rutherford, Daniel Haines, Dr. Thomas Ryerson, Benjamin B. Edsall, Cyrus Leport, Isaac Bonnell, Whitfield S. Johnson, and John R. Pettit. They were empowered “to raise funds, procure land, and erect a suitable monument to the memory of the officers and soldiers from the county of Sussex who have fallen in the service of their country in the suppression of the present rebellion...”

The fifteen trustees named in the act of incorporation hardly represented a bipartisan council intended to incite “malice towards none and charity for all.” Instead, they comprised the hierarchy of the Unionist coalition of Whig-Republicans and War Democrats. At the Abolition State Convention on July 27,1865, which nominated Marcus L. Ward of Newark for Governor, General Kilpatrick had been named permanent President of the convention and would himself have been proclaimed the gubernatorial candidate except for his own inexplicable vacillation at the last minute. John Rutherford of Vernon represented Sussex County as a vice-president of the convention. He had recently been the Sussex Unionist candidate for State Senator. No individual, however, so provoked the ire of the Democratic leadership in Sussex County as the Deckertown war hero. In a single article published on July 27, 1865, reporting on the Abolition State Convention, the Herald decried Kilpatrick as a “Peacock General,” an “ungrateful, blustering braggadocio,” a “vain popinjay,” a “strutting bantam” and a “dancing Jim Crow.” The Democratic party organ had conceived an unrelenting distaste for his person, from start to finish, or as its editor succinctly put it: “From the day in 1861 when he offered to lead a mob to destroy the Herald office, to the hour in the late Abolition convention, when he declared that we deserved to be hanged from the same tree with Jeff. Davis...” Judge Martin Ryerson was a fallen Democrat who had departed the party during the Kansas controversy and organized the antislavery faction that later crystallized into the Republican party. He was an ardent and vocal Unionist — so much so that War Democrats were locally styled “Ryerson Democrats.” Whitfield S. Johnson was a Newton attorney and county prosecutor who served as New Jersey’s Secretary of State between 1861 and 1866. Dr. Thomas Ryerson was an Examining Surgeon for the Enrollment Board which oversaw implementation of the draft. Cyrus S. Leport was a Stanhope attorney who returned to Newton in August 1861 after several years’ sojourn in the West to become County Prosecutor of the Pleas. John Linn, born in Hardyston township, began his practice of law in Newton in 1850. An early supporter of the Union cause, he ran for Congress in the Fourth District against Democrat Andrew J. Rogers in 1862. George H. Nelden, resident on Liberty Street in Newton, manufactured stoves, plows and tools at his Newton foundry during the Civil War. He was a Van Burenite who later took an active role as a War Democrat. Dr. Charles V. Moore established his medical practice at Stillwater in 1845 and served as president of the District Medical Society of Sussex County in 1851. He long served as a director of the Sussex Bank. Gabriel L. Dunning, a druggist, served on the first Board of Directors of the Farmers’ National Bank of Deckertown in 1850. He was named, together with Thomas Lawrence and Levi Shepherd, as one of the commissioners to ascertain the amount of moneys raised and paid for soldiers’ bounties to volunteers credited to Newton Township, and to apportion the same between the two newly-formed townships of Andover and Hampton and the Town of Newton in 1864. Isaac Bonnell of Montague, a millwright in his younger days, became a devoted farmer who served in both the Assembly (1844) and the State Senate (1853-1855). As a Democrat, he supported Stephen Douglas in 1860 but voted for Lincoln in 1864 and thereafter remained a solid Republican. Thomas Lawrence of Hamburg was a State Senator in 1879-81. Judge Daniel Haines declined the Union-Republican nomination for Governor in August 1862 at the convention which then nominated Marcus L. Ward. Having published the act incorporating the Heroes’ Monument Association of Sussex County on the front page of its issue of June 1, 1865, the New Jersey Herald added an editorial comment of some interest, if only for its rare, if somewhat facetious, statement of agreement with its opposition newspaper, The Sussex Register:

“We entirely agree with the Register of last week, which in commenting on this subject, says that ‘in connection with the meeting on the Fourth of July of the Trustees appointed by the act incorporating the association, there should be held one of the most imposing Celebrations of our National Independence that ever took place in this town.’ It is some years since we have made anything like an attempt at celebrating this day in Newton. The occasion of the first meeting of these trustees should be a subject, like the monument, pertaining to the whole county, and in inaugurating it the whole county should participate. We are all interested; nearly every family in the county has lost a near and valued relative in the war, and all should become connected with the association intended for perpetuating their services in a public manner. It strikes us, therefore, that the great National Birthday and holiday is the day most appropriate for this inauguration, attended by a demonstration in keeping with the day and ceremonies belonging to it, and Newton is the only place in the county where this can conveniently be done.”

On June 22, 1865, The New Jersey Herald dutifully published the list of the original incorporators and trustees of the Association together with a notice that these gentlemen “were requested to meet at the office of Linn & Shepherd in Newton, at 2 o’clock p. m. on the Fourth of July to confer upon the question.”

The order of the day for the county celebration of the Fourth of July at Newton was hardly an encouragement to late-sleepers. The proceedings got underway at the crack of dawn when the National Flag was hoisted to a booming salute from the mouth of the old cannon on Academy Hill, followed by the grand cacophony of all the bells in town ringing for one hour. The weather was promising, as the day dawned “bright and beautiful, though rather warm.” Thousands thronged into Newton to attend the occasion. At 10:30 in the morning, a procession formed in front of the Cochran House under the direction of the Parade Marshall and his assistants. The Newton Fire Department “which was out in full force, and made a gallant appearance, as it always does” was the main attraction. Led by the Newton Cornet Band, they marched in grand style to Peck’s Grove near the Railroad Depot (present site of the Newton Cemetery on Sparta Avenue).

The Herald ‘s editor rather gratefully relayed that Dr. Craven, a Southerner who had emancipated his slaves years before the war, gave an oration that was “highly polished, and well written production, free from anything of the ‘spread eagle’ order, and in the main gave general satisfaction.” On the sensitive political issue of the day, the Herald noted: “Of course the subject of the negro was introduced, as it was to be expected, but the remarks were not offensive or calculated to have a political effect. The question was fairly argued, the strong points of both sides being presented...His remarks on other topics were of the usual character.” Moses Stoll “entered fully into the spirit of the document” in his spirited reading of the Declaration of Independence. The music was well-received. The order of exercises completed, the procession reformed and returned to the Cochran House where a public dinner was provided for all those who wished to partake. The published notice of the proceedings advised: “In the afternoon a meeting will be held in the Park, for the purpose of presenting to the people the claims of the ‘Heroes Monument Association of Sussex County.’ Speeches will be made by a number of gentlemen, including Maj.-Gen. Kilpatrick, who has encouraged the Committee to expect his presence on the interesting patriotic occasion.” The Herald reported on July 5th, that “The Heroes’ Monument Association was, after a great deal of trouble in getting together enough for a quorum, fairly organized.” Gabriel L. Dunning was elected president, and Benjamin B. Edsall, secretary. John Linn, Thomas Ryerson and Benjamin Edsall were then appointed as a committee to draft by-laws. It was further resolved that the officers would continue in their respective offices until a code of by-laws was approved and the association fully organized; that any five trustees would constitute a quorum for the transaction of ordinary business; and that the Board be adjourned to meet at the call of the Secretary. Hundreds of citizens, some having traveled a distance, remained after sunset to witness a traditional display of fireworks. The Committee which organized the events had promised that it would be “one of the most attractive exhibitions of pyrotechny ever given in Newton.” Unfortunately, a cloud burst intervened and dampened its conclusion. As always, the public display competed with private celebrations and “from many points in the streets, individuals were sending up rockets and Roman candles, and making the town luminous.” Church festivals were well attended, especially the Baptists’ stand in the County Park which was still thronged when darkness fell. The Presbyterians had a popular food concession in the Court House. The Herald’s editor admired the capacity of the crowd for refreshments, saying: “It seems wonderful what an amount of provender people will stow away on such an occasion.” He concluded that: “from the booming of the big gun on the hill at sunrise to the shower that ended the fireworks, the duty of the day went gloriously forward; after the that the duty of getting dry rather got the upper hand of things. The crowd that was in Newton was very great, amounting to thousands; good order generally prevailed and nothing took place to interfere with the general welfare, beyond a few resorts to fisticuffs to settle little accidental disputes. There was a few cases of inebriety, but not so many as usual in so large a crowd as gathered here." Henry Kelsey was only disappointed by the absence of his political nemesis, noting in its description of the organizational meeting of the Heroes’ Monument Association that: “Gen. Kilpatrick, from whom a speech on this subject was expected, why, we know not, was not at the celebration, but others made a few remarks.” In a final commentary upon the public monument, the Herald added: “We sincerely hope, now that this association is inaugurated, it will not be allowed to languish for want of attention." On July 20, 1865, the Democratic paper endorsed “the suggestion of certain musicians in this village...that a concert be given by parties in this village for the benefit of the Monument Association, by way of forming the nucleus of the fund for its erection." The proposal originated with Mr. E. I. Mohr who offered to conduct the concert and to contribute the use of his two Weber Pianos, then stationed in the Court House. Not only would the services of “other musicians, temporarily sojourning with us” be available, but also “the staging used in the late concerts still stands and doubtless the use of the Court Room will be given for this purpose.” The editor deemed the enterprise “reasonable and feasible” and concluded that: “This would not be the first worthy enterprise that has been sung into existence.” One week later, on July 27th, the Herald was “happy to announce that the Concert for the benefit of this patriotic memento of our brave soldiers, has been so far perfected that its coming off is a matter of certainty.” The date and price of admission had not been fixed with certainty, but hand bills then being prepared would announce the details. The concert was expected to be held in about a week and the editor noted that the subject was “one that appeals to every man, woman and child in the County, few of whom but have lost friends in the war, whose services and memory this proposed monument is intended to preserve for all time.” Without explanation, the benefit concert was canceled. Little or no notice was given the Heroes’ Monument Association. The projected veterans’ memorial quietly languished for thirty years.

The Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument
Interest in a Civil War monument revived when, on May 9, 1889, the Legislature authorized County Freeholders to augment money raised by private subscription for veterans’ memorials with public funds at a two-to-one ratio. On April 8, 1890, the Sussex Soldiers’ Monument Committee convened in the Director’s Room of the Merchants National Bank to re-awaken interest in the long-dormant project. By May of 1891, their treasurer, John C. Howell of Newton, reported that a total of $761 had been subscribed to the fund. Contributions were limited to $1.00 per name so that every man, woman and child could afford to add their name to the subscription list. Ultimately, $2,000 was raised by private subscription. A committee of the Grand Army Posts appeared before the Sussex County Board of Chosen Freeholders at their meeting on May 17, 1893 to request the matching funds authorized by State legislation. The Freeholders accordingly appropriated $4,000. The monument cost $5,600 and $400 for the iron fence enclosing it.

The 90-ton Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument on the County Green was designed by mason and contractor, Anthony F. O’Donnell of Newton, together with Tayntor & Company of New York. The foundation of stone and cement stands 9 feet tall while the height of the entire monument is 33 feet. The soldier atop the castellated pile is carved from Westerly Granite, stands 8 feet tall and weighs 800 pounds. The main structure is fashioned from Quincy Railway Granite and the bottom base weighs 24 tons. The monument faces Main Street and bears the inscription: “Erected by a grateful people to commemorate the services and sacrifices of soldiers and sailors in the War of the Rebellion.” On the front of two of the bases, the inscriptions read: “Defenders of the Union 1861-1865.” The panels on the sides bear the insignia of artillery, cavalry, infantry and navy and the names of battles in which Sussex soldiers participated: Brandy Station, Cedar Creek, Aldil, Opequan, Culpepper, Five Forks, Appomattox, Malvern Hill, Salem Heights, Petersburg, Crampton Pass, Spottsylvania, Roanoke Island, Cold Harbor, Williamsburg, Fair Oaks, Gaines Mills, Fredericksburg, Chancelorsville, Gettysburg, Snickers Gap and Winchester.

Mingled Strains
The memorial was dedicated on Monument Day, Thursday, September 5, 1895, before the largest single gathering of local Union veterans in Newton since the war’s end and an audience estimated at 8,000 onlookers. Festivities commenced at 11 o'clock, when veterans, together with their wives and guests, marched to refreshment tables under tents set on the lawn of the Presbyterian Church. At 1:30 p.m., the parade led by Colonel John A. Wildrick of Belvidere, Parade Marshall, began its march through the streets of Newton with Grand Army of the Republic Posts from Branchville, Newton, Sparta, and Deckertown. The Newton Drum Corps and Buglers together with Cornet Bands from Andover, Franklin, Hamburg and Newton provided music along the line of march. The Newton Fire Department composed the end of the line of march. At the Park, ceremonies commenced with James H. Treloar of the Franklin band leading the united bands in a performance of “Marching Through Georgia.” The committees of Veterans, the Board of Freeholders and invited guests occupied a speaker’s platform facing the monument. Captain Lewis VanBlarcom delivered an introductory speech on behalf of the Monument Committee. As the bands played “Battle Cry of Freedom,” the flag enfolding the monument was removed by H. J. Carrick who had supervised placement of the monument in the Park for contractors Tayntor & Company of New York. Reverend E. A. Hamilton gave the address of acceptance. After a rendition of “Tramp, Tramp, the Boys are Marching,” the Honorable Amos J. Cummings of New York delivered the principal oration of the day. He was a native of Hampton Township who was then a Congressman from New York City. The hearts of the audience were warmed by a roll call of the dead which included the names of Sussex soldiers such as General Judson Kilpatrick, Henry Ogden Ryerson, Thomas R. Haines, Virgil Brodrick, George V. Griggs and James Walker. Warm tribute was paid to the “citizen soldiers” of Sussex County who had rescued the Nation in its darkest hour. In tribute to the reunited country, the bands then mingled the strains of Dixie and the Battle Hymn of the Republic.

Copyright 2000 Kevin W. Wright. All rights reserved.