150 Years of Freedom

Emancipation of the Slaves

Emancipation of the Slaves

My wife and I spent Fourth of July week in Cleveland, visiting friends and stepping onto some of the sets of my next novel. One was the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument on Public Square downtown, which at 125 feet high, is dwarfed by skyscrapers: 200 Public Square (658 ft), Terminal Tower (708 ft), and Key Tower (947 ft—nineteenth tallest in U.S.).  The memorial, which commemorates local men and women who served in the Civil War, opened on July 4 1884.  Architect Levi Scofield designed it and created the sculptures.

Soldiers' and Sailors' Monument - Cleveland, Ohio

Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument – Cleveland, Ohio

Atop its granite shaft, a bronze Goddess of Freedom holds a Shield of Liberty. At ground level are sculptures of a cavalry unit fighting with pistols and sabers, an infantry color guard, an artillery unit, and a Navy mortar team with an African American sailor helping load a mortar. Inside the Memorial, beneath the shaft, are four bronze reliefs representing the “Women’s Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Aid Society,” “Beginning of the War in Ohio,” “The End of the War—the Peacemakers at City Point, Va.,” and “Emancipation of the Slave,” Lincoln holding up the shackles of a kneeling slave and handing him a rifle. The walls of the room are inscribed with the names of the more than 9000 residents of  Cuyahoga County (greater Cleveland) who served in the Civil War, 1700 of whom died in the effort.

Names of 9000 from Cleveland who fought in the Civil War

Names of 9000 Clevelanders who fought in the Civil War

In my novel, black teenager Walter whispers to two white friends inside the memorial, “Mr. Lincoln setting Negroes free—it makes this a sacred space. This and that lady on top, holding that liberty shield…. Can you feel the spirit of freedom in this room?… It’s thick in here. It comes down the shaft from that lady on top and out of this sculpture and all those names… The question is: a hundred years after emancipation, are we free?”  [novel takes place in 1960]

Docent Tim Leslie July 3, 2013

Docent Tim Leslie
July 3, 2013

I also felt humbled to be in that place, surrounded by those names, and feeling their sacrifice. I enjoyed talking with docent Tim Leslie. Thanks, Tim, for a great tour.

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2 Responses to 150 Years of Freedom

  1. Ginny says:

    Very interesting.

  2. Impressive and thought-provoking. I’ve never been to Cleveland, so did not know that this beautiful monument existed. The reference to City Point, VA, caught my eye, because I have a cousin who lived one long block from the Point. Their house looked right out onto the part of the James River where Lincoln, on a boat down from Washington and sensing the impending defeat of the Confederates, instructed his generals (I think they were Grant and Sherman) to “let ’em up easy.” As has often been pointed out, with the assassination of Lincoln, the South lost the best friend it had. Dick, this post is a sweet little addition to all I (used to) know about the Civil War. Good luck with the novel. I won’t divulge the title, but will let you, when you are ready, pull the drape from off the statue. ~ Stanford Pritchard

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