Greetings Cosmic Americans!
Yesterday, I had a few words to say about an important Philadelphia landmark - the GAR museum. In keeping with the Philly theme, today I want to talk briefly about a Civil War monument – and the veterans who stood behind its message.
Union veterans held fast to their cause and commemorated their fight to restore the Union and end slavery. Well into the twentieth century, long after Americans were supposed to have marginalized the slavery issue, veterans still deemed their fight a moral rectitude. One significant example of Union veterans’ commemorative efforts during the last days of organized Civil War veteran activity ensconced the meaning of the war from a Union perspective in a very public site of historical memory.
Late in the 1920s, the few surviving members of GAR posts in and around Philadelphia witnessed the dedication of the Keystone State’s Soldiers and Sailors Memorial. Completed in 1927, Hermon Atkins MacNeil’s twin 40-foot pylons were intended as a gateway to Philadelphia’s Parkway Gardens. Eventually moved, they now serve as the ceremonial entrance to the upper Benjamin Franklin Parkway.
Conspicuously, although strangely overlooked by scholars, the inscription on one tower recalls a virtuous fight to grant freedom to a race in chains. Looking from the south side of the Parkway, west of 20th Street, the inscription reads: “In giving freedom to the slave we assure freedom for the free.” In the late 1920s, a clearer message could not be found anywhere in the country. Union veterans did not forget the emancipationist cause. And for those who care to look, they continue to remind Americans of their fight on a daily basis.
So if you happen to be heading up the Parkway on the way to the Museum of Art to have a go at recreating the epic scene from Rocky, slow down a bit and have a look at this magnificent memorial.