Civil War Monument
Backstory and Context
Only 13 years after Girard College first opened, the United States erupted into civil war. A number of young men within the small and growing pool of the school’s alumni served in the military during the war. The vast majority of Girard College alumni joined the Union Army, while a small handful fought for the Confederate Army. Many recent alumni were apprenticed to master tradesmen or artisans at the time, and left their work either with or without their employer’s permission to serve. About 75% of the former students who already completed their apprenticeship had also enlisted. All students currently enrolled in Girard College were below the minimum age required to enter military service, although some left the school or ran away to serve in the war as well. Legally, boys under 18 years of age could only enlist with parental permission, but students without their mother’s permission could lie about their name and age. Over 160 former students fought in the Civil War, and 29 boys died in the Union Army.
Shortly after the war’s end, Girard College’s Board of Directors made plans to erect a monument on campus honoring former students who had died serving in the Union Army. William Struthers and Sons was commissioned to construct the monument, while local sculptor Joseph A. Bailey created the statue figure. The Civil War memorial was initially funded by the bequest of Lawrence Todd, an Illinois farmer who had visited Girard College in the early years of its operation and left a total of almost 20,000 dollars in his will to the school. However, the Board of Directors later decided against using outside donations for campus expenses that did not directly benefit students. The 6,000 dollars used from the Todd bequest was re-paid to the fund, and the monument was instead funded by Girard College alumni.
The finished Soldiers’ Monument was unveiled on November 24, 1869. The newly organized Battalion and Band of Girard College made their first official performances at the monument’s unveiling ceremony. The four student military companies conducted a march, while the student band performed a dirge. The Civil War monument was installed on the grounds west of Founder’s Hall. It featured the white marble statue of a young man dressed in a soldier’s uniform, with both hands grasping his musket. The soldier stood on a pedestal placed on top of the sandstone base of the monument. Four shield-shaped plaques were mounted on each side of the base. The front tablet featured a quote from the will of the school’s founder, Stephen Girard. The left and right tablets listed the names of 24 known former students who had died in service of the Union, along with where they had died. A dedication statement for these alumni soldiers was inscribed on the back tablet. A canopy over the statues was decorated with a relief of the Philadelphia coat of arms on the front, the US coat of arms on the back, and scholastic emblems on the left and right.
Four decades after its installation, the Soldiers’ Monument had begun to deteriorate: the monument’s soft stone material was gradually eroding, the soldier’s musket had fallen into pieces, and there was danger of the canopy collapsing. By 1913, the Board of Directors agreed to replace the crumbling old memorial with a new Civil War monument. J. Massey Rhind, who had previously created the Stephen Girard statue currently located outside the Philadelphia Art Museum, was selected to sculpt the new monument to commemorate both the army soldiers and marine sailors that fought in the war. The old Soldiers’ Monument was removed in 1914 and the new Soldiers and Sailors’ Monument was placed at the same location and unveiled at the Founder’s Day celebration. The replacement monument featured bronze statues of two young men standing together. One is dressed as a soldier and carries a Union flag in his hands, while the other is dressed as a US marine. The statues are placed atop a tall granite base engraved with the following statement: "In memory of the pupils of Girard College who enlisted in the contest for the preservation of the American union". Bronze tablets on the other three sides of the pedestal list the names of 164 alumni Union soldiers and the names of 29 known alumni who died in the Union Army. The names of these alumni soldiers were collected by living Girard College alumni and surviving veterans. The seven known former students who had fought for the Confederacy were purposefully omitted from the monument.
The soldier statue and the shield-shaped plaques of the old Soldiers’ Monument were safely stored away in the basement of Founder's Hall. Today, the Soldiers and Sailors’ Monument can still be seen standing at its original location to the west of Founder’s Hall. This monument, along with the World Wars monument, is decorated each year during the Memorial Day service.
Bunker, Gil. “Civil War Soldiers' Memorial”, The American Legion. July 3, 2017. Accessed July 23th 2020. https://www.legion.org/memorials/238044/civil-war-soldiers-memorial.
Bunker, Gil. “Soldiers' and Sailors' Monument”, The American Legion. July 3, 2017. Accessed July 23th 2020. https://www.legion.org/memorials/238045/soldiers-and-sailors-monument.
Girard College, Twenty-Second Annual Report of the Board of Directors of the Girard College of Orphans. For the Year 1869. Philadelphia, PA. 1870.
Girard College. President's Reports and Catalogue of Pupils - Girard College, The City of Philadelphia, Trustee. Philadelphia, PA.
Herrick, Cheesman A. History of Girard College. Philadelphia, PA. Girard College, 1927.
"Girard College. Grounds and statue. [graphic].", The Library Company of Philadelphia. Accessed July 23th 2020. https://digital.librarycompany.org/islandora/object/digitool%3A99583?solr_nav%5Bid%5D=784f25f1bc0db2b04fc2&solr_nav%5Bpage%5D=0&solr_nav%5Boffset%5D=21.
Cheesman A. Herrick, History of Girard College, Page 307.
Girard College Historical Collections.
Cheesman A. Herrick, History of Girard College, Page 306.
Girard College Historical Collections.