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Old Glory

June 1, 2015 | Pam Powell, photo archivist at Chester County Historical Society.

West Chester, PA — Marking the 50th anniversary of the end of the Civil War, the Chester County Commissioners unveiled the Soldiers, Sailors and Marines Monument on the lawn of the Chester County Courthouse on June 11, 1915. Billed as the greatest celebration in the history of West Chester Borough, 35,000 people turned out for the event.

The process to erect the monument began in 1898, when a petition signed by 1,076 supporters was presented at the Court of Quarter Sessions. According to the Pennsylvania Act of 1895, the county commissioners were authorized to erect a monument to the soldiers of the War of the Rebellion when two successive grand juries endorsed a petition of 50 or more signatures.

It wasn’t until 1903 that the grand jury granted its approval. Then after years of turmoil with various architects and designers, it was Harry Lewis Raul of Easton who created the final design at a cost of $20,000 (about $465,000 in today’s dollars).

The influential citizens of the day planned two days worth of patriotic pageantry and celebration. Horace A. Beale, owner of Parkesburg Iron Co., organized the unveiling. P.M. Sharples, owner of the Sharples Separator Co., arranged the social functions. Marine Corps Major Smedley Darlington Butler, the highly decorated West Chester native, arranged for the First Brigade and Marine Corp Band to participate.

Two days before the unveiling, 1,600 Marines of the First Brigade arrived by ferryboat at Marcus Hook and marched to West Chester under the command of Col. L.W.T. Waller. An advance company had set up the soldier’s camp at P.M. Sharples’ Greystone estate in West Goshen. The Daily Local News of June 9, 1915, warned the public that the soldiers had the privilege of skinny-dipping in Sharples Lake.

Promotional PosterThe day before the unveiling was full of entertainment. At 2pm the Independent baseball club played against the Marines at Sharples Park. The Independents won with a score of 3-2 and were treated to dinner by the Marines.

The West Chester Golf and Country Club held a dinner dance for the officers and their wives that night. The enlisted men, meanwhile, were treated to “moving pictures” shown in Sharples’ grove.

At 7:30pm the Marine Band performed a concert under electric lights at Everhart Park. The $1 tickets (about $23 in modern money) helped the commissioners defray the costs of the unveiling.

P.M. Sharples gave a formal reception for Col. and Mrs. Waller at Greystone beginning at 9pm. Twelve hundred prominent people from across the Delaware Valley enjoyed cake and ice cream, dancing until midnight.

The events of June 11 were well choreographed. They began with a box lunch given at the YMCA for the surviving 500 Civil War veterans representing eight Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) posts, including two African-American posts. Among the guests were three octogenarians: J. Hoopes Matlack, Jefferson Shaner and Joseph Sweeney. William J. McCaskey proudly wore his original Zouave uniform.

The other military participants had lunch at the Market House (where the Justice Center Garage is now located). A woman’s committee made 8,200 sandwiches production line style and assembled the box lunches. The Chester County Prison (where the Justice Center now stands) supplied 3,000 hard-boiled eggs for the effort.

At 12:30pm the veterans marched to their reserved seats on the courthouse lawn. The Daily Local News reported in a special edition that when the “gray and grizzled veterans” appeared, the crowd burst into applause. In the crowd were widows, children and grandchildren of soldiers who had passed.

Horace Beale opened the ceremonies and the Rev. Jay Dickerson of West Chester Methodist Church offered the invocation. The first speaker was West Chester lawyer W. W. MacElree who gave a short history of the monument and spoke of its importance. According to a transcript printed in the Daily Local News, June 12, 1915, MacElree proclaimed “Would that we could unveil our hearts as well. Veterans! No monument can adequately express our feelings of your deeds.”

The monument was unveiled by Ethel Peters Butler, the 9-year-old daughter of Major Smedley Butler. The child was described by observers as quiet, but calm and poised, as she grasped the cord and pulled. Two American flags moved aside and the statue titled Old Glory was revealed. The bronze figure of a soldier holds a battle flag in one hand, and an unsheathed bayonet in the other. A bronze plaque on the base bears a quote from Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. A second plaque, produced before the June 11 date was chosen, gave the unveiling date as Memorial Day 1915. Major Butler donated two cannons to stand on either side the monument.

Capt. William S. Underwood of the McCall Post of the GAR gave the acceptance speech thanking the commissioners and the community. The memorial address was given by Congressman George S. Graham of Philadelphia, a popular orator of the day. He lauded the veterans for their defense of the Union and according to the Philadelphia Ledger of June 12, 1915, said, “the international crisis of today demanded a no less patriotic consecration of lives to the nation’s service.” He alluded to the possibility of the United States becoming involved in World War I.

Old Glory unveiling June 11, 1915  Unveiling Old Glory, 1915

Image: Courtesy of Chester County Historical Society.

The unveiling was followed by a military parade 45-blocks long which wove through the streets on a five-mile route. Businesses and private homes were decorated with flags and yards of bunting. Parade marshal Col. Waller led the Marines, National Guard of Pennsylvania, Spanish-American War veterans and two parade bands past crowds on sidewalks and front porches.

Volunteers who had automobiles transported the GAR veterans to the Sharples estate for a review of the Marines. Sharples treated the veterans to a dinner party in the pergola of his gardens. Black and white veterans alike feasted and talked of old times.

As the sun set that hot evening, the music of the Marine Band in Everhart Park brought to the close the day’s ceremonies. It took 17-years of preparation, but Old Glory finally took his place to remind us of the contributions the Union Civil War veterans made.

First published July 18, 2008.

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Harry Lewis RaulCompiled by Malcolm Johnstone

Harry Lewis Raul was an esteemed artist of his day. He was born in Easton, Pennsylvania in 1883 and died in Washington, DC in 1960. Old Glory is a cast bronze sculpture that was actually created in 1911 for Lansdowne, PA as the Soldiers’ Monument of Delaware County. That deal apparently did not work out and the statue came to West Chester instead. The copyright date on the statue is both 1911 and 1914.

From the moment the scupture was unveiled, it received positive remarks. A review from the American Stone Trade, July 1, 1915, is typical:

Old Glory is of heroic size, the flag bearer being 8-feet tall and his standard 11-feet high. The youth is represented standing sturdily defiant and bareheaded. His handsome, manly face is alight with high courage and determination.

“Especially to be noted is the original treatment of the flag. The fabric flows away in graceful folds from the staff the young soldier holds with a grasp that is ready to lift it aloft, passes around him like a mantle and drapes over his shoulder, imparting a reciprocal patriotic idea that the youth is protected by the flag he is protecting.

“Considered technically, the work is of detailed interest in the clever representation of textures in the flag and the successful hinting at color. Like all this sculptor’s work, this statue is full of action momentarily arrested, and it has lifelike quality arising from the conscientious way in which the artist founds all he does firmly on visual reality. With that as a starting point he works on imaginatively until he attains in the work a quality of ideality.

“In the instance of Old Glory, although only the hands and head of the model are exposed, Mr. Raul made carefully studied and finished models in the nude. Then he placed the drapery upon this foundation. The result is an illusion of an inspiring, springy figure within the clothes.

“All too often in such a work is there a lack of this illusion of a form within the clothes. The whole conception conveys a stirring impression of a youth poised ready to leap into instant action upon command.

Old Glory with bayonet“This statue, like other works by Mr. Raul, does not fritter away strength upon non-essentials (see image by Harry Lewis Raul, courtesy of Chester County Historical Society). One feels that the sculptor ruthlessly suppressed many interesting details in order to secure a single grand effect. This may be noted in the sweeping harmony of the line between the flag fold over the shoulder, and the contour of the right leg.

“There is strength in the use of pillar and triangle forms in the design. Note the even disposition of the weight upon both feet and the direction of the feet. A soldier standing thus is ready instantly to dash forward or to the right or left, or fall sturdily back if pressed upon by overwhelming numbers.

“The bronze cast was by the Roman Bronze Works, Brooklyn, NY. The granite pedestal was quarried and cut by Jones Bros. Co., Barre, VT. The monument was set by D. J. Howell’s Sons, of Easton, PA.”

Bareheaded and unsheathed
The sculpture is set apart from other works of the day in at least two ways: first, a bareheaded soldier was almost unheard of. In fact, the style of the day was that virtually everyone wore hats to identify their station in life or the occasion of the moment.

Second, a far more curious aspect of the sculpture is that of the bayonet. Originally, the unsheathed bayonet appears in the right-hand of the model. At some point after the dedication, it disappeared along with the two cannon Smedley Butler had contributed. It has not been determined whether the bayonet was removed or vandalized. The separation point is only somewhat clean but no attempt to restore it to the artist’s original intent appears to have been made.

The total height of the monument is 19-feet. Its scale and height seem to be in perfect balanced to the Courthouse that frames the monument.

And finally, if the daily clicking of camera shutters is any indication, it is by far the most popular of the many points-of-interest that the Borough has to offer.

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Old Glory Centennial Recognition  CENTENNIAL
Pictured from left: Commissioner Michelle Kichline, President Judge Jacqueline Cody, Commissioner Terence Farrell, Commissioner Kathi Cozzone

On June 11, 2015, exactly 100-years-ago to the day, the Chester County Commissioners and President Judge formally recognized the 100th anniversary of the unveiling and dedication of one of Chester County’s iconic figures, the Old Glory statue.

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There is a significance to me and my family beyond the timeless artistic and patriotic expression of Harry Lewis Raul’s sculpture.

150-years before the centennial recognition of “Old Glory” — on June 5, 1865 — my great-grandfather, John A. Johnstone, had the privilege of commanding the U.S.S. Cornubia as the Flagship for Captain B.F. Sands, commander of the West Gulf Squadron in the final days of the Civil War.

The following report is the official account from the Civil War records written by Captain Sands:

“On the morning of June 5th [1865] I hoisted my divisional pennant on the U. S. S. “Cornubia.” I crossed the bar at the entrance to Galveston Harbor, and in company with Commanders Stevens and Downes and Lieutenant-Commander Wilson, with my orderly and Chief Quartermaster Knight, I landed in Galveston, and was met upon the wharf by the Mayor of the city, Van Horten, who conducted us to his office, followed by a large number of the citizens.

“Arriving at his office the Mayor made an address to the assembled citizens, informing them that I had come ashore to hoist the flag of the Union over the public property, and expressing the hope that good order would be preserved and continued.

“I then spoke a few words to them, expressing my hope and confidence that nothing would thenceforth occur to disturb the harmonious feelings that should now prevail, and that, the surrender having been made, we were all once more together under the old flag, which it was my pleasant duty to hoist again over Galveston, a ceremony which it would be their duty to carry on in the future. We then proceeded to the custom-house and there hoisted our flag, which now, at last, was flying over every foot of our territory, this being the closing act of the great rebellion.”

Later, on June 19, 1865, Union Gen. Gordon Granger issued an order in Galveston stating the Emancipation Proclamation was in effect in Texas. That event, later celebrated as Juneteenth confirmed the end of slavery in what was once again a unified country.

For me, Old Glory is a daily reminder of the pride my family shares of the contribution that John A. Johnstone, and so many others like him, made during the Civil War. A Scottish immigrant, he chose to support the cause of unity and abolition for his new found country by joining the Union Navy in 1861. He was an ambitious officer and eventually gained the rank of Acting Volunteer Lieutenant Commander. Just after the war ended, he married an abolitionist from Virginia, my great-grandmother Saadi deClifford, who also supported the Union cause, acting as a nurse at several battlefields. — Malcolm Johnstone

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See Michael Rellahan’s article at Daily Local News

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