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Civil War Monuments in Kansas

Memorial Hall construction, 1912A granite soldier statue, located in the Topeka Cemetery, honors Civil War soldiers who fought in the Battle of the Blue. Like many others scattered throughout Kansas, these monuments honor those who made Kansas the "soldier state" due to the number of veterans who moved here after the war.

Memorial Hall in downtown Topeka, which served as home for the Kansas Historical Society for 80 years, is the largest monument to Union veterans in Kansas. Construction of the building began in 1911, using money from the federal government as war claims compensation for Civil War losses. For many years the second floor of the building served as headquarters for the state department of the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR), a national organization of Union veterans. The Historical Society developed the remainder of the building into a state museum and archives, and eventually gained use of the second floor as the GAR's ranks gradually thinned.

Of the many Kansas war memorials, Civil War monuments are the most numerous. They vary considerably and primarily consist of statues, obelisks, and cannons. Erected mainly from 1886 to 1918, they are commonly found on courthouse lawns, in city parks, or in public cemeteries, accompanied by a flagpole and surrounded by veterans' graves. Cannons come in all sizes, ranging from small mountain howitzers in the Emporia city cemetery to an enormous coastal defense cannon guarding the library in downtown Newton. A number of cannons were sacrificed during World Wars I and II scrap metal drives. The cannon from the town of Holton is one example but with a unique twist to its story: although the original cannon was taken during World War II, it was replaced by a replica now located, as the original was, in a corner of the courthouse lawn.

Civil War soldier statues probably attract the most interest, standing "at rest" and imparting a sense of serene dignity. The majority of the statues were sculpted of stone; most are granite, with a few made from less durable limestone and marble. A handful are made of bronze, smithed rather than cast, with most or all of them coming from the well-known W.H. Mullins Company of Salem, Ohio. Two statues, in Bronson and Kingman, are made of zinc, popularly known as white bronze.

Although nearly all Kansas statues were made in factories and sold commercially, often through mail-order catalog sales, Kansas has one splendid monument made of hand-molded concrete. Located in the Kinsley cemetery, it features four soldiers and a "Victory goddess" constructed in 1917 by a local man, D. A. Lester. Lester's statues are strikingly reminiscent of the fanciful concrete statuary created by another Civil War veteran barely a hundred miles away at the remarkable Garden of Eden in Lucas, causing one to wonder if there was contact between the two artists.

Entry: Civil War Monuments in Kansas


Date Created: April 2009

Date Modified: February 2013

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