MONROE — The Union soldier standing guard over the Monroe Village Cemetery is feeling the ravages of time.
The base of the 18-foot-tall zinc monument was damaged during last year’s ice storm and the infantryman is tilting on his base.
More than 150 men from Monroe served in the Civil War, and those veterans were responsible for the memorial. The group’s descendants intend to keep it standing tall.
“We’ve raised about $8,000 locally and we’re hoping for a grant award from the federal Save Outdoor Sculpture program,” First Selectman Charles Francis said this week. “This is the heritage of the town and we want to preserve it.”
Francis said a monument preservation firm has estimated restoration costs at $15,000. He said one Save Outdoor Sculpture grant is awarded to each state annually. He said the town’s application has competition and may not be selected.
“If that happens the people of Monroe will just work harder at raising the needed money. We are committed to preserving this monument,” Francis said.
Francis said the monument is relatively rare in New England. It was cast of refined zinc by the White Bronze Co. of Bridgeport, Conn., and was the first of its type erected in Maine. Over the years another nine of similar design were dedicated in Maine town squares and cemeteries, but just four remain. Scattered throughout the cemetery are smaller zinc monuments that mark the individual graves of Civil War veterans.
Five Monroe men were killed in action during the Civil War, and another 25 succumbed to disease. Seven veterans who returned to their hometown formed the Monroe Soldiers Monument Association to honor the town’s war dead and those who served in defense of the Union. Descendants of the seven-member committee still reside in town.
The names of the town’s Revolutionary War and War of 1812 veterans are also engraved on the monument. The Monroe Soldiers Monument Association dedicated the monument on May 30, 1887. Veterans from the entire Penobscot Valley were honored during that Memorial Day dedication.
The monument is 5 feet square at its base. The cap-and-die base rests on a rough ashlar, a squared block of building stone. On the four sides of the cap are the words, “Appomattox, Port Hudson, Gettysburg and the Wilderness,” the principal Civil War engagements in which soldiers of the Penobscot Valley participated.
The panels of the die bear 244 names in raised letters. Of two from the Revolution, one is that of a mulatto woman who posed as a man and served as a drummer boy before her identity was discovered and she was reassigned as a staff orderly. She is buried in another town cemetery. Forty-four are names of those who fought in the War of 1812. The rest are names of Civil War veterans from the Penobscot Valley region.
Stamped on the base is the dedication, “The perpetual memory of the defenders of the Union, 1861-1865.”
The monument was shipped by rail from Connecticut in three sections, Francis said. The sections were unloaded from the Belfast & Moosehead Lake Railroad in Brooks, then taken to the Monroe cemetery by two teams of horses.
Twenty-six slabs of granite formed the monument’s base, and a derrick was used to lift the pieces and soldier into place.
Francis said the restorer will remove the soldier using the same method. The entire monument will be polished with pressure-driven crushed walnut shells, then covered with a preservative. The soldier will receive a stainless steel base.
“Besides being responsible for this monument, the Civil War veterans also donated their bonus to the town to build the town hall that stands today,” Francis said. “They were really a dedicated group. We want to continue that dedication by preserving what they have given this town.”