Project to Relocate the General George Gordon Meade Equestrian Monument, West Fairmount Park
|General George G. Meade Equestrian Monument by Alexander Milne Calder. Fairmount Park Art Association Unveiling of Statue Major General George G.
Meade Oct. 18. 1887.
General Alexander Webb, Gettysburg hero, Medal of Honor recipient and Meade's Chief of Staff, referred to General Meade as, "The soul of honor, the soldier, scholar and gentleman"
General George Gordon Meade was the victor of one of the greatest, most famous and pivotal battles of the Civil War, - Gettysburg. Meade's equestrian monument in rear of Memorial Hall in West Fairmount Park, Philadelphia, PA depicts the great hero at Gettysburg. The Monument was unveiled on October 18th, 1887. His friend and president of the Commissioners of Fairmount Park, the Honorary George H. Boker, spoke of Meade's devotion to Fairmount Park in his dedication speech.
"Standing here with the beautiful park which he loved so well stretching about us, growing more and more into beauty with the passing seasons, let me recall to you the fact that General Meade was a member of our commission from its origin until the day of his death. To him more than to any other single man; we owe the admirable arrangement of the drives, the rides and the walks of our spacious public pleasure grounds. Early and late, in fair weather and in foul, the stately form of General Meade was seen, mounted or on foot, studying the topography of what used to be the park, planning the various ways of access to its best features, blending together its incongruous details and reducing all to that harmony, which was pictured within his own cultural imagination."
The monument was sculpted by Alexander Milne Calder after a design competition announced in 1880. 16 designs were received and Calder won first prize although his second redesigned sculpture was the one commissioned and erected. Starting in 1884, it took Mr. Calder 2 1/2 years to sculpt the statue. It was cast by Henri Bonnard in New York City, using captured Confederate cannon for the bronze. Calder rendered General Meade sharply reining in his horse at a moment of crisis during the battle. He is gazing out across the contested field ready to order an advance into elements of the attacking enemy.
General John Gibbon, friend and army commander, remarked in his oration at the Dedication ceremony, "We are gathered here today, nearly fifteen years after this distinguished soldier crossed the great river, to inaugurate in his honor, this fitting memorial to his bravery and distinguished services as a soldier, his high toned honorable character as a man and his virtues and integrity as a citizen of this great republic."
George Boker concluded in his speech that Meade would be remembered, "with the few great names that, in the lapse of endless time, will survive and keep alive the memory of our Civil War. Among them, one of the highest, the purist, and the most illustrious, will be that of George Gordon Meade"
At the dedication Speech of another Meade Memorial in Washington DC in October 1927, President Calvin Coolidge honored Meade, "Like most great soldiers he was devoted to peace not war........... The conflict in which he took such an important part has long since passed away. The peace which he loved has come. The reconciliation which he sought is complete. The loyalty to the flag which he followed is universal. Through all of this shines his own immortal fame."
General Meade embodies a soul of Honor, a consummate soldier, scholar and gentleman. He did his duty and is at rest.
It is unfortunate that the magnificent monument of our greatest Philadelphia war hero is now almost utterly forgotten, unvisited and in an obscure place where few if any can ponder Meade’s stellar career and recall his gallant exploits that save the Nation at Gettysburg. Time has conspired to cloak this great man and his memorial in obscurity on a site that was previously long ago, a popular destination, but is now relegated to the background, little visited, nor admired, a silent sentinel crying out for recognition.
Originally, the monument was considered for placement on the West front of City Hall. But, due to Meade's considerable contributions to the design of his beloved Fairmount Park, it was finally decided to place the monument there, at a time and place where traffic and crowds brought deserved recognition to the humble hero. Through the intervening years this situation has changed to his detriment, and now the spot is rarely visited.
In 1913, at the 50th Anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg, concerned citizens and veterans' groups petitioned unsuccessfully for relocation of the monument to its original destination: City Hall.
With the advent of the Sesquicentennial (150th Anniversary) of the Civil War Era, increased attention and focus are being placed on all historic sites dealing with Civil War history. Philadelphia's critical and considerable role in that tragic era will create ever more interest, study and visitation to the city. It is therefore not only advisable to relocate the Meade Equestrian Monument to the West Front of City Hall, but a PR bonanza for Philadelphia and history aficionados world wide, as well as a patriotic statement advancing the memory of our greatest war hero, and righting an historic wrong.
Please join with me and thousands of like-minded citizens in petitioning the relocation of the Meade Equestrian Monument to the West Front of City Hall in time for the advent of the Sesquicentennial of the Civil War in 2011!