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Soldiers Circle and the

Bronze Soldier Memorial

We are grateful for the help of the following individuals for their time, information, resources, and help in completing this restoration project:

Linda and the late John Asmonga, for their incredible wealth of knowledge and exhaustive research about the veterans buried within the Circle. Without them, many of these men would still be nameless. 

Mr. Frank Jastrzembski, of Shrouded Veterans, a nonprofit mission to identify and repair the graves of Mexican and Civil War veterans. Without his help, we would not have found much of the supporting information needed to successfully replace the headstones of eligible veterans. To learn more about his project, please visit the Shrouded Veterans Facebook page, or you can follow him on Twitter by searching for his handle, @ShroudVetGraves. 

Mr. Ellis Michaels, for his research, genealogical knowledge, and help and expertise in replacing and installing the new grave markers with care and dignity.

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The Grand Army of the Republic, colloquially known as the G.A.R., was a fraternal organization of mainly Union veterans of the American Civil War, founded in 1866 by Major Benjamin F. Stephenson of Springfield, Illinois. Thousands of local community posts were formed throughout the nation as a way for veterans to network and reconnect, and later, to advocate and lobby for Black veteran voting rights and integration during the Reconstruction Era, as well as for overall veterans pensions and other benefits. The G. A. R. is credited with establishing a federally observed Memorial Day to pay tribute to all war casualties, and influencing the successful consecutive elections of the 18th to 25th United States Presidents.

 

The Homestead-based “Gen. Charles Griffin Post #207, G. A. R.,” following the incorporation of the Cemetery, was gifted a 60 square foot lot of 41 graves, located between Old Sections E and F, for the specific purpose of interring war veterans. The lot, called the "Soldiers Circle," along with the Cemetery, was dedicated on May 30, 1887, Memorial Day, and the deed was ceremoniously presented to Rev. Benjamin Rogers, a former pastor of Anne Ashley Church.

 

A committee of G. A. R. members was soon established to raise funds for a Union Veterans monument to be placed within the center of the 41 grave lot. The first meeting was held in the office of M. L. McClure on January 29, 1889. In attendance were D. W. Hutchins, Matthew Foy, Christ Horn, James D. Hays, M. L. McClure, Benjamin Rogers, James Atkinson, J. Powelson, J. Williams, M. P. Schooley, and J. R. Schooley. Within a year, they had garnered public support for the monument, and began accepting bids and mock-ups of designs. After considerable correspondence with several companies, the final draft was awarded to H. Ousler & Son of Latrobe, PA. The creation of the statue was awarded to the Frederick & Field company of Quincy, MA on November 24, 1890, and the company was requested to ship and set the monument on June 12, 1891. 

 

The design, then estimated at a whopping cost of $2,500 (about $76,600 today), was to depict a private at rest arms, and would be placed on the highest hill within the cemetery. According to several articles within the Pittsburgh newspapers spanning nearly a decade following the announcement of the planned monument, regular fundraisers were hosted by Post # 207 to lessen the debt. The Post recorded donations as small as nickels from children to a sizable $100.00 check gifted by Andrew Carnegie himself. 

The completed bronze memorial statue was ultimately set upon a granite base, and dedicated in a grand public display on September 17, 1891, the anniversary of the Battle of Antietam. On the day of the dedication, the monument was paraded through the Borough in a procession nearly 2 miles long. The parade route began at the corner of West Street and Fifth Avenue, and snaked through the Borough. Festivities began late at 3 PM due to the late arrival of dignitaries on the rail lines caused by a wreck. A cannon blast signaled the readiness of the parade once all had arrived. It was the largest parade that had ever taken place in the area, with 68 people on horseback, 1,516 people in line, 20 buggies, 17 carriages, G. A. R. Posts, marching bands, school children, and Borough Policemen in new uniforms. It's estimated that nearly half of the 10,000 Homestead census population was present at the Cemetery for the dedication. 

The pedestal of the monument is inscribed with an original stanza, created by Cox and Schooley of the committee. It reads:

"On fame's eternal camping ground

Their silent tents are spread

While glory guards with solemn round

The bivouac of the dead"

The front of the pedestal is inscribed as follows:

“A.D. 1891

 Erected to the memory of

The Country’s

Defenders by

Gen. Griffin Post No. 207

G. A. R.,

Gen. Griffin Circle No. 41

 Ladies of the G. A. R.,

 J.S. Hollingshead

Camp, No. 31,

Sons of Veterans

and

the Citizens of

Homestead

and vicinity”

The base of the pedestal is inscribed with the names of major Civil War battlegrounds, including Appomattox, Fort Sumter, Gettysburg, and Vicksburg.

The monument is flanked by twin cannons, cast in 1853 by the local Fort Pitt Foundry, and a pyramid of welded cannonballs. The cannons were originally made to serve as functional defensive artillery used to destroy wooden ships along the shores of what is now Point State Park. According to former superintendent, Robert Pfeiffer, the cannons had been stored at Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall in Oakland, and were donated to the Borough. It's thought that the cannons were set in place for the Soldier's Monument dedication in 1891.

 

According to work completed by John and Linda Asmonga, Catherine Butler and Margaret Murphy, and Ellis Michaels and Rich Cummings, the veterans buried within the 41 graves served in differing conflicts throughout United States history, and are listed below:

  1. David R. P. Mann* (1838 - 1923), Private, Co. E, 4th PA Cavalry

  2. Eugene Burwell (1890 - 1920), WWI, Private, Co. A, 506 Service Battalion

  3. Ephraim Davies, US Navy, 1886 - 1917

  4. William Brown* (1841 - 1916), Private, Co. A, 15th PA Cavalry

  5. Moses/James Little* (1841 - 1916), Private, Co. D, 155th PA Infantry

  6. William J. Stoup* (1843 - 1915), Sergeant, Co. C, 103rd PA Vol. Infantry

  7. James C. Bell* (1833 - 1913), Private, Co. D, 3rd PA Infantry; and Sergeant, Co. C, 110th PA Infantry

  8. Daniel McClain* (1835 - 1913), Private, Co. B, 5th DE Infantry; and Private, Cos. A & E, 1st DE Cavalry

  9. Richard Crawford* (1833 - 1912), Private, Co. D, 22nd PA Cavalry

  10. Daniel Frederick Negley* (1839 - 1910), Co. I, 3rd Regiment PA Vol. Infantry

  11. Robert Palmer* (1840 - 1907), Private, Co. A, 123rd PA Infantry

  12. James Hart* (1831 - 1904), Co. E, 155th Regiment PA Vol. Infantry

  13. Robert Kennedy* (1840 - 1902), 1st Lt, Co. B, 61st PA Infantry

  14. Richard Phillips* (1841 - 1899), Private, Co. I, 7th OH Infantry

  15. Harry E. Sweitzer (1877 - 1899), Spanish-American War, Co. L, 145th US Infantry Reg.

  16. George Griffith, a.k.a. Griffith George* (1847 - 1898), Private, Co. G, 77th PA Infantry

  17. Lewis Kelley* (1828 - 1896), Co. B, 15th PA Cavalry

  18. Michael Cline* (1840 - 1892), Private, Co. G, 136th PA Infantry 

  19. John Ferguson Whipkey* (1841 - 1928), Private, Co. H, 6th WV Cavalry

  20. John Dimming* (1820 - 1892), Private Co. C, 76th PA Infantry

  21. James Potter* (1825 - 1892), Private, Battery I, 2nd PA Heavy Artillery

  22. James White* (1818 - 1894), 240th OH Infantry

  23. Samuel Sheets* (1843 - 1891), Co. A, 67th OH Vol. Infantry

  24. Albert Bradford* (1842 - 1903), Private, Battery C, 9th US Colored Troops Heavy Artillery; and Private, Co. B, 88th US Colored Troops Infantry

  25. Myron E. Mason (1871 - 1906), Spanish-American War, Private, Co. B, 14th Infantry

  26. Elias Henry Rice* (1844 - 1906), Private, Co. C, 1st PA Infantry

  27. John J. Berry* (1888-1910) Spanish-American War, US Navy

  28. Rev. Samuel Giffenney* (1844 - 1911), Co. B, 45th Colored Infantry

  29. John Lancaster* (1843 - 1912), Private, Co. H, 40th IA Infantry

  30. Thomas S. Granger* (1844 - 1912) Private, Co. B, 62nd PA Vol. Infantry

  31. George D. Johnston (1910 - 1952), WWII, Tec 3 HQ SV CO 1315TH Engineers

  32. Samuel L. Richey* (1812 - 1890), Private, Co. C, 24th OH Infantry

  33. August T. Hemminger* (1835 - 1897) Sergeant, Co. B, 74th Regiment PA Vol. Infantry; 11th Corps, 3rd Div.

  34. William S. McWhorter* (1841 - 1890), Private, Co. A, 155th PA Infantry

  35. George Dinkel* (1841 - 1894), 1st Sergeant. CO. E, 107th PA Infantry

  36. John Simpson Critchlow* (1837 - 1894), Private, Battery B, 6th PA Heavy Artillery

  37. John R. Rauch* (1844 - 1907), Private, Co. K, 14th PA Infantry

  38. William S. Cline* (1829 - 1909), Corporal, Co. K, 100th PA Vol.

  39. James K. Bacon* (1843 - 1920), Private, Co. E, 7t ME Infantry

  40. Joseph B. Bennett* (1850 - 1924), Bugler, Co. F, 182nd Regiment, 21st PA Cavalry

  41. William E. Johnson (1876 - 1825), Spanish-American War, Private, Co. H, 4th OH Infantry

Exact locations of the following individuals within the Circle are unknown.

Markers were placed in the open area of the Circle.

  1. John Quincy Adams* (1826 - 1900), Private, Co. E, 2nd PA Heavy Artillery, 112th Regiment

  2. David E. Morris* (1842 - 1890), Private, Co. H, 27th OH Vol. Infantry

* Denotes Civil War Veteran

Names in blue indicate replaced markers

​​​​​

Information gathered from:

  • Butler, Catherine J., and Margaret Murphy, editors. History of Soldier's Monument. 1941.

  • John E. Gilman (1910). "The Grand Army of the Republic". civilwarhome.com. Retrieved 2021-02-20.

  • Knight, Glenn B. "Brief History of the Grand Army of the Republic". suvcw.org. Retrieved 201-02-20.

  • Michaels, Ellis, and Rich Cummings. “Selected War Memorials Allegheny County, Pennsylvania Homestead Cemetery Civil War Memorial.” Homestead Cemetery Civil War Memorial, 2008, 2008, sites.rootsweb.com/~njm1/08Homestead-Cem-CivilWar-Memorial.htm.

  • “To Erect a Monument. Griffin Post, Homestead, to Honor Departed Soldiers. .” The Pittsburgh Press, 9 Dec. 1988, p. 2.

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