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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:

Mr. and Mrs. John and Linda 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 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, following a clock-wise pattern beginning just left of 6 o'clock:

  1. David R. P. Mann*, 1839 - 1923

  2. Eugene Burwell, 1890 - 1920

  3. Ephraim Davies, US Navy, 1886 - 1917

  4. William Brown, 1841 - 1916

  5. Moses/James Little*, 1841/42 - 1916

  6. William Stoup*, 1843/44 - 1915

  7. James C. Bell*, 1834 - 1913

  8. Daniel McClain - 1837 - 1913

  9. Richard Crawford*, 1833 - 1912

  10. Daniel Frederick Negley*, 1840/41 - 1910, Infantry

  11. Robert Palmer*, 1841 - 1907

  12. James Hart*, 1831 - 1904

  13. Robert Kennedy, 1840 - 1902

  14. Richard Phillips, 1841 - 1899 UNMARKED

  15. Harry E. Sweitzer, 1878 - 1899, Spanish-American War

  16. George Griffith, a.k.a. Griffith George, 1845/47 - 1898

  17. Lewis Kelley*, 1827 - 1896

  18. Michael Klein, 1840 - 1892 

  19. John Whipkey, 1841 - 1928

  20. John Dimming, 1820 - 1892

  21. James Potter, 1825 - 1892

  22. James White, 1818 - 1894, 240th Ohio Infantry

  23. Samuel Sheets, dates unknown

  24. Albert Bradford, 1842 - 1903

  25. Myron E. Mason, 1879 - 1906, Spanish-American War 

  26. Elias Henry Rice*, 1845 - 1906

  27. John J. Berry*, US Navy, 1888 - 1910

  28. Rev. Samuel Giffenney*, 1849 - 1911, 43rd Colored Infantry

  29. John Lancaster, 1844 - 1912

  30. Thomas S. Granger*, 1843 - 1912, PA volunteers

  31. George D. Johnston, 1910 - 1952, WWII, Enlisted June 10, 1943, discharged January 26, 1946. Tec 3 110, SW Co 1315 Engineers

  32. Samuel Richey, 1813 - 1890

  33. August T. Hemminger*, 1835 - 1897, 11th Corp, 3rd Division, 74th Regt., Co. B, PA Vol, SGT Infantry

  34. William S. McWhorter*, 1841 - 1890, Co A, 155 PA Infantry

  35. George Dinkel*, 1845 - 1894, 1st SGT. COE, 107th PA Infantry

  36. John Simpson Critchlow*, 1837 - 1894

  37. John R. Rauch, 1844 - 1907

  38. William S. Cline*, 1829 - 1909

  39. James K. Bacon, 1843 - 1920

  40. Joseph B. Bennett, 1850 - 1924, Bugler Co F, 182 Regiment, 21 Pennsylvania Cavalry

  41. William E. Johnson, 1877 - 1825, Spanish-American War

* Denotes Civil War Veteran

Names in blue indicate replaced markers

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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.