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Civil War statue erected in 1870 returning to Patchogue after repairs

The "Citizen Soldier Statue," a Civil War monument,

The "Citizen Soldier Statue," a Civil War monument, on Feb. 22, 2018, in Patchogue. Credit: Heather Walsh

The Civil War monument portraying a valiant soldier holding his rifle is returning home to Patchogue this month.

The statue stood between Village Hall and the American Legion post on Baker Street for years, bringing pride and honor to the village, officials said.

But last year the fracturing of the base worsened and officials feared the leaning monument was in danger of collapsing.

Village officials said Carol A. Grissom of the Smithsonian Institution, one of the nation’s leading authorities on zinc sculptures, recommended sending it to the McKay Lodge Art Conservation Laboratory in Oberlin, Ohio, for repair.

The laboratory is well known for transporting and preserving fine and historical art, especially large sculptures.

“There are very few places in the U.S. who know how to treat the statue,” said Grissom, who visited the Patchogue monument in 2000.

She said there are 86 replicas of the monument nationwide, but she isn’t sure which is the original.

Nearly all of the statues are leaning backward because of the zinc material they’re made of, Grissom said.

The Patchogue monument, sent to the Oberlin lab a year ago, is expected to come back April 25 with a new foundation and standing upright, officials said.

“You can’t pass Village Hall without turning to look for it,” Patchogue Village trustee Joseph Keyes said. “It’s a noticeable difference.”  

The monument was erected in 1870 and is etched with 180 names representing former residents who risked their lives during the war.

“It’s a reminder of our rich history,” Keyes said.

Officials said the monument is a reflection of what the village represents and is welcomed back.

“The monument tells the story of Patchogue and the people who have given back,” Mayor Paul Pontieri said. 

Village trustee Susan Brinkman spearheaded the initiative  to restore the monument.

“The monument is very important to our history in Patchogue,” she said.

Civil War veteran Edwin Bailey, of Patchogue, created the sculpture, which was originally placed in front of what was then Patchogue High School, at Academy Street and South Ocean Avenue, village officials said. It was relocated to Baker Street in the 1920s.

The repairs, coincidentally, coincide with the centennial of the American Legion post. “This monument was started the first year the American Legion came into existence,” the mayor said.

Patchogue-based Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War, a group of descendants who conduct research and re-enactments of the conflict, helped raise money for the repairs, which cost about $60,000, village officials said.

Pontieri said many village streets, such as Smith, Mott and Conklin, are named after "those who gave in the Civil War" and  those names are engraved on the statue. 

“It reminds the community," the mayor said, "of who we are as a community.”

More on zinc sculptures

Zinc sculptures became popular in the United States in the 1850s.

They reflected cultural history during the 19th century in small towns and were customized to mirror battles of war.

Small communities that couldn't afford expensive bronze statues settled for zinc, purchased from trade catalogs and shipped by railroad.

Source: “Zinc Sculpture in America 1850-1950,” by Carol A. Grissom

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