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Soldiers and Sailors Memorial, St. Paul

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Soldiers and Sailors Memorial

Soldiers and Sailors Memorial, Summit Park, St. Paul. Photograph by Peter DeCarlo, June 19, 2020.

Designed to commemorate people who served in the US military during the Civil War, the Soldiers and Sailors Monument in St. Paul (sometimes called the Josias King Memorial) was erected in 1903. Crowning the monument is a statue of Josias R. King, who is widely regarded as the first US volunteer in the Civil War. King also participated in violent campaigns to punish Dakota people after the US-Dakota War of 1862, known as the Punitive Expeditions. These included the Massacre of White Stone Hill, in which the US military killed hundreds of Native men, women, and children. King's participation in the massacre has complicated his presence in the monument.

The effort to erect a monument honoring Minnesotans’ service in the Civil War began immediately after the First Battle of Bull Run. As the war continued and the US-Dakota War of 1862 engulfed much of the state, however, the project stalled.

Members of the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) took up the work again over thirty years later, when St. Paul Acker Post 21 passed a resolution to erect a monument on Summit Hill. Then, in 1897, after a GAR encampment was held in St. Paul, the conversation widened. GAR members brainstormed ideas about how to memorialize the Civil War. Realizing that the new State Capitol would provide space to remember the war, they focused on a complementary monument. Women of the GAR, supported by the Schubert Club, formed a soldiers’ monument committee and started raising funds.

In 1903, Joseph J. McCardy, a member of Acker Post 21, spearheaded the final drive to erect the monument. He appointed his own committee, raised funds, and planned the unveiling of the monument. His control of the event offended members of Garfield Post 8, the other GAR group in St. Paul, who had begun a dialogue about a monument the year before. Women of the GAR were also offended.

A crowd estimated at 4,000 attended the monument unveiling at Summit Park. Members of Acker Post and a few from Garfield led the ceremony. Minnesota National Guardsmen, Sons of Veterans, Phillipine and Spanish-American War veterans, and military units from Fort Snelling participated in a parade. Due to cold weather and snow, the statue of King had not yet been set atop the monument shaft. After the parade and a thirteen-gun salute, King and Susan Doran, the daughter of a Civil War veteran, unveiled the statue. The face of the statue was sculpted by John K. Daniels, and the body is a cast of a generic US soldier. The shaft is made of Vermont granite. Henry A. Castle, a Civil War veteran, GAR member, and former politician, spoke at the event. St. Paul Mayor Robert A. Smith accepted the monument on behalf of the city.

The unveiling, like the monument, honored US soldiers and sailors who had fought and died to preserve the union and abolish slavery. King was specifically honored, and a unit he had served in, the First Minnesota Volunteer Infantry Regiment, was singled out for praise. King’s service in the Punitive Expeditions, however, was not mentioned, and the US-Dakota War of 1862, intimately intertwined with Minnesota’s Civil War history, was not spoken of that day. The speakers also said the monument stood as a testament to the imperial power of the United States and Christian civilization.

Garfield Post continued to criticize the monument after its unveiling. In 1906, it was moved to allow for the realignment of Summit Avenue and the construction of the St. Paul Cathedral. Occasional commemorative events held by Civil War veterans, the descendants of veterans, and Civil War re-enactors took place at the monument over the decades. The monument itself stood untouched for over a century. The histories of the monument, King, and especially King’s involvement in the Punitive Expeditions were largely forgotten.

Lighting was installed at the base of the monument in 2013. In 2016, the Minnesota Historical Society awarded Public Art St. Paul $60,000 to restore it. Additional money was raised, and restoration was completed in 2017. Amid the memorial debate, a Native American activist and a Minnesota historian brought to light King’s participation in the Massacre of Whitestone Hill. They argued that King’s presence on the monument indirectly celebrates state violence against Native Americans without naming it—a failure that erases Native people’s experiences. As of 2020, the monument stands on St. Paul city property and is owned and maintained by the city.

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Beck, Paul N. Columns of Vengeance: Soldiers, Sioux, and the Punitive Expeditions, 1863–1864. Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 2013.

“Castle, Henry A. ‘H.A.’” Minnesota Legislative Reference Library.
https://www.leg.state.mn.us/legdb/fulldetail?id=11599

Edwards, Brian. “Bronze Monument Featuring St. Paul Civil War Soldier to Get Renewed Life.” St. Paul Pioneer Press, November 20, 2016.
https://www.twincities.com/2016/11/20/monument-to-st-paul-civil-war-soldier-to-get-renewed-life

“Figure of First Soldier is to Grace Shaft to Veterans.” St. Paul Globe, August 2, 1903.

“Garfield Post Censures M’Cardy.” St. Paul Globe, December 27, 1903.

“Grand Army Men Feel M’Cardy’s Snub.” St. Paul Globe, November 16, 1903.

M582: King
Biographical data on Josias Ridgate King, 1863–1916
Manuscripts Collection, Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul
Description: Military and miscellaneous papers of King.

Podas-Larson, Christine. “Soldiers & Sailors Memorial (Or Josias King Memorial).” Public Art St. Paul: The Sculptures of Upper Summit Avenue, 2015.
http://publicartstpaul.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/Sculptures-of-Summit-Avenue.pdf

Ringham, Eric. “Massacre clouds story of the soldier on Minnesota’s pedestal.” MPR News, September 27, 2018.
https://www.mprnews.org/story/2018/09/27/iconic-minnesota-soldier-part-of-atrocity

“Soldiers’ Monument Unveiled.” St. Paul Daily Globe, November 21, 1903.

“Soldier’s Monument.” Duluth Evening Herald, November 21, 1903.

“To Be A Work of Art.” St. Paul Daily Globe, January 3, 1897.

“The Unveiling of the Monument…” Princeton Union, November 26, 1903.

“Warriors Won’t Stand For M’Cardy.” St. Paul Globe, November 15, 1903.

“Will Dedicate Soldiers’ Monument.” St. Paul Globe, November 15, 1903.

Related Images

Soldiers and Sailors Memorial
Soldiers and Sailors Memorial
Black and white photograph of General Alfred H. Sully (center) with (L to R) John H. Pell, Andrew J. Levering, and Josias R. King, c. 1862.
Black and white photograph of General Alfred H. Sully (center) with (L to R) John H. Pell, Andrew J. Levering, and Josias R. King, c. 1862.
Massacre of Whitestone Hill
Massacre of Whitestone Hill
Officers of Acker Post No. 21, Minnesota Grand Army of the Republic
Officers of Acker Post No. 21, Minnesota Grand Army of the Republic
Robert A. Smith
Robert A. Smith
Henry A. Castle
Henry A. Castle
Black and white photograph of Josias King standing in front of a bronze statue patterned after his likeness, 1903.
Black and white photograph of Josias King standing in front of a bronze statue patterned after his likeness, 1903.
Soldiers and Sailors Monument postcard
Soldiers and Sailors Monument postcard
Soldiers and Sailors Monument postcard
Soldiers and Sailors Monument postcard
Joseph J. McCardy
Joseph J. McCardy
Soldiers and Sailors Monument postcard
Soldiers and Sailors Monument postcard
Garfield Post No. 8, Grand Army of the Republic
Garfield Post No. 8, Grand Army of the Republic
Soldiers and Sailors Monument postcard
Soldiers and Sailors Monument postcard
Cathedral of St. Paul and the Soldiers and Sailors Monument
Cathedral of St. Paul and the Soldiers and Sailors Monument
John Karl Daniels
John Karl Daniels
Soldiers and Sailors Memorial
Soldiers and Sailors Memorial
Plaque on Soldiers and Sailors Memorial
Plaque on Soldiers and Sailors Memorial
Plaque on Soldiers and Sailors Memorial
Plaque on Soldiers and Sailors Memorial

Turning Point

The Soldiers and Sailors Monument is dedicated on November 20, 1903.

Chronology

1861

A movement to erect a monument celebrating Minnesota’s Civil War soldiers begins after the First Battle of Bull Run. Josias King fought in the battle and continued to serve in the First Minnesota Regiment until 1863.

1862

As the Civil and US-Dakota wars engulf the state, the effort to erect a monument flounders.

1863

Between September 3 and 5, King participates in the Massacre of Whitestone Hill as aide-de-camp to General Alfred Sully. 300 to 400 Yanktonai Nakota, Santee Dakota, and Teton Lakota people are killed, including women and children.

ca. 1883

A second effort to erect a memorial fails.

1896

The thirtieth annual Grand Army of the Republic encampment is held in St. Paul on September 3 and 4, re-energizing the monument movement.

1902

Garfield Post 8 begins a dialogue with veteran and patriotic groups throughout St. Paul about erecting a memorial to Civil War soldiers.

1903

In February, GAR Acker Post 21 starts an effort to erect a monument to Minnesotans who served in the Civil War. Joseph J. McCardy manages the work.

1903

The monument is unveiled in a ceremony held on November 20.

1914

King recounts his participation in the Massacre of Whitestone Hill in a letter to the North Dakota Historical Society.

1916

Josais King dies in St. Paul on February 11.

2013

Lighting paid for with donated funds is installed at the base of the monument. An assessment of the monument’s condition is commissioned by Public Art St. Paul.

2016

In November, the Minnesota Historical Society awards $60,000 to Public Art St. Paul for the restoration of the monument.

2017

The monument is restored.

2018

King’s involvement in the Massacre of White Stone Hill is brought to light by a Native American activist and a Minnesota historian.