Gina and I planned to go to the recent Inauguration, and we’d secured tickets through our Congressman’s office. But jury duty supervened. So we canceled our reservations and gave the tickets to our older son James, who lives in the DC suburb of Falls Church.
It turns out that our tickets permitted access to an area pretty close to the inaugural event, in a small traffic circle that contains one of James’s favorite Washington features, the little-known and under-appreciated “Peace Monument”, also known by the moniker cited in my title, above.
The monument was erected in 1877-78 to memorialize Union naval deaths at sea during the Civil War. Sculpted by Maine native Franklin Simmons – a well-known portrait sculptor of the time – it stands, at 44 feet, in Peace Circle at Pennsylvania Avenue and 1st Street NW. The top figures depict America (or Grief) holding her covered face against the shoulder of History, weeping in mourning. History holds a tablet inscribed, “They died that their country might live.” The major figures standing below are Victory – facing west – with an infant Mars, god of war, and an infant Neptune, god of the sea, lounging at her feet. Facing the capitol stands Peace, with symbols of peace and industry, science, literature and art resting at her feet.
The monument’s inscription reads, “In memory of the officers, seamen and marines of the United States Navy who fell in defense of the Union and liberty of their country, 1861-1865.” Admiral David D Porter, Civil War commander of gunboat fleets, conceived the monument and raised the necessary funds from private donors. The monument came under the cognizance of the Architect of the Capitol in 1973. Badly weathered and damaged after 100 years of neglect, it has since undergone three major restoration / preservation efforts, in 1990-1991, 1999 and 2010. Interestingly, several limbs of the statue’s figures were broken off when crowds climbed on them during the 2009 inauguration.
My son “discovered” the Peace Monument in the 1990s and is a serious devoté. His favorite image of it is this one:
My source of information is the Architect of the Capitol website, http://aoc.gov/capitol-grounds/peace-monument, accessed 31 January 2013.
©2013 Thomas L Snyder