If you have occasion to travel through the Town of Stanford, NY on County Route 82, as I did yesterday, you might notice that in company with many northern towns and villages, it has its own Civil War memorial. The monument does not dominate the Town square, nor preside over the community from atop a noble granite column. In fact, is is unique for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is that despite the verdigris of its oxidized bronze, the memorial is not of great antiquity but a far more recent creation. It certainly was not there when I grew up within the township.
In 1996, in fact, the Stanford Historical Society erected a statue commissioned from local artist Peter Wing to commemorate all of the Town's Civil War soldiers. The sculpture is quite unusual in that it depicts an actual person rather than a homogeneous representative soldier as was the practice with such monuments erected in the decades after the war. The bronze statue depicts one native son in particular: Maj. Cornelius Nase Campell, one-time Town Moderator of Stanford and then 1st Surgeon in the 150th N.Y.S. Volunteer Infantry ("The Dutchess County Regiment").
This three year's regiment saw service in both theaters of the war, fighting with the 12th Corps at Gettysburg and then with the Army of the Cumberland in the redesignated 20th corps. The sculpture of Maj. Campell wears the distinctive 5 pointed star of the 20th corps as a cap badge. The 150th fought in the Atlanta campaign and marched as part of Sherman's Army through Georgia and the Carolina's, participating in the Grand Review in Washington before heading home in June of 1865, having lost 132 to deaths during its three years in service.
Peter Wing - himself a Viet Nam veteran - was able to consult this wartime image of Maj. Campell from the collection of the U.S. Army Military History Institute when sculpting his likeness. His name is often recorded as "Campbell", with the notable exception of the dedication plaque on the Standford monument.
Maj. Campell is an intriguing choice for the subject of a late 20th century Civil War Memorial. I would be very curious to know what was the impetus for the modern day residents of the Town of Stanford, only a small proportion of whom are likely to be descended from those veterans they chose to commemorate, to commission and erect this monument generally to those who served and specifically to Maj. Campell. It may have been a happy chance that there was local talent available to create the bronze statue, for most 20th century memorials tend to emphasize names on plaques rather than images of soldiers. In that sense, this memorial is a deliberate look back at an earlier aesthetic, yet it reflects the sensibilities of our era by depicting an actual person to stand for the whole.
In fact, most modern Civil War memorials are commissioned not for hometowns but for battlefields - those that will still accept them. The motivations for erecting them may be genealogical, as with two monuments I observed at Perryville Kentucky paid for by the descendant of a particular confederate NCO who died on the field, or cultural, such as the relatively recent monument to the Irish Brigade at the Bloody Lane in Antietam. When such monuments appear in our time, when no one's living memory encompasses the individuals and events they commemorate, it is worth considering what motivated these remembrances even as we acknowledge those they seek to honor.
The Stanford memorial was dedicated even before the sculpture was created. Freedom Square Park lies below the public school on the other side of a rail fence near Rte 82, and this memorial is its principal monument. The quotation on the plaque at the base of the pedestal is from another native son of Stanford - Talmadge Wood, who died of wounds received at Gettysburg. Clearly the Historical Society had access to material like this that enabled the Town to personalize its memorial and make direct links between our time and second hand memory of the past.
I grew up in an isolated corner of the Town of Stanford, although I was in both a different school district and a different postal district than the rest of the Township. I remember celebrating the Bicentennial in Stanford, though, right where the monument now stands and still have the souvenir wooden nickel from the festivities. I wish I had still been around in the mid 1990s when this statue was commissioned and the memorial was dedicated. Now that my curiosity has been peaked, I will have to pay a visit to the Historical Society and see what else i can learn about this role of Civil War Memory in my old hometown.