Honoring Our Soldiers and Sailors
Don't miss the Soldiers' and Sailors' Monument in Public Square
By Heather Tunstall
In the heart of Downtown Cleveland, the recently renovated Public Square is a sight for sore eyes. Previously a run-down park that didn't have much curb appeal, it now boasts a splash fountain, hip new restaurant (Rebol), lots of green space and seating options for the lunch crowd and loungers, and areas for those early-morning overachievers to do yoga. There's also an abundance of programming (including a Farmer's Market, food trucks, concerts, and lots more), that will continue to draw crowds.
But there's something that's been there all along, quietly watching over the Square since 1894. Through the decades of boom and bust; through the population growth, decline and resurgence; through the many generations of First Amendment rights being exercised on Public Square, it stood: a symbol of steadfastness, determination and historical importance.
The Soldiers' and Sailors' Monument is so much more than just an old fixture on the Square, though. High on top of the monument's column sits a statue of the Goddess of Freedom, defended by the Shield of Liberty. At the base of the memorial, four bronze battle scenes unfold on the esplanade depicting the Navy, Artillery, Infantry and Cavalry.
Many people who gaze up at the 125-foot-high spire don't realize that beneath it is a free museum that commemorates 9,000 Civil War veterans that served with Cuyahoga County regiments or lived in Cuyahoga County. You can walk right in, escape the hustle and bustle of Downtown for a moment, and reflect on some serious history.
The Memorial Room is downright impressive. A collection of artifacts from the Civil War--including weapons, journals, clothing and pictures--are showcased alongside the walls etched with the names of Cuyahoga County Civil War veterans. Four bronze relief sculptures depict the Women's Soldiers' and Sailors' Aid Society, the Beginning of the War in Ohio, the Emancipation of the Slaves and the End of the War at City Point, Va.
The monument is a reminder of Cleveland and Cuyahoga County's significance in the Civil War. In addition to the thousands of troops from Cleveland that served in the Union Army, the city provided millions of dollars in supplies, equipment, food, and support to the soldiers. And the war contributed to Cleveland's industrial rise as well. Up to 44 percent of the Civil War ships built for use on the Great Lakes were constructed in Cleveland, and the garment factories produced a large amount of uniforms for the Union soldiers.
Abraham Lincoln himself visited Public Square during his campaign for presidency, and stopped in Cleveland on his way to his inauguration. After he was assassinated, his funeral train came through Cleveland and his coffin was displayed in Public Square.
Take your time and reflect as you walk through the museum. The names and images you're looking at are real people, real lives that fought for an ideology and shaped the nation as we know it today. If you'd like to learn a bit more about what you're looking at, the friendly staff at the memorial will gladly answer your questions.
The Cuyahoga County Soldiers' and Sailors' Monument is open daily, free of charge, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and is located at Public Square in Downtown Cleveland.