By Millicent Martin Emery
Cambridge City’s tallest “resident” has just received a makeover.
A statue of Solomon Meredith has looked over Riverside Cemetery for more than 100 years, and thanks to donations from Civil War buffs around the state and nation, his monument was carefully restored in late May.
The cleaning project was overseen by professional cemetery restorer Mark Davis, who lives in Swayzee, Ind. Davis has restored more than 32,000 stones during his 17-year career.
Meredith’s memorial had accumulated a lot of green lichen over time, and his employee, Rob Evans of Marion, did much of the work over five days from a lift truck. The granite base could be pressure washed, but the crew was very careful with the marble statue, using what looks like a toothbrush.
An antimicrobial chemical sprayed on the statue called D2 kills the lichen over time, so in six months, Davis says the shadow on Meredith’s coat will be even lighter.
“The general needs a facelift,” Davis said. “…Slow and tedious is the way it has to be.”
Preserving the legacy of Meredith (1810-1875) is important because the Cambridge City resident was known nationally for his military skills.
Even though he had no military experience, Meredith formed a regiment of Wayne County men, and Gov. Oliver P. Morton appointed Meredith as colonel of the unit that became the 19th Regiment of Indiana Volunteers. He later became brigadier general of the famous “Iron Brigade,” which was one of the most celebrated military organizations of the war.
Their name came from the exclamation by Union Army of the Potomac commander Major General George B. McClellan that “They must be made of iron!” after observing the fighting prowess of the brigade routing Confederate troops at the Battle of South Mountain in 1862. He led the brigade until he was seriously wounded at Gettysburg, and then was appointed to command garrisons in the Midwest until the end of the war, when he returned to his local farm.
Historian Phil Harris of Columbia City, Ind., led the campaign to raise awareness and funds for the project. The GoFundMe campaign raised $3,381 of its $4,000 goal.
The national publication Civil War Times even mentioned the fundraising campaign.
Harris said he has worked with Davis on projects over the years and Davis was willing to help in Cambridge City. Harris said he trusted Davis to work on the memorial, which would cost about $250,000 in today’s dollars to replace.
The statue, which was made by the same artist working on the war memorial in Indianapolis, is valued at about $40,000. One little finger and a couple of buttons are gone from the statue, but after 100 years of weather, Harris and Davis are pleased with Meredith’s condition.
The monument was originally located on the Meredith family farm, but his family decided to move it to the town’s cemetery in 1908 with a wagon and horses.
Harris is working toward having a rededication ceremony next year to celebrate the monument’s restoration, including an Iron Brigade historian to speak in Cambridge City.
A re-dedication ceremony took place in 1864 in the town, including a parade.
For more information, visit the Cambridge City Public Library’s History Room for more information on Meredith. Or, those interested can find information on Morrisson-Reeves Library’s website at http://www.mrlinfo.org/history/biography/meredithsol.htm, or Harris’ page at www.19thindianaironbrigade.com
About Solomon Meredith
Solomon Meredith was born in North Carolina, and when he was 19, he came to Wayne County, reportedly walking the entire distance. He worked as a woodchopper and as a clerk in a store in Centerville, and from 1834 to 1859 he served at various times as sheriff of Wayne County, as a member of the state legislature, and as the United States Marshall for District of Indiana.
At the start of the Civil War in 1861, he formed a regiment of Wayne County men. Even though he had no military experience, Gov. Oliver P. Morton appointed him colonel of the unit that became the 19th Regiment of Indiana Volunteers. The 19th was attached to the Army of the Potomac in a unit that would soon become known as the Iron Brigade.
In October 1862, Colonel Meredith was promoted to brigadier general and commanded the Iron Brigade until he was seriously wounded on the first day of the Battle of Gettysburg. The 19th Indiana participated in a host of battles including Antietam, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, the Wilderness, Cold Harbor and Petersburg. After Petersburg, the regiment was so decimated that it was consolidated with another unit, the 20th Indiana.
General Meredith never fully recovered from his wounds and did not command in the field again. He was appointed to command garrisons at Cairo, Illinois and Paducah, Kentucky until the end of the war. He returned to his farm near Cambridge City, and except for the years 1867-1869 when he was surveyor-general of Montana, concentrated on raising prize-winning cattle, sheep and horses until his death in 1875. The Richmond Grand Army of the Republic Post was named in his honor.
Source: Morrisson-Reeves Library, http://www.mrlinfo.org/history/biography/meredithsol.htm