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What Is the Soldiers' and Sailors' Monument?

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  • Written By: Carol Kindle
  • Edited By: C. Wilborn
  • Last Modified Date: 28 August 2016
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The Soldiers' and Sailors' Monument is a statue located in Monument Circle in downtown Indianapolis. This prominent statue, which was dedicated in 1902, was built to honor Indiana war veterans. Designed by German architect Bruno Schmitz, the Soldiers' and Sailors' Monument is the tallest war veteran statue in the United States.

Originally designated as a monument to recognize Indiana veterans who lost their lives in the Civil War, the Soldiers' and Sailors' Monument now honors all Indiana war veterans. The property on which the monument stands became available after the governor's mansion, which occupied the site from 1827 to 1857, was torn down. In 1887, the Indiana General Assembly formed a commission to begin planning the construction of this monument. The next year, architect Bruno Schmitz was awarded the contract to design the structure and supervise its construction.

Schmitz enlisted various sculptors to design different elements of the Soldiers' and Sailors' Monument. These sculptural elements surround a central tower that measures 284 feet 6 inches (86.72 m) in height. Construction of the central tower was completed in 1892. The following year, the bronze figurine named Victory was installed on top of the tower. Victory, which holds a torch in one upraised hand and a sword in the other, was designed by George Brewster.

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Brewster is also credited with the designs for two bronze architectural components, known as astragals, that are molded to the tower. The astragal at the top of the tower lists the dates of the Civil War, 1861 and 1865, on opposite sides. In the middle of the tower is the navy astragal, modeled after the bow of the warship USS Hartford. A third astragal on the tower is dedicated to the army and was designed by sculptor Nicholas Geiger.

At the base of the tower on each corner of the monument are four individual statues of soldiers designed by the sculptor Rudolf Schwarz. Each soldier represents a different branch of the military: the infantry, the cavalry, the artillery, and the navy. Schwarz also designed three grouped statues around the Soldiers' and Sailors' monument. These include the War and Peace group on each side of the statue, as well as the Dying Soldier and the Return Home group, both of which are on the upper terrace.

Construction of the monument with all the sculptural elements took 13 years and the structure was completed in 1901. A formal dedication ceremony of the Soldiers' and Sailors' Monument took place on 15 May 1902. A museum detailing the history of the role of Indiana war veterans in the Civil War opened in the basement of the monument in 1918.

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