“Smith Memorial Arch” (2 of 2) by Various Artists – Museum Without Walls™: AUDIO


[Gregory Urwin] The military figures in the Smith Memorial Arch are all considered sons of Pennsylvania, so they reflect the state pride in the role that the Keystone State played in the preservation of the Union which was quite significant. I’m Gregory Urwin. I’m a professor of History at Temple University where I specialize in military history and I have a longstanding interest in the American Civil War. Several of the figures in the sculptural grouping played a major role in the Battle at Gettysburg. When Robert E. Lee, the Commander of the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia, invaded South Central Pennsylvania many feared that he would go after Philadelphia which was really the largest and most important northern city, just above the Mason-Dixon line. [Andrew Coldren] The two figures that you see at the tops of the columns at the very highest point of the monument as you face it- General Meade and General Reynolds- are the paramount figures, particularly for Philadelphians and their experience of the war. My name’s Andrew Coldren, I’m a consultant for the Civil War Museum of Philadelphia and currently curator of the Salem County Historical Society in Salem, NJ. [Urwin] John Fulton Reynolds is the standing figure atop the right-hand column. Reynolds was an outstanding combat commander. Everyone in the Army admires this son of Lancaster, Pennsylvania. And on July 1st, 1863, Reynolds is gonna be the officer on the spot at Gettysburg who recognizes he can’t let the Confederates have the high ground south of the town; that he has to hold on to that. So in effect, he makes the decision to fight at Gettysburg. George Gordon Meade stands on the left-hand column. Because Meade is new to command at Gettysburg he’s going to rely on Reynolds’ advice to fight at Gettysburg and when Reynolds is killed, he’ll pick another son of Pennsylvania, someone who grew up in Norristown, Winfield Scott Handcock. He’ll more of less put him in charge. [Keith Gibson ] As you look further down on the second level this, equestrian statues of General Hancock and General McClellan occupy a somewhat secondary position beneath what might be considered the primary heroes. [Urwin] Winfield Scott Hancock is the equestrian figure on the right-hand side of the Arch and Meade is going to rely on his judgement after John Reynolds is killed. George B. McClellan is the figure on horseback to the left of the Arch. He certainly was a major figure in the Civil War. From a political angle, it’s interesting to see McClellan and Hancock so prominently represented because the two of them were both Democrats and the Civil War was viewed by Republicans as their war- Abraham Lincoln was our first Republican president. But after the war, Hancock will run for president in 1880 and come close to winning; James Garfield will win a narrow victory. [Gibson] Please look at the inscription at the base of the monument toward the left and you’ll see in the text examples of the kind of way in which people in the post-war period wanted to remember and wanted future generations to remember. It’s all about unity and reunification and basically putting this monumental struggle behind us and almost too suggesting as if the pain and struggle of the Civil War was just a subset of the American Revolution.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *