Aspen’s Civil War memorial statute of solider remains neutral 118 years later
In light of recent violence over Confederate statues, sharp-eyed Aspenites may have noticed the Civil War-era monument located on the southwest lawn of the Pitkin County Courthouse.
The granite pedestal and statue of a Civil War soldier has been there for the past 118 years. It was dedicated on Memorial Day 1899 “to the soldiers of 1861-1865,” according to its inscription and a June 1, 1899, article in the Aspen Daily Times.
“This monument is erected by their comrades and the patriotic men and women of Aspen,” according to the carving on the pedestal.
And while Pitkin County Manager Jon Peacock said Thursday he’s received one email from an area resident asking “us to consider removing it,” a researcher at the Aspen Historical Society said the soldier isn’t meant to represent a member of the Union or the Confederacy.
“As far as we know, it is a generic solider, not meant to be one side or the other,” said Megan Cerise, a researcher at the historical society. “Aspen had quite a few residents who were veterans of the Civil War from both sides.”
Representatives of the Union side “seem to be more predominant (the Civil War section at the Ute Cemetery consists of soldiers from the Union Army), but there were veterans of the Confederate Army in Aspen, as well,” Cerise said in an email.
The Aspen Daily Times article from 1899 quotes Gen. A. Royal, department commander of Colorado and Wyoming of the Grand Army of the Republic, who spoke at the memorial’s dedication the previous day.
“Wherever Old Glory waves there is liberty and freedom for the oppressed,” he said, according to the article. “Under the Stars and Stripes there is no place for oppression or imperialism.
“He who claims such things utters treason against our country and our flag.”
Later, Royal sounded a further note of unity for those gathered at the courthouse that day.
“The history of our nation during the past year has been as a unit,” Royal said. “No North, no South, no East, no West, and from this year on we shall gather around the old as well as the new graves as one people.”
Col. Dan Brown, a member of Royal’s staff, also spoke that day, according to the article.
“Once again at call of trumpet, North and South meet face to face,” he said. “Not in deadly battle wrestling, but in brotherly embrace.”
Subsequent Memorial Day newspaper articles struck similar chords of unity over the Civil War and did not mention Union or Confederate soldiers specifically.
“Our decoration day, or Memorial Day as it is customary now to call it, was only the result of the spontaneous desire to pay tribute to the thousands of brave men who fell in the great Civil War,” according to a May 29, 1913, article in the Aspen Democrat-Times. “In common with almost every city, town and hamlet in the country, Aspen will tomorrow pay tribute to the honored dead by placing a flag and a wreath upon the grave of each of those who took part in the Civil War.”
Many cities throughout the country are taking down or wrestling with removing Confederate statues and monuments. Violent protests took place last weekend in Charlottesville, Virginia, between neo-Nazis and white supremacists and leftist counter-demonstrators over the proposed removal of a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. One woman was killed during the protests.
Peacock said Thursday he had not had a chance to research the provenance of the memorial at the courthouse, though he didn’t feel it presented a divisive message.
“There probably needs to be a conversation about what these things mean and represent,” he said. “But (the courthouse memorial) seems to be one of healing.”
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