Remembrance in Stone

Grand Army of the Republic Monument

County: Ramsey County, North Dakota

Location: Devils Lake Cemetery

Coordinates: N48o06.963 W98o50.460

In the Devils Lake Cemetery stands a historical monument bearing the legend legend, "Erected to the Memory of the Soldiers and Sailors of 1861-1865." Also emblazoned on the monument are the motto-words of the Grand Army of the Republic, "Loyalty," "Charity," and "Fraternity."

This is a Grand Army of the Republic monument similar to others across the country's northern states. Atop the monument stands at parade rest a vigilant infantryman wearing a winter overcoat and carrying equipment typical of the early years of the Civil War, including an 1842 Springfield musket.

As the frontier community of Devils Lake crystallized on arrival of the Northern Pacific railroad in 1883, present among its enterprising citizens were many union veterans from across the country. They sought fraternity by forming Grand Army of the Republic Camp General Crook #33.

Unfortunately, specific documentation of the memorial emplaced by General Crook #33 is lacking. In 1948, the old Civil War soldiers mostly gone on to the great encampment in the sky, the records of Camp Crook #33, and those of the GAR Cemetery Association, were passed to the City of Devils Lake, along with the cemetery the veterans had established around the monument. Never properly housed, most of the GAR records were lost to water damage and rodents.

Fortunately, soldier monuments are made of things like granite, which survives better than paper, but is sometimes less informative. The monument bears no indication of when it was built. Likely it was emplaced after 1891, and not much later than 1900.

As memory of the Civil War veterans faded, their memorial cemetery was rededicated to commemorate all veterans: those of the two world wars, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and Operation Desert Storm. The expansion of the war memorial was largely the idea of Korean War veteran Balzer Kurtz, a long-time Devils Lake city commissioner.

Gathered around the original DAR monument, however, are the old comrades at rest. Here lies Private Alonzo Bartlett of the 35th New York Infantry, who saw heavy combat with the Army of the Potomac in Virginia. Here lies Private Martin Bennett, who campaigned with Grant at Shiloh and Vicksburg and marched with Sherman to the sea. Here lies Private Henry Day of the 4th California Infantry, who probably never heard a shot fired in anger. In all there are twenty-nine marked graves of Civil War veterans, eleven of them with simple but informative white headstones, the others possessing only modest bronze GAR markers.--Research by Den Bolda, HIST 489, 2010

Recommended Reading

Brown, Thomas J. The Public Art of Civil War Commemoration, Boston: Bedford St. Martin's, 2004.

Blight, David. Race and Reunion. Cambridge: Belknap Press, 2001.

Kammen, Michael. Mystic Chords of Memory: The Transformation of Tradition in American Culture. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1991.

Grand Army of the Republic Museum, "A Brief history of the Grand Army of the Republic," http://garmuslib.org/.

Photo Gallery
Photos by Den Bolda

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Remembrance in Stone / Center for Heritage Renewal