Given the events of the last five years — and, in particular, the January attack on the U.S. Capitol fueled by Trump’s Big Lie about the November election — I was drawn this Memorial Day weekend to the one monument in the city of Baltimore that honors the more than 65,000 Marylanders who fought for the Union in the Civil War. My Sunday column in The Baltimore Sun is all about the Union monument and it’s meaning in the context of the superpartisanship that characterizes the country today — essentially between Americans who understand and revere our democracy and Americans who have gone all-in with the malignant narcissict Trump. The most recent demonstration of the danger this democracy faces, even with Trump out of office, is the refusal of most Senate Republicans and all but 35 House Republicans to acknowledge January 6 as an insurrection provoked by Trump and the Big Lie. This is toxic stuff and, if we want to keep this Republic going, we need to face it, and face it with the full understanding that American democracy is worth saving. This requires appreciating our own history — the bad and the good — while embracing truth, the Constitution and the rule of law. Thus my reflection of the Union monument in Baltimore. My column explains the symbolism in the statue.
The inscription reads: Erected by the state of Maryland to commemorate the patriotism and heroic courage of her sons who on land and sea fought for the preservation of the Federal Union in the Civil War, 1861-1865.
I asked the artist and sculpture Joe Sheppard to give his perspective of Adolph Weinman’s 1909 sculpture:
The movement of the soldier, with his cape flowing, is very much in the same style of contemporary sculptor Hans Schuler. He and Weinman were German-born Americans and influenced by the European Beaux-Arts movement. Weinman studied under Augustus Saint-Gaudens, who was considered the most famous sculptor in America in the Beaux-Arts Movement. In my own work, where I often group people together, I’m always interested in how an artist works with several figures in a group — just as a dancer would in choreographing a group of dancers on a stage. A painter has to worry only about one view point. A sculptor has to think of at least three different viewpoints. I think that Weinman’s solution works.
If you’re anywhere near Charles Village this Memorial Day weekend, you should stop by and have a look at the monument and think about the sacrifices made to save the Union and end the evil of slavery. The last Union soldier died in the Civil War 156 years ago, but the existential issues that the nation faced then feel very much of the moment now.
The trash that I saw at the base of the monument on Friday has disappeared. So thanks to the person or persons responsible for the cleanup.