Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Monument Park - Edison Park

Location: Edison Park, Illinois

Features: Small neighborhood park with granite monument.

History: Located in the far Northwest Chicago neighborhood of Edison Park, this granite monument was dedicated in 1919.  According to the Chicago Park District, members of the Illinois Volunteer Training Corps offered this monument to honor all citizens of Edison Park who served in the United States Armed Forces during World War I.  It was accepted and maintained by the Edison Park District before being incorporated into the Chicago Parks District in 1934.  The granite column is itself an historical artifact, a remnant of the old Cook County Courthouse which was demolished in 1906.  The monument suffered from vandalism and wear over the years and was recently restored in 2008.

Among the individuals named for their service on the memorial plaque is that of Thomas A. Pope, United States Medal of Honor, British Distinguished Conduct Medal and French Croix de Guerre recipient. Corporal Pope saw his first and only action at the Battle of Hamel, July 4, 1918.  American units, including Pope's 33 Infantry Division were attached to an Australian offensive in France against German defenses.  As Pope's battalion advanced on an enemy machine gun nest, he charged ahead alone into the surprised crew and eliminated them with the bayonet.  Then he picked off nearby German squads with his rifle while the rest of his unit caught up with him in the trench.  The Battle of Hamel was an important moment for the Allies as it showcased the success of their efforts to improve cooperation between the various nations and demonstrated the power of new combined arms tactics that would defeat the stalemate of trench warfare.   For Thomas Pope, however, the war was soon over.  Two days after his heroic moment, he was the victim of a gas attack and shipped back home to Edison Park.  For his actions that day he was the first American to receive the Medal of Honor in France, and the longest American soldier Medal of Honor recipient to survive, passing in 1989 at the age of 94.  He is buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.

Traveler's Notes:  As the winter weather closes in upon us once again, this Veterans Day marks the last of this season's venture to discover all the local monuments within walking distance of home.

Resources:  Edison Park History, Chicago Park District - Monument Park, Chicago Park District - World War I Monument, Thomas Pope Wiki, Thomas Pope - Military Times, Thomas Pope - Military.com, Thomas Pope Obituary, Battle of Hamel Wiki

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

World War I Veterans Memorial - Saint Adalbert Cemetery

Location: Saint Adalbert Cemetery, Niles, Illinois

Features: Monument on cemetery grounds.

History:  Before World War One Poland did not exist as a country.  It had been partitioned by surrounding nations, its territory broken apart and ruled by Germany, Austria and Russia.  With the outbreak of war in 1914, many hoped that Allied victory would see the restoration of Poland as a sovereign state.  The United States entered the war in 1917 and many Polish-Americans volunteered to fight in the US armed forces.  Additionally, many Poles from the United States and abroad volunteered to join the ranks of the Blue Army.  The Blue Army, or Haller's Army, was an independent unit of Polish soldiers who fought alongside the Allied forces in France with the objective of promoting a free Poland. The name Blue Army was taken from their distinctive blue uniforms, but they were also know as Haller's Army after the name of the Polish General, Jozef Haller, who commanded the unit.  With the Allied victory secured in 1918, Poland was restored as a nation.  This monument honors those from the Chicago Polish community who served in the United States Armed Forces during the First World War as well as those who volunteered to serve in the Blue Army.

Traveler's Notes:  2014 marks the 100th anniversary of the start of World War One.   There is an overwhelming amount of new material on the subject released for the observance.  This may help bring about some new awareness to the events of the First World War which has been for the most part neglected.

Resources: Haller's Army Website, Saint Adalbert Cemetery

Veterans Memorial



Haller Army


Sunday, October 19, 2014

Katyn Massacre Memorial - Saint Adalbert Cemetery

Location: Saint Adalbert Cemetery, Niles, Illinois

Features:  Memorial situated in Polish-Catholic cemetery.

History:  In 1939, Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union agreed to a non-aggression pact that secretly allowed for the separation of Eastern Europe into their respective spheres of influence.  For Poland this was to foretell a new division of the country.  On September 1, 1939, Germany invaded Poland and so began World War II in Europe. Several weeks later the Soviets rolled through eastern Poland, quickly capturing what little remained of the Polish Army shattered by the Germany attack.  In accordance with their treaty, Germany and the Soviet Union split the country in two.  The Polish prisoners captured in this rapid advance were held by the NKVD, the Soviet state security organization. While most of these prisoners were from the Polish officer class, there were also many intellectuals, lawyers, doctors and government officials.  In March, 1940, Stalin ordered that these prisoners be executed. by the NKVD.  When it was done, some 22,000 Polish nationals had been killed.  These executions occurred at various interment camps in Russia, but the discovery of mass graves at the forest near Katyn presented the world a name for these massacres.

In 2007, a memorial to the Katyn Massacre was established at Saint Adalberts Cemetery in Niles, Illinois, here in Chicago's Near Northwest suburbs.  There is a long history of Polish settlement in Chicago, which is considered the largest community of Poles outside of Poland.  Saint Adalberts Cemetery was established in 1872 to serve this growing community.   Named for Poland's first saint, the cemetery's 255 acres are filled with a beautiful display of over 300,00 historic graves, shrines and memorials.  The Katyn Monument was designed by noted Polish artist Wojciech Seweryn, who immigrated to Chicago in the 1970's.  More significantly, Seweryn was the son of a Polish Army officer killed in the Katyn massacre.  To add to the tragedy, Wojciech Seweryn was killed, along with Polish President Lech Kaczynski, in the 2010 Polish Air Force Crash near Smolensk. Along with Seweryn and the President, several government officials as well as relatives of victims of the Katyn Massacre were on their way to mark the 70th anniversary of the event.  All aboard were lost.  A new monument was placed in 2011 nearby the Katyn Memorial to honor those lost in the disaster.

Traveler's Notes:  This is a continuation of my exploration of locations within walking distance from home here in Park Ridge. Saint Adalberts Cemetery in nearby Niles is a scenic destination for cemetery walkers with its rich, gothic architecture and stonework. These memorials are of particular meaning to me considering my own Polish-Lithuanian heritage, but you don't have to be related to appreciate and honor the artistic expression of those who seek to remember.

Resources: Saint Adalbert Cemetery - Archdiocese of Chicago

Katyn Memorial

Katyn Memorial

Katyn Memorial

Memorial to the 2010 Air Disaster

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Spirits of Old Park Ridge Event October 2014

Location: Town of Maine Cemetery, Park Ridge, Illinois

Features: Guided tour of historic cemetery, October 4, 2014.

History: The Park Ridge Historical Society organizes this guided "spirit" tour of the Town of Maine Cemetery.  At the cemetery a tour guide will lead your party to the markers at the burial sites of notable local personages.  At each of these stations is an actor in period costume who will briefly relate the history and life of the person they are portraying.  This year featured a variety of people including several mayors of Park Ridge, a Major League ballplayer, early settlers, teachers, and entrepreneurs.  Of interest to the Military History Traveler was Colonel Thomas P. Robb, a prominent Illinois Civil War veteran and friend of U.S. Grant. Robb was responsible for formally introducing Grant to Illinois Governor Richard Yates, thereby starting Grant's Civil War career.  Also presented on the tour was Charles G. Sherwin, a young Civil War volunteer, who unfortunately succumbed to disease in 1861, the most common cause of fatality during the war.

Traveler's Notes: This is a fantastic concept for relating local history.  Even though it was our first blustery Fall day here in Park Ridge, the enthusiasm of the volunteer actors and staff, along with those who came to take the tour, was high.  It was very encouraging to see the use of memorials as educational points of "living" history.

Resources: Park Ridge Historical Society, Park Ridge Herald Article Reviews Event

George and Laura Penny, Brickyard Owner

Charles G. Sherwin, Civil War Soldier

Dr. Gustav and Mary Fricke, Town Doctor

Harriet Rand, First School Teacher

Monday, September 22, 2014

Town of Maine Cemetery - Civil War Memorial

Location: Park Ridge, Illinois

Features:  Scenic cemetery with memorial statue and historic headstones.

History:  Town of Maine Cemetery is a small local burial site located in Park Ridge. It has served Chicago's northwest neighborhoods since at least 1822.  The cemetery has a reputation for containing very personalized and colorful memorials and markers.  Located within is a Grand Army of the Republic statue honoring those local soldiers who served in the American Civil War.  Their headstones are arrayed in a circle around the monument.

Traveler's Notes:  The Maine Cemetery Civil War monument has the honor of being the closest historical marker to my own front door, roughly a half a mile.  It took me several years of living in Park Ridge before I even knew it was there, walking nearby almost every day.  This is exactly the sort of coincidence that inspired my to start this blog.  You can find history right in your own backyard!

The Park Ridge Historical Society will be hosting a "Spirits of Old Park Ridge" tour day of the Town of Maine Cemetery on October 4, 2014.  Guides and reenactors will tell the story of individuals who have contributed to Park Ridge history and are laid to rest in the cemetery.

Resources: Park Ridge Historical Society; Chicago Tribune Visits Town of Maine Cemetery

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Cushing's Battery A, 4th U.S Artillery Position at Gettysburg

Location: Cemetery Ridge, Gettysburg

Features: Monuments and cannon.

History:  The Union artillery played a vital role in the repulse of the Confederate attack known as Pickett's Charge on the third day of the battle of Gettysburg, July 3, 1863. Battery A, 4th U.S. Artillery, commanded by 22 year old Alonzo Cushing, took up position along Cemetery Ridge in the area that would come to be known as "The Angle." Cushing's guns supported infantry from the 71st and 69th Pennsylvania regiments behind a low stone wall.  This location would be the only position the Southern attack would reach that day, culminating in fierce hand-to-hand fighting.  Though severely wounded several times, Cushing remained with his guns, pouring fire into the advancing Virginians. Cushing's heroic stand finally came to an end when he was mortally shot in the head. Due to his and many other Union soldier's sacrifices that day, the Confederate charge was broken and R.E. Lee's invasion of the North was finished.

Traveler's Notes:  It was announced today, August 26, 2014 that Alonzo Cushing would finally receive the Congressional Medal of Honor, 151 years after the battle.

Resources: http://thismightyscourge.com/2011/01/19/alonzo-h-cushing-us-lieutenant-soldier-profile-series/http://www.usnews.com/news/politics/articles/2014/08/26/obama-to-award-medal-of-honor-to-civil-war-soldier

The Angle - Cushing's Battery at left

Battery A Position, Cemetery Ridge

Battery A Position looking west toward the Confederate attack.
In the foreground is the marker noting where Cushing fell.

Monument to the nearby 69th Pennsylvanians

Friday, July 25, 2014

Lundy's Lane Battlefield

Location: Niagara Falls, Canada

Features: Drummond Hill Cemetery with monuments and markers.

History:  The Niagara River was the front line of the War of 1812.  The major campaigns centered on the strategic control of the forts guarding the waterways and lakes of this river boarder between New York and Ontario.  The summer of 1814 was the critical year for the United States' efforts to invade the Niagara peninsula and wrest control of the region from the British.  The US Army crossed over the Niagara River in early July 1814 and fought a series of engagements with the British defenders. The campaign climaxed on July 25, 1814, 200 years from the date of this post, when the US Army attacked the British at Niagara Falls along a road through the city called Lundy's Lane.  It was a hard fought battle featuring severe attacks and counter-attacks that lasted well into the night. Though they performed admirably, the high casualties among the Americans forced them to abandon the campaign.  They would not mount another major effort in the region again for the balance of the war, giving the Canadian defenders a strategic victory.

After the war Niagara Falls boomed as a tourist town much as it is today.  19th Century travelers journeyed not just to see the renowned waterfalls, but to tour the famous battlefield.  The tourist experience at Lundy's Lane 150 years ago was surprisingly similar to our modern visit to a park such as Gettysburg.  There were observation towers, "ranger" guides and a host of tourist amenities.   And just as the tension exists today between preserving historic lands and encroaching economic development, Lundy's Lane suffered from the same urban expansion crisis with the battlefield largely losing to new growth.  After the American Civil War, interest in the Ludy's Lane battle waned as the American park system offered larger venues for events that happened much closer to home.

What does remain of the battlefield is primarily centered on the Drummond Hill Cemetery. This hill was the focal point of the battle and its dominating geographical presence today can still be seen even though surrounded by urban development.  The cemetery is the final resting place for many people associated with the battle and the era.  The most famous of these is probably Laura Secord, a name instantly recognized by Canadians as their heroine of the War of 1812, but still obscure to most Americans.  The 200th anniversary of the war has seen some new interest in the battle with the Canadian government and local organizations promoting events to commemorate the Lundy's Lane battle.

Traveler's Notes:  Lundy's Lane holds a special place for me as it shares my birthday, July 25.  Given its proximity to my homestate of Michigan and my personal connection to the War of 1812, combined with several trips to the Falls as a kid, it remains one of those battlefields that turned me into a history nut!

Resources: http://niagarafallsmuseums.ca/visit/lundyslane.aspxhttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Lundy's_Lanehttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laura_Secordhttps://www.niagarafalls.ca/pdf/heritage/lundys-lane-walking tour.pdf

Lundy's Lane -  200 years later

Laura Secord

Lundy's Lane Anniversary Update:  I had hoped to make it the 200th Anniversary events this year but could not manage to get away to Canada at this time.  However, Matthias Koster at the Niagara Falls Marriott was kind enough to send along a photo of the new 200th Anniversary Commemorate Archway that was unveiled today by the city of Niagara Falls.

Photos provided by: Marriott Niagara Falls Hotel Fallsview & Spa

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

24th Michigan Monument - Gettysburg

Location: Gettysburg National Military Park

Features: Granite monument.

History: Today's postdate marks the 151st anniversary of the first day of the Battle of Gettysburg. The 24th Michigan Infantry Regiment saw heavy action in McPherson's Woods on July 1, 1863. This Michigan regiment was a unit of the "Iron Brigade" of the Union I Corps, with a reputation for discipline under fire. As a mark of distinction, they were allowed to wear the black army dress hat as can be seen on the monument's soldier. Their valor at Gettysburg would cost them dearly, taking more than 70% casualties, the highest losses suffered by any Union regiment at the battle.

Traveler's Notes: This is sacred ground for all native Michiganders.  Many Michigan units served with distinction during the war, but none capture the imagery of the 24th Michigan on that hot July morning.  I keep a small replica of the 24th Michigan monument on my desk to honor those men of my home state.

Resources: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/24th_Michigan_Volunteer_Infantry_Regiment, http://www.civilwarintheeast.com/USA/MI/24MI.php

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Grand Army of the Republic Memorial Hall - Chicago Cultural Center

Location: Chicago Cultural Center - Chicago, Illinois

Features: Large marble hall with Renaissance pattern glass rotunda.  Mosaic floors and mahogany doors that feature the names of the major American Civil War battles.

History:  The Chicago Cultural Center was originally built in 1897 as the city's primary library and meeting hall for the Grand Army of the Republic.  The GAR was a fraternal organization of Civil War veteran founded in Decatur, Illinois in 1866.  The GAR donated the land to build this Chicago landmark with the purpose of housing the GAR meeting hall and memorial.  The other rooms of the building feature a variety of beautiful neoclassical architectural designs.  Today the Center serves as a multipurpose forum hosting local events, art galleries, music and film exhibitions, and lectures.

Traveler's Notes: I attended a recent business related awards ceremony that was hosted in the GAR Memorial Hall.  Being there a little bit early gave me the opportunity to take some pictures.  Perhaps more of an architectural history destination, it is certainly worth exploring the amazing decor of this Chicago institution.

Resources: http://www.cityofchicago.org/city/en/depts/dca/supp_info/chicago_culturalcenter-generalinformation.htmlhttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chicago_Cultural_Center

Saturday, April 19, 2014

The Lexington Minuteman

Location: Lexington, Massachusetts

Features: Monument on the Lexington Green

History: The date of this post, April 19, marks the 239th anniversary of the first battles of the American Revolution.  The opening shots came at dawn on the Lexington Green as the British Regulars confronted the assembled militia.  The monument is said to be a likeness of Captain John Parker, leader of the local militia.

Traveler's Notes: This is the starting point of the Lexington to Concord route that is simply filled with historical sites from early Americana.  In October 2013, I marched the distance from Lexington to the Old North Bridge in Concord, following the path of the British column.  I stopped along the way to record as many of the attractions as time allowed. These to be featured in future posts.

Resources: Battles_of_Lexington_and_ConcordJohn_Parker_(captain)

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

U.S.S. Lexington Memorial

Location: Lexington, Massachusetts

Features: Series of monuments with plaques each representing one of the United States naval ships named "Lexington."

History: In honor of its place as the location of the start of the American Revolution, Lexington has given its name to several warships of the United States Navy.  The monuments here detail the exploits of these five ships:
-16 gun brigantine of the Revolutionary War era
-18 gun sloop-of-war seeing action during the 19th century including use during the Mexican War and sailing with Perry on his expedition to open Japan
-river gunboat of the American Civil War
-CV-2 "Lady Lex" Aircraft Carrier of the Battle of Coral Sea fame during World War II
-CV-16 "Blue Ghost" Aircraft Carrier of World War II

Traveler's Notes:  The U.S.S. Lexington Memorial stands out as a moving tribute to the legacy of these ships and the men who served aboard them.  Located nearby is a Visitors Center with additional information. Unfortunately it was closed at the time of my visit due to the late hour.


16 Gun Brigantine

18 Gun Sloop

River Gunboat

CV-2 "Lady Lex"

CV-16 "Blue Ghost"

Monday, January 27, 2014

Concord Monument Square Civil War Monument

Location: Monument Square, Concord, Massachusetts

Features: Granite obelisk

History:  Monument honoring those residents of Concord lost in the American Civil War.  It was dedicated in 1867.

Traveler's Notes: Photographed October 2013.

Resources: http://ctmonuments.net/2010/05/monument-square-concord-mass/

Sunday, January 26, 2014

USS Constitution

Location: Charlestown Navy Yard, Boston, Massachusetts

Features: USS Constitution is open for self-tours of the deck and guided tours of the lower decks.  USS Constitution museum contains excellent exhibits, demonstrations, model ship building, films, library and gift shop.

History: The USS Constitution or "Old Ironsides" is the oldest commissioned naval vessel afloat, launched in 1797.  She is most famous for her actions against the British during the War of 1812.  Since that time the ship has been used in a variety of roles including life as a training ship during the American Civil War, as a ship of state and as a museum ship.  After numerous repairs over the past 200 years, the Constitution is now restored to her appearance during the 1812 period in celebration of the war's bicentennial.

Traveler's Notes: Standing on the deck of a 200 year old frigate is as close to the experience of entering a time machine as one can get.  The ship is more than just a piece of history, it is a piece of the past that has to be kept alive by the knowledge of her craftsman and skill of her crew.  This spirit of tradition permeates the Constitution and allows you to experience a different age as it was lived. Without the continued dedication of these preservationists this will all be lost to us.

Resources: http://www.history.navy.mil/ussconstitution/index.htmlhttp://www.ussconstitutionmuseum.org/