Construction of America’s greatest Civil War monument commenced in 1888, twenty-three years after the end of the Civil War. That year was the same year that Bernard Vonnegut and Arthur Bohn formed their architectural partnership. The firm lasted two generations. Berlin architect Bruno Schmitz won the international design competition conducted by the State of Indiana. The Monument, a National Historic Landmark, memorializes the actions and sacrifices of that generation of Indiana men in the warships and battlefields of the Civil War. Constructed of Indiana limestone, this neo-Baroque monument is embellished with limestone and bronze sculpture, monumental steps, fountains, reflecting pool, and gardens. The Monument was completed in 1901 and dedicated the following year with great fanfare.
The Monument would have been well known by the writer; standing 284.5 feet in the very center of the city it is hard to ignore. He does not refer to it in his work, however another Midwestern humorist of the previous generation, James Thurber, humorously depicted Ohio’s 1893 Civil War Monument in Columbus in his short story “The Day the Dam Broke.”
The writer’s great grandfather, Peter Lieber emigrated from Duesseldorf to New Ulm, Minnesota, and fought in the Civil War serving in a Minnesota volunteer regiment. After his medical discharge during the war, Lieber relocated to Indianapolis where his brother Herman had settled a decade before. The Brothers Lieber bought a brewery and renamed it P. Lieber & Company. Peter eventually retired to his hometown of Duesseldorf serving as the American Consul. He was visited there by his granddaughter Edith. She would become the mother of Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.
Cover image: Daniel Schwen, CC-BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons.