American Civil War Monument Unveiling – 1893

Photograph of the monument showing Abraham Lincoln with the freed slave at his feet.In Old Calton Cemetery, Edinburgh, there is a memorial to the Scottish-American soldiers who fought for the Union (the North) in the American Civil War .

It takes the form of a bronze figure of President Abraham Lincoln standing on a granite plinth with a bronze figure of a freed slave at his feet, reaching out to him. A quotation of Abraham Lincoln’s is inscribed on the plinth beside the slave “To preserve the jewel of liberty in the framework of Freedom”.

Photograph of monument with inscription saying In Memory of Scottish-American Soldiers

The names of the soldiers commemorated are inscribed one side of the plinth:
• Sergeant Major John McEwan, Company H, 65th Regiment Illinois Volunteer Infantry.
• William L. Duff, Lt. Col. 2nd Illinois Regiment of Artillery .
• Robert Steedman, Company E, 5th Regiment Maine Infantry Volunteers.
• James Wilkie, Company C, 1st Michigan Cavalry.
• Robert Ferguson, Company F, 57th Regiment New York Volunteer Infantry Volunteers.
And on the opposite side of the plinth:
• Alexander Smith, Company G, 66th Regiment New York Volunteer Infantry.

The memorial was erected following the tragic story of the widow of William Duff who had called at the American Consulate in Edinburgh to apply for a pension following the death of her husband. The wife of the American Consul, Mr Wallace Bruce, took an interest in the story of her husband who had fought in the Civil War but had returned to Scotland and a life of sickness and poverty to finally be buried in an unmarked grave. Consul Wallace Bruce organised a committee to raise funds from Americans who wanted to mark the contribution of Scottish soldiers who fought for the Union but died later in Scotland. Mr George E. Bissell, himself an army veteran, was chosen as the sculptor and a burial plot was granted in Old Calton Cemetery by Edinburgh Town Council. Sir William Arrol was selected as Chairman of the unveiling ceremony.

The Unveiling and address by Sir William Arrol

Black and white photograph taken at the unveiling ceremony

Unveiling Ceremony, 21 August 1893

The memorial was unveiled on 21 August 1893. Despite the very wet and windy weather, a large crowd had gathered for the unveiling.

In his opening address Sir William Arrol said:

Ladies and gentlemen, we are met here to-day for the purpose of unveiling a monument to the Scottish-American soldiers who died during the sad strife which took place many years ago in America. Some of these soldiers returned to their native land, and they now can claim the right to be buried within the precincts of this graveyard, in front of this monument,which has been erected by prominent American citizens, who have a love for their land, and have shown the sympathy that they have for those soldiers who fought in the great fight for freedom in the Northern and Southern States. No doubt there are a great many now in this country who do not remember very much about what took place in that great struggle for liberty — for the freedom of the slaves; but those of us who were young at that time had it brought back to our memory when we read that pathetic story, ‘ Uncle Tom’s Cabin,’ which was written by a great novelist — a lady who, I am very glad to say, is still in life. To those of us who were young at the time, this monument appeals more to our sympathy than to, perhaps, the present generation, because such stories are slipping away, as well as the old plantation songs of which we used to hear so much.

There is one thing in Scotland that we have always been proud of, and that was our readiness to assist with and take part in any efforts for freedom and liberty wherever these were being made. We in Scotland always considered that we were the freest country in the world, and I trust it will be long before any person can say but what we are the freest country in the world, and that we are and always will be in the van of freedom. We have here on this monument the statue of a statesman — a great statesman — who stood up for freedom and liberty, and the integrity of the empire to which he belonged — (applause) — and I hope that the monument will stand here as an object-lesson for all time to all Scotsmen to stand up as that honest statesman did for his country, and for his freedom, and in defence of the integrity of the empire, and never allow anything to interfere with it. (Applause.) That is an object-lesson to all Scotland to come here and look honestly upon that honest face and that honest man — an honest statesman, who gave up his life for the freedom and integrity of his empire. (Applause.) In the state of the weather I will not trespass further upon your time, but will simply give way to the next speaker, Mr Henry E. Heath, the Chairman of the Committee in New York that has been interested in getting up this beautiful monument.

The extract of Sir William Arrol’s address is from the Monument Committee’s booklet The Lincoln Monument (1893).