Articles | Civil War News December 2001

Restoration Plan For 32nd Indiana Memorial Progressing
Volume XXVII Page 11
By Michael A. Peake

LOUISVILLE, Ky.—Efforts to preserve the nation's oldest Civil War monument located at Cave Hill National Cemetery in Louisville should be moving ahead following the National Cemetery Administration's recent response to restoration proposals.

As reported in previous articles in The Civil War News (September 2000 and May 2001), John M. Trowbridge, Manager of the Kentucky Military History Museum at Frankfort, is leading the project.

Created by Cincinnati resident August Bloedner, a soldier of the 32nd Indiana, to memorialize his comrades killed at the Battle of Rowlett's Station, the monument was placed at their gravesite in Munfordville, Ky., soon after the Dec. 17, 1861, battle.

In the summer of 1867, the remains of the dead, along with the monument, were removed to the National Cemetery in Louisville. At that time, the memorial was mounted upright on a commemorative base stone that ultimately contributed to its deterioration.

Since most funds to preserve the 32nd Indiana Monument will ultimately come from the private sector, the Kentucky Civil War Sites Association began accepting donations for that purpose.

Department Commander Thomas Crawford and Secretary/Treasure Alan Teller, representing the Department of Indiana Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War, met in July at Cave Hill Cemetery with Trowbridge and Kentucky Civil War Site Preservation Coordinator Tom Fugate to present a $500 donation to the 32nd Indiana Volunteer Infantry Memorial Fund.

Crawford spearheaded the donation on behalf of all of the camps in the Department of Indiana to assist in preserving the memorial that has historic ties to Indiana, Ohio and Kentucky.

For the past several months, preservation efforts for the monument were essentially on hold awaiting a decision from the Department of Veterans Affairs National Cemetery Administration (NCA), the stewards of all National Cemeteries.

Office of Construction Management Director Robert B. Holbrook recently responded to several proposals and requests submitted by the (sic) Trowbridge.

He denied permission to place an interpretive panel that provides a translation of the German text and the names 'of the dead, saying the NCA does not display interpretive information in the National Cemeteries. "The sanctity and atmosphere of a National Shrine for this purpose preclude the placement of anything other than commemorative markers" according to Holbrook who suggested a brochure be distributed instead.

This appears to contradict the placement of a similar historic panel some years ago at Camp Nelson National Cemetery in Jessamine County, Kentucky, that tells the history of the burial grounds, the post and the U.S. Colored Troops stationed there.

At present, visitors who arrive at the monument in Cave Hill have no idea they are looking upon the country's oldest surviving Civil War monument. The German text that listed the names of the dead and described their baptism of fire in one of the Union's first tangible victories in the Western Theater has all but been completely erased by exfoliation, the peeling away of the surface. Past preservation attempts of applying a type of wash could have possibly accelerated the process.

The NCA approved Trowbridge's request to allow stone preservation contractor Lynette Strangstad of Stones Faces and Sacred Places to assess the monument for preservation treatment options. Any work performed on the monument would require approval from the NCA and the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO).

Trowbridge proposed that the monument be replaced and the original be moved indoors permanently. As part of that proposal, the original monument would eventually be sent to the Hart County Historical Society in Munfordville, not far from the site where the dead of the 32nd Indiana were initially buried.

Holbrook stated that NCA policy "would preclude the removal of the monument for any purpose other than the preservation treatment after which it must be returned to its present location."

If removal is required for treatment, application must be submitted to the NCA for written authorization. The monument deterioration has suddenly accelerated in the last few years and little will remain outside of memory to mark the story of sacrifice of those men of the 1st German, 32nd Indiana Infantry.