Articles | Civil War News Feb/Mar 2002

Kentucky Monument Preservation Begins
Volume XXVIII Page 26
By Michael A. Peake

Due in part to the dedicated efforts of Dr. Dennis Domer, Department Director of the University of Kentucky Center for Historic Architecture and Preservation, the processes required to save the Nation’s oldest surviving Civil War monument—the August Bloedner 32nd Indiana (First German) Regiment Monument at Cave Hill National Cemetery in Louisville—are escalating.

The National Cemetery Administration (NCA), Department of Veterans Affairs, initiated the consultation with the university because of the monument’s poor condition. Dr. Domer’s team of Senior Research Associate Fred Rogers and Graduate students Michael Riegert and Kurt Leahey traveled to the cemetery last September (2001) to assess the condition of the monument which was dedicated to the men killed near Munfordville, Ky., on Dec. 17, 1861, at the battle of Rowlett’s Station.

Preliminary steps sanctioned by the Veterans Administration were implemented on December 15 with the construction of a temporary protective weather-shelter over the memorial until temperatures allow full treatment intervention.

NCA Historian Sara Amy Leach, in Washington D. C., endorsed the initial steps to begin stabilization after reviewing the inspection report and the history behind the memorial, as developed by Kentucky Military History Museum Manager John M. Trowbridge.

As a strong advocate in the efforts to save and preserve the Bloedner Monument, Leach agreed with Trowbridge’s suggestion that a National Park Service-style interpretive panel be installed near the monument to tell the story that the memorial can no longer convey. She noted that the limestone monument "has lost much of its German inscription,” and “its significance is not self-explanatory and the text is fairly illegible."

Immediate action was planned to protect a palm-sized piece of inscription with the name of Sachs from flaking off of the surface.

Lieutenant Max Sachs, leading Co. “C” on the Union left, was the one officer among the 13 men killed. Surrounded by Texas Rangers, Sachs and four of his men were struck down in a blaze of gunfire after defiantly choosing to fight rather than to surrender. His body was removed to Cincinnati and buried in a family plot at the K. K. Adath Israel Cemetery on Dec. 22, 1861.

In the days following the engagement, Pvt. August Bloedner of Co. “F,” 32nd Indiana, procured a large tablet of outcrop limestone from the fields around the Green River town. He expertly carved an account of the battle in German, including the names, places and dates of birth of those men killed.

Bloedner surmounted the monument with a recess in which he placed patriotic symbols including an eagle clutching a brace of cannon flanked by National flags. The regiment placed the memorial at the hilltop burial site west of Munfordville on the north side of the river sometime in January 1862.

In response to directives to gather all Union dead to National Cemeteries the remains, along with the monument, were removed to Cave Hill in June 1867.

The monument was mounted upright on a commemorative base stone with the English inscription, “In memory of the First Victims of the 32. Reg. Indiana Vol. Who fell at the Battle of Rowlettd [sic] Station Dec. 17, 1861.”

One of the mysteries surrounding the monument had been its sculptor. Period references misidentified the stonemason as Adolph Bloettner, a name that does not appear on any regiment roster. Once it was verified that the individual was August Bloedner the search began to locate his personal history and burial place. For the past two years John Trowbridge has researched Bloedner’s record, attempting to learn the location of his grave. He finally located the unmarked grave at Vine Street Cemetery in Cincinnati.

Trowbridge has applied for a Veterans Administration military headstone for Bloedner's grave and is advocating placement of an Ohio Historical Society marker.

The 140th anniversary of Bloedner’s creation will be commemorated Feb. 2 hosted by the Louisville Germanic Heritage Auxiliary and Kentucky Military History Museum. The day will include a grave side memorial ceremony at Cave Hill National Cemetery and symposium.

Donations to restore the monument are welcome. Checks should be made out to the Kentucky Historical Society with a notation indicating Bloedner Monument Project. They may be sent to: Manager John M. Trowbridge, The Kentucky Military History Museum, 100 West Broadway, Frankfort, KY 40601-1931. For information e-mail or call (502) 564-3265.