Colonel Nelson B. Bartram, GAR Monument – Port Chester, New York

Port Chester NY - GAR MonumnetA Soldiers Monument

Near the heart of Port Chester, New York,  just south on the Boston Post Road (US1) is a small park that sits on a bluff. A good position to hold the high ground. In that park is a bronze statue of Colonel Nelson B. Bartram of the 17th NY Vol. and the 20th United States Colored Troops.  He and his wife Annie were residents of Port Chester.  The monument is a Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) Soldiers Memorial.  Back when the boys in blue were still alive, Port Chester, New York was the home to the Charles Lawrence Post No. 378 of the GAR.  At the time the monument was constructed, it seems that the statue was not appreciated by all involved.

On September 26, 1900 over 2000 Civil War, Spanish American War veterans and fire department and civic societies joined in a parade in the town of Port Chester, NY.  “The occasion was the dedication of a granite monument surmounted by a bronze figure of an officer, which was built three years ago by George R. Read and George W. Quintard and presented to the village (of Port Chester).”  Some of the local GAR men didn’t care for the figure of an officer and felt that it should have been an enlisted man. They also objected that the bronze cast emblem of the GAR was not the official one.  The ceremony at the statue included 200 children singing. Businesses were closed for the day.

“There is no sculptural art in America”

Port Chester, NY Civil War Monumnet

Signed J. Massey Rhind , 1897

The sculptor, John Massey Rhind (1860 – 1936) was an American sculptor born in Edinburgh, Scotland. He was also the sculptor of the Stephenson GAR Memorial in Washington, D.C.. There are also several Civil War Monuments in Gettysburg, PA. Upon completing his training in England and Paris he considered moving to the United States but was cautioned by his father not to do so because, “There is no sculptural art in America . . .You’ll starve.”  His keen eye and talent has produced several national treasures so we will assume that his dad may have been wrong.

Cast in Bronze

Photo Of the Abendroth Foundry on the Byram River in Port Chester, NY

Photo Of the Abendroth Foundry (1915) on the Byram River in Port Chester, NY (Westchester Historical Society)

The statue was cast at the Abendroth Brothers Foundry in Port Chester which was was established by William P. Abendroth on the banks of the Byram river in 1840. They were a manufacturer of iron stoves, fancy yard pieces, hollow ware, planters boilers, etc. It grew to be the largest employer in Port Chester and was a well established business by the time Port Chester became a village in 1868. It was one of the largest foundries on the East coast even having it’s own locomotive.They also produced stoves and furnaces that were shipped around the world. The Abendroth Brothers foundry was one of the largest industries in latter day Port Chester.

Who Was Col. Nelson B. Bartram?

Port Chester, NY Civil War

Colonel Nathan B. Bartram

Nelson B. Bartram was born in Westport, New York on January 7th 1832. While still a child he came to Manhattan. On the eve of the Civil War he was a teacher, managing a night school on nineteenth street. He was also a principal at the public school on West Twenty Fourth Street.  He enlisted with the 17th New York Volunteer Infantry, a Union Army regiment. He rose quickly and becme Major and then Lieutenant Colonel for his bravery. He was witness to all the major engagements that the Army of the Potomac fought in until December 1863.

Westchester Chasseurs

linedrawing

Drawing of the monument from 1960 (Town of Rye)

The Seventeenth Regiment New York Volunteers was commanded by Col. H. S. Lansing, with Thomas F. Morris as Lieutenant-Colonel. When Lieutenant-Colonel Morris resigned in 1862, Nelson B. Bartram became his successor.  The Seventeenth New York became the first veteran regiment to return to the war in October, 1863.  The Seventeenth and a Massachusetts regiment constituted the entire infantry force under General Stoneman on the Peninsula.  At Hanover Court House the Seventeenth took one of the enemy’s guns.  General Butterfield spoke of the splendid advance of the brigade, led by the Seventeenth and Forty-fourth New York at the battle of Groveton. At the battle of Bull Run no less than four color-bearers lost their lives in its defense, and the flag being saved, and rigged to a new staff, was returned to the Common Council of New York, as a proof of the valor of the regiment.  The regiment lost over 200 men at Bull Run over one third of the men in their ranks.  At the battle of Antietam the 17th fought in the Third Brigade with the 20th Maine.

Bound for Glory

Port Chester NY - GAR Monumnet

Replacement eagle attached in 2008

Much like Gould Shaw of the 54th Massachusetts (See the motion picture “Glory”) he was tapped by the Unilon League Club at age 32 to lead a regiment of US Colored Troops, free blacks that wanted to serve the union. It was considered a dangerous experiment and as many offices would find out, their troops fought like devils in blue, proving themselves time and time again.

Port Chester NY - GAR Monumnet

Grand Army of the Republic Seal

Col. Nelson B. Bartram became the commanding officer of the 20th Infantry, US Colored Troops, which was organized at Riker’s Island, New York harbor, February 9, 1864, to serve three years; it served in the Department of the East to March, 1864; in the District of New Orleans, Department o.f the Gulf, to January, 1865; and in the Southern Division of Louisiana, Department of the Gulf, until it was honorably discharged and mustered out, October 7, 1865.

 

Post War

 

Port Chester NY - GAR Monument

2nd Corp

After the war Bartram became one the Deputy Collectors of the Port of New-York.  He died in 1886 on December 25th at No. 108 West Forty-fifth-street. He was a distinguished soldier during the war of the rebellion. He was married in 1857 to Annie Van Dyke and they had 4 sons and 2 daughters.

The Monument

Port Chester NY - GAR Monument

5th Corp

The monument sits in a triangular park, facing southwest at the fork of Boston Post Road (US-1) and Pearl Street.  The monument consists of a bronze eagle statue siting atop an ornate granite obelisk.  Below the eagle is ornate carving of a Union Shield. The current eagle is a replacement that was attached during a 2008 restoration of the monument.  Surrounding three sides of the base are laurel wreaths relief carved in stone.  In the center of each laurel is:

Port Chester NY - GAR Monument

11th Corp

On the west face is an carving of a three leaf clover, the corp badge design of the Union Army 2nd Corps, Army of the Potomac.  On the north face is an carving of a Maltese cross, the corp badge design of the Union Army 5th Corps, Army of the Potomac.  On the east face is an carving of a crescent moon, the corp badge design of the Union Army 11th Corps, Army of the Potomac.

There is a stone platform base that sits directly in front of the obelisk with a bronze statue of Col. Nelson B. Bartram.  At the bottom of the base is a bronze GAR star. It appears that it was not the “Licensed Version” of the era.

Port Chester NY - GAR Monument
There is also a bronze plaque that  is affixed to the east face, below  the crescent moon, on the stone portion of the monument. It appears to be a thank you to the Union Defense Committee.  According to William O’Neil, a history author, “The Union Defense Committee resulted from a desire of ordinary citizens to actively assist the national government to force the southern states back into the Union.”

The Current State

Port Chester NY - GAR MonumnetThe monument has weathered the past 112 years pretty well.  With the exception of the Eagle being stolen and having to be replaced the rest of the monument appears to be original.  Although from the line drawing recently discovered, there appears to have been a second plaque on the front below the GAR seal. The park sits in the middle of a very urban area. The granite shaft is subject to possible graffiti as it resides in a high traffic area but is still somewhat isolated from view.  The 2008 cleanup erased graffiti. The monument is surrounds with brick pavers in which more than a few that have become loose and there are more than several missing with weeds filling the voids. In general the park has good landscaping but a small investment in Port Chester NY - GAR Monumnetnew sidewalks would make it more accessible. Given current state funding, unless a private donation of money / time were introduced, that won’t be corrected in the foreseeable future.

It is interesting to note that no where on the monument or around it states who or what it is there for as our younger generations would first think of the Star Wars movies if you asked them “What was the Grand Army of the Republic.” I know this because I did just that.

Visiting the Site

There is ample parking on New Broad Street which borders the park. It is also a quick walk from the Port Chester Metro North station.

This is a  birds eye view and map of the monument.

Additional Photos of the Port Chester GAR Monument

Sources:

SOLDIERS’ MONUMENT UNVEILED

The Honors of the Empire state in the War of the Rebellion

By Thomas Seaman Townsend

John Massey Rhind

Union Defense Committee

Byram River Photographs, 1915 & 1938

Special thanks to Dennis Segelquist for the original letter form Bartram.

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5 Responses to Colonel Nelson B. Bartram, GAR Monument – Port Chester, New York

  1. A great article about an often overlooked part of our American and local history. The meaning and purpose of these markers is seemingly all but forgotten by many.

    The Grand Army of the Republic moved from memory into history with the passing of the last Union veteran in 1956. But they left us these simple stone and bronze reminders of those who came before us, and of their struggles and sacrifices which preserved our Nation. The least we can do is care for these memorials, and make sure that each new generation learns that there were men and women who came before them, who made a difference, and who deserve to be remembered.

    Michael S. Bennett
    Dept. of New York
    Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War
    spangler@mindspring.com

  2. Paul Martinello says:

    I believe you mean ‘2nd Corps’ underneith the wreath photo.
    Very nice story. I’ll have to stop by it when in town.

    Paul Martinello
    JVC Dept of CT
    SUVCW

  3. Drew says:

    Thank You for the keen eye, corrected to 2nd Corp, I was looking at the 3rd division part when i put it in.

  4. Yvonne P. Divak says:

    Very well done article. I’ve studied the Civil War for 50 plus years, and you’ve taught me quite a few new things. It’s really too bad children in New York State aren’t taught about our own black regiments. All anyone ever hears about is the 54th Mass. It was an excellent regiment, of course, but not the only one. The next time I go to Gettysburg, Ill look for Mr. Rhind’s signature.

  5. BCarroll says:

    Hello and thank you for the fine description.

    Keeping with the Colored Troops theme and Bartram, I was wondering if you could clear a few things up for me.

    My gr. gr. grandfather was one of the founding members of the Charles Lawrence GAR Post 378. However, he fought for the Connecticut 17th, Co. I and yet he belonged to a NY GAR post. Was this common?

    Also, if you look at http://www.findagrave.com and do a search for a man named Samuel Marshell you will see that he has a Post 378 flag holder on his grave. Marshell was African American and served in a NY Colored Troops division. Do you happen to know if Post 378 was an integrated GAR post? Or was it standard procedure to place a GAR marker on all veterans’ graves regardless of membership or not?

    And finally have you ever seen a GAR tombstone flag holder that has a C in an inverted triangle and a eagle’s wing on top of the marker? The C in the centered triangle is flanked by two stars. This particular grave flag holder is for another member of the Connecticut 17th who I do not think was a member of Post 378.

    As for the controversy concerning the officer being portrayed instead of an enlisted man, I find it very curious that Nicholas Fox, a Medal of Honor recipient, was not honored in sculpture – since he was a member of Post 378.

    Unfortunately, I do not have any photos of my gr. gr. grandfather. They were reportedly lost in a fire. He donated his uniform to the GAR Post but after the Post disbanded, the memorabilia seems to have been “lost” to the ages.

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