Troy Civil War Soldier’s Statue: A Forgotten Story of Local Women’s History
By Judy Deeter
In section 11 of Troy’s Riverside Cemetery, there is a statue of a Union Civil War soldier shown standing in a position known as “parade rest.” It has been there for over 100 years. It is one of many such statues built throughout the Miami Valley in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. A bit of forgotten history about this statue, however, is that it was placed in the cemetery by women.
A plaque on the monument reads: “Erected by A.H. Coleman Corps No. 107 Troy, Ohio.” Today, only a few people know that this organization was the women’s auxiliary of Troy’s post of the Grand Army of the Republic, the A.H. Coleman Post 159. The Grand Army of the Republic was an organization of veterans of the Civil War. This unit for ladies was also known as the Woman’s Relief Corps or W.R.C. Though the Woman’s Relief Corps is known to have been active as early as the Civil War, aside from a few newspaper articles, very little information has been found about its local history or individual members.
The statue was erected in 1918 during a bleak time in history. World War I was raging overseas and an influenza pandemic had hit Ohio. Local newspapers were filled with stories of soldiers fighting in faraway places and residents dying of influenza in Miami County.
According to historical records, the Troy women raised $650 to build the statue. It was created by Charles U. Briggs, owner of a Troy marble and granite company. The Miami Union newspaper of April 14, 1918 reported, “The contract for the monument was award to C.U. Briggs and Son, whose artistic work is evident in every graceful line of the splendid statue, ‘Parade Rest,’ which is 6 feet in height. It is carved out of Carrara marble from Italy and represents a soldier at parade rest.” It stands on a block of Barre granite five feet six inches high, making the total height of the statue eleven feet six inches. Carved on the base of the statue are the words, “To the Memory of the Defenders of our Flag, 1861-1865.”
The statue was placed among gravesites of soldiers who had served during the Civil War. Some of the soldiers buried around the statue are African-American soldiers of the 54th and 55th Massachusetts Infantry (see bottom of page). The story of the soldiers of the 54th Massachusetts Infantry was told in the 1989 movie Glory. Buried at the base of the statue are the real soldiers whose lives were depicted in the movie.
Charles Briggs, who built the monument, was born in Dayton, Ohio on October 10, 1858. He lived in Vandalia for a time and moved to Troy in 1887. He began his business along North Market Street on the north side of the Great Miami River. His son, Walter, joined him in the business in 1896, but died in 1930—years before his father. Charles Briggs was in business for 57 years. In his later years, he operated his business at 9 N. Market St. He was well-known in Troy and is remembered as having led an interesting life. Along with creating the statue, he was a member of the Troy City Council, the oldest member of the board of directors of the First National Bank, a 50-year member of the Franklin Masonic Lodge, President of the Troy Masonic Temple Company and in 1927 and 1928 he took a trip around the world. He died in December 1951 at the age of 93. He was born before the beginning of the American Civil War and died during the Korean War.
The story in the Miami Union newspaper said that a dedication for the statue was planned, but neither information about a dedication nor the names of the women involved in raising the money for the statue has been found.
Today the fact that the statue was built by women has mostly been forgotten, even though the name of the group is on the statue. Only a few people today know that the A.H. Coleman Corps No. 107 Troy, Ohio was a women’s organization.