The Flag Bearer: Hillsdale’s Civil War Memorial

The following remarks were delivered at the monument on April 9, 2015, on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of the surrender of the Confederacy, led by General Robert E. Lee, to General Ulysses S. Grant, Commanding General of United States forces, in 1865.

On this site, on September 18, 1861, a crowd gathered and the first 30 men from Hillsdale were “mustered into service” for the Union cause. Hillsdale would eventually send 125 men. Our neighboring town of Copake, already larger in size with its bustling iron works, sent 166 men. All in all, Columbia County sent some 2,700 men and New York State sent more men – and lost more – than any other state in the Union.

We don’t know why Hillsdale was the only town to erect a grand memorial to the Union, but here it is. And we’re grateful for it. 50 years after the war, while the Lincoln Memorial was under construction, local Civil War veterans worked to line up the funds for the creation of this historic “Soldiers and Sailors Flag Bearer” bronze statue. It was dedicated to those who fought for the Union in the Civil War of 1861-1865.

The monument was commissioned by John K. Cullin who lived here and was executed by sculptor Edwin E. Codman, of Rhode Island, where the piece was cast in bronze. It was delivered here by train – and carted up Anthony Street (in those days called Railroad Street) assembled here and, on July 4, 1916, dedicated. There’s a wonderful photograph of that occasion.

For all of us who pass by this monument, it is emblematic of citizenship, collaboration, and everything that is good about our community.

If you have a few moments following the ceremony, we invite you to our beautiful Town Hall to view some Civil War artifacts on loan from the Roeliff Jansen Historical Society. The display includes the “great coat,” jacket and tall leather boots worn by Captain John Bingham Collin who resided on Hunt Road here in Hillsdale. Lucy Collin’s 1865 portrait of her husband hangs above the case. Collin was 21 years old when he became the first man from Hillsdale to join the ranks of the 91st New York Volunteer Infantry in December 1861.

Unlike 18 of his Hillsdale comrades, Captain Collin came home to Hillsdale and lived a long and happy life as a publisher and farmer. He was buried in the cemetery overlooking his farm in 1894.

Captain Collin did not live to see his likeness represented here – but twenty years after his death, the local paper that was housed in a little shop just over here (where the IGA now stands), reported than a handful of ancient Civil War veterans, who would have been boys during the war, witnessed the dedication of this monument in 1916.

The following was written in 2000 when the monument was restored.

It took seven years of unrelenting effort of town elders, principally by VFW member John Dunn, to line up the funds for the restoration of the historic Soldiers and Sailors bronze statue dedicated to the Hillsdale men who fought for the Union in the Civil War of 1861-1865.

The monument, also referred to as the “Soldiers and Sailors” monument, was originally commissioned by John K. Cullin and executed by Edwin E. Codman, sculptor on the staff of the Gorham Manufacturing Co. of Rhode Island, where the piece was cast in bronze. It was delivered to Hillsdale by train, carted to its permanent site, and assembled. It was dedicated on July 4,1916.

On June 20, 2000 the 13-foot high bronze statue weighing  3,500 lbs. was lifted by crane from its 15 foot granite base, placed on a flat-bed truck of RVW Sculpture Arrangement and transported to Coryat Casting Co. in Rhinebeck for a complete conservation treatment under the direction of conservator Isabel M. Coryat.

Flag Bearer Monument Dedication

Biography of Sculptor Edwin E. Codman

Edwin E. Codman, son of William Christmas Codman (1839 – 1923) and his wife, Emma Rolle, was born in London on December 19, 1876. In 1888 Edwin’s brother William was hired by The Gorham Foundry, in Rhode Island. Their father, also named William, became Director of Design at Gorham, in November 1891. Edwin followed in both his father and brother’s footsteps to Rhode Island.

The teenage Edwin was trained as a modeler and sculptor in the Gorham Apprentice Program. In 1898, the Providence City Directory notes that he “removed to Paris” to study sculpture, and by 1899, he had returned and joined the Providence Art Club.

With his second brother, Frank, Edwin established a silver manufacturing shop called Codman & Codman in 1902, they made pieces very much in the Martelé style, which their father (with whom all three sons lived all these years) designed for Gorham. When Codman & Codman failed in 1905, Gorham bought its assets and Edwin traveled to Europe with his parents.

He married Janet Mather, daughter of William Penn Mather, a wealthy textile manufacturer, in September 1906. Edwin remained an artist member of the Providence Art Club. During his early married days, he and his wife lived near the Gorham factory, where he remained as a modeler. He worked on silver projects and made small bronze sculptures for the Company, as well as having the Company cast pieces of his own. He left Gorham (again) in June 1914, two weeks after his father’s retirement and returned to England.

When his father-in-law died on July 7, 1925, the death was front-page news in the Providence Journal, the childless couple must have come into a significant bequest. They moved to the more fashionable East Side of Providence. Around 1929 – 1931, they moved to Dorset, Vermont and lived as recluses. There is no evidence that Edwin did any sculptural work in Vermont.

He took his own life at the age of 79 on April 29, 1955. Edwin had neither children nor close relatives, only his wife and maid.