Today in History: Soldiers and Sailors Monument Dedicated in Clinton Square

Soldiers and Sailors Monument Dedication, June 21, 1910

On June 21st, 1910, the Soldiers and Sailors Monument in Clinton Square was unveiled. People packed the square to witness the ceremony and some even watched from the windows and roofs of nearby buildings. The monument was originally built to honor the 12,000 individuals from Onondaga County that fought in the Civil War, but has since been rededicated in the memory of all the county’s service men and women. The bronze sculptures were designed by Cyrus Dallin. The East group of figures is titled, “A Call to Arms” and the West is named, “An Incident at Gettysburg.”

On the Clinton street side of the monument, a bronze relief depicts Union soldiers defending Culp’s Hill at Gettysburg from Rebel forces.  During the intense fire, the staff of the 149th flag was split in two and the flag fell over the breastworks into the line of enemy fire. (Photo below)

Barnum with the repaired staff and 149th flag

Color Sergeant William Lilly bravely climbed over the breastworks and retrieved the flag.  He repaired it with his leather musket strap and wood splints from a cracker box, so once again, the colors of the 149th Fourth Onondaga County Regiment flew above the battlefield.  Sergeant Lilly survived the battle only to die later fighting in Tennessee. This flag staff is now located at the Onondaga County Court House.

The Soldiers and Sailors Monument is a lasting remembrance to Sergeant Lilly and all the others who lost their lives in the heroic battles for freedom.  The original staff of the 149th Regiment restored in its repaired state is on permanent display to the public on the second floor of the Onondaga County Courthouse, along with the remnants of Onondaga County’s Civil War Flags.