At the time, it was the most deadly conflict the US had ever been involved in. Imagine the September 11 attacks 21 times greater. Kind of hard to wrap your brain around isn’t it? But that was our Civil War. No wonder communities began to get together to remember and celebrate the lives of the heroes they lost.
Along the way, the observance came to include all military personnel who lost their lives—and that’s something that touches us all. If we don’t have a grandfather, mother, or cousin who’s served, we likely have a friend or at the very least have met one of these every day heroes.
While there are some awesome and awe-inspiring monuments in places like Washington D.C., Chicago, and New York, there are some pretty cool places in Steuben County too. The center of Angola is built around one! Residents and visitors alike often pass by “The Mound” without stopping to realize it’s a Civil War Memorial. Erected in 1917, the Soldier’s Monument lists the 1,278 men who served in the conflict, 280 of whom never returned. The 18 regiments listed on the four sides of the monument not only include infantry, but artillery and cavalry. And while the names are of local residents the regiments were also from Illinois, Michigan, and several other regions. So, you don’t have to be a descendant of locals to find someone you may be related to. Likewise, Memorial Park in Ashley located on S. Union Street (right under the smiley face water tower) also memorializes those lost in battle. If you’re up for a little exploration, you can also find several soldiers’ graves in many of the local cemeteries. One of the most well-known is in Circle Hill Cemetery, (just behind Commons Park) section 6, lot 1. The soldier served in the 44th regiment during the Civil War.
Steuben County has several patriotic events too from parades in many towns for Memorial, Independence, and Veterans Days, to moving ceremonies for the holidays. And later this fall (September 23-25), Angola will host Civil War Days at the Commons. This year will feature skirmishes from the Battle of Bull Run.
If you’re willing to do a little detective work, you’ll see there are plenty of great military/veteran related gems just waiting to be uncovered. Plenty of canons and artillery guns dot the various posts and parks throughout the county. Of course there are always the American Legion posts (Angola 31, Fremont 257, Hamilton 467, Orland 423) as well as Angola VFW Post 7205 and the Pokagon Chapter of Daughters of the American Revolution that also hold programs and events to help us remember. Any of them would be happy to share upcoming event information. If you’re lucky, you might just hear some personal stories too.
Erika Celeste is an award-winning journalist who has worked in radio, print, television, and marketing. She owns and operates New Moon Media Group where she’s written several documentaries and books.