Granite markers installed at planned Civil War memorial

A team from Adams Memorials is pictured installing a granite marker
Monday on the grounds of the planned Mattoon Civil War Memorial Ellipse. 

Photo and story by Rob Stroud

MATTOON -- A crew from Adams Memorials installed six granite markers Monday on the grounds of the planned Mattoon Civil War Memorial Ellipse.

The largest of the markers honors Ulysses S. Grant, who served as an early captain and eventual namesake of the Camp Grant recruitment site in Mattoon during the Civil War. Each of the other markers honors one of the five Illinois Infantry regiments that were organized at this camp.

Camp Grant was located on the northeast side of Mattoon, just to the north of the grounds where the memorial ellipse is now being developed along Shelby Avenue.

Kevin Baumann, a manager with Adams Memorials, said he has long been interested in Civil War history and even wrote a paper about Camp Grant when he was an Eastern Illinois University student.

Baumann said he has been surprised by how many residents are not aware that Coles County hosted a Union recruitment camp, one that was Grant's first military command during the Civil War. Consequently, Baumann said he is glad to help share this history through the new markers.

"We are really honored to be part of a something like this," Baumann said of the Mattoon Civil War Memorial Ellipse.

Adams Memorials crew members Andrew Helton, Bill Jennings, and Albert Pedigo used a small trackhoe to maneuver the black granite Grant marker and the five gray regimental monuments into place on Monday. Each marker is more than 30 inches tall and weighs more than 600 pounds.

Grant's marker notes that he was a captain with the Illinois Adjutant General's Office when he served as commander of the Mattoon camp in May 1861 and was general in chief of the Union armies when the war ended in April 1865.

The other five markers are for the 21st, 79th, 123rd, 135th and 143rd Illinois Infantry regiments. Each marker lists some of the engagements that its regiments served in during the Civil War.

Baumann said Adams Memorials artist Matt Livingston hand cut the Civil War-era Illinois state seal and the infantry bugle symbol onto each of the regimental markers.

The markers are arranged around a circular walkway that will eventually have a "Last Sentry" Union soldier sculpture as the centerpiece. Baumann said this ellipse is on track to be comparable in quality to monuments he has seen at national Civil War battlefield memorial sites.

Steve Thompson, a member of the Ellipse Project Steering Committee, said Adams Memorials is scheduled to install a way-finding informational sign today on the memorial grounds, and benches will be installed at a later date.

Thompson said a dedication ceremony will be held at the memorial ellipse later this year before the project's focus shifts to raising money for the "Last Sentry" bronze sculpture.

Donations for the Mattoon Civil War Ellipse Fund are being taken through the nonprofit Mattoon Area Community Foundation, which is a member of the Southeastern Illinois Community Foundation. More information about donating is available by calling the Southeastern foundation at 217-235-2500.

Contact Stroud at rstroud@jg-tc.com or 217-238-6861.

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