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It’s About Time - A UK Memorial for Britons in the Civil War?

by Basil Larkins

It has been estimated that several thousand Brits took part in the American Civil War but their involvement is for the most part lost in the mists of time. Some like Colonel Fremantle were observers of the conflict while others took part. Most of them were already in America when war broke out and either volunteered or were conscripted into the armies of both sides.

Members of the ACWRTUK will of course be familiar with the stories concerning Brits serving on board the Confederate fighting ships like the Alabama but they also worked constructing railroads for the Federal Government and others became senior officers.

There were volunteers who crossed the Atlantic Ocean to join the fight.Some were motivated by dedication to the cause of one side or the other while others wanted to participate in a war.

It was not their fight but Britons played their part in the terrible conflict. They came from all parts of the United Kingdom and they included many Irish who were all subjects of her majesty the Queen at that time. After the war a monument to the Scots who fought for the Union was raised in Edinburgh but no monument has ever been erected to memorialise the sacrifice made by all those who took part.

With the 150th anniversary of the war taking place between 2011 and 2015 it would be appropriate to erect just such a monument. It’s about time. Never being one to duck a challenge I took it upon myself to explore what would be involved to make such a monument become reality. There are a number of key elements for the project.

Firstly of what would such a monument be constructed and what would it look like? Secondly, what would it cost? Thirdly how can the money be raised? Finally and most importantly, where would it be erected?

This last element seemed to me to be the most easily dealt with. There is a wonderful and growing collection of Monuments and Memorials at the National Monument Arboretum at Alrewas near Litchfield. Alternatively there is an American Museum near Bath which has extensive grounds. Sadly both ideas are non-starters. The Arboretum was sympathetic but is constrained by its charitable status to conflicts in the 20th and 21st centuries. The Museum has a ‘no monuments’ policy and has declined several other approaches. So a venue is still a very high priority. Hopefully such a monument would attract visitors to the venue. Does anybody have any ideas?

A sculptor acquaintance is very keen to work on the project which in her opinion will cost circa £25,000 even for a fairly simple design. The most significant cost will be the casting of the statue or edifice in bronze. As to how the money could be raised there are a number of organisations including the US Embassy who might be able to open doors to potential donors but this is by no means certain.

It is now clear that the project will be less than straightforward and it is time to broaden the organisational base beyond me! A steering group is required and volunteers are wanted to take things forward. The ACWRTUK and Soskan have both expressed interest in nominating a representative but we need more so If you are reading this and share my enthusiasm please contact me by email or by phone (+44) (0)1444 254794. Without you it will remain just an idea.


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