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Soldiers and Sailors Monument by Leonard Volk

This is a monument to the Civil War soldiers and to President Abraham Lincoln. The monument was design by the sculptor Leonard Wells Volk and was unveiled on Memorial Day of 1892. The monument contains a statue of Lincoln on the large central column and four smaller columns with statues on each corner that represent soldiers from the infantry, artillery, cavalry and marine. The monument also has four mid-reliefs (one relief per side) that represent scene from the war. The monument has engraved in the front the phrase: “To those who faithful unto death gave their lives for their country: 1861-1865″, and on the back has the phrase: “We are in peril. They breasted the danger. The Republic called: They answered with their blood. We here highly resolve the dead shall not have died in vain.”

“By manufacturing and embracing a particular kind of American, a certain idea of what it means to be a “good citizen,” these popular cultural texts, best understood as technologies of national cultural transformation, promote social cohesion by rhetorically inducing differently positioned audiences-by class, race, ethnicity, sexuality, and gender-to disregard rather than actively to seek to dismantle the inequitable power relations that continue to structure collective life in the United States.” (2002, Biesecker, p. 394)

What Biesecker says is that by creating this types of monuments people are creating a certain parameters of a good citizen. Even though she doesn’t disagree that this type of people are indeed good citizen she argues that by giving this glory to them the majority may think that in order to be recognized as good citizens they should be like them, and that’s not true. The “Soldiers and Sailors Monument” is a great example for this. Here the Union Military service and President Lincoln are being portrayed as an example to follow. It honors that their commitment and sacrifice to save the Republic and suggests that it’s something everybody should do. It also says that giving your life for your country makes you faithful to it.

By putting Lincoln on the bigger higher column a greater importance is given to him. It can be infer that by being the president his contribution was greater than the one of the soldiers and sailors. The Union Military service members are at the same level and have the same size, representing that their contribution was equal. Even though each branch it’s represented with its own characteristic, the all have the same level of importance. The military is represented as the base of the president, meaning they support he’s thinking.




Most of Rochester’s Occupy movement settled in this park last year (it also was one of the longer-lasting Occupy groups nationwide). With that in mind it is appropriate that you connected Biesecker’s question of what makes a good citizen here – were the Occupiers in the Shadow of Lincoln carrying out their proper civil duty? Or should they have fallen in line? There are so many conflicting ideas that determine what being a “Good American” is, under the context of this monument and this location we can see quite a few at once – which is rad. Nice job!

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