Unveiling of Custer statue attracts thousands

Thousands crowded the streets of downtown Monroe on June 3-5 to view the unveiling of General George Armstrong Custer’s statue.

The 14-foot statue was designed by sculpture Edward Potter of Connecticut and placed in Monroe 100 years ago.

The statue represents Monroe’s own Gen. Custer, who was honored for his heroism in the Civil War during the Battle of Gettysburg.

Among the crowd were people from other states who came to Monroe to watch the celebration, including John Martin of Texas, a former resident of Monroe.

“I was always excited about this part of Monroe’s heritage and Gen. Custer,” he said. “I seem to have a deep respect for Monroe’s history.

“I live in Texas now, however I will always revisit Monroe to bring back my childhood memories,” he said.

Lynn Wagner, a resident of Monroe for 70 years, also attended the unveiling.

“Custer was a brave and decorated warrior,” he said.

Potter’s statue, called “Sighting the Enemy,” depicts Custer on Rommel’s Field at Gettysburg. It was first dedicated in 1910 in Loranger Square by President William Howard Taft and Custer’s widow, Elizabeth Bacon Custer.

Then in 1923, the statue was moved to Soldiers and Sailors Park on the south bank of the River Raisin in Monroe.

In 1955, the Custer Monument was moved to its current location in St. Mary’s Park on the north bank of the River Raisin at the corner of North Monroe Street, where it stands today.

The Custer Statue was placed on the State Register of Historic Sites in 1992 and on the National Register of Historic Places in 1995.

On June 4, the bronze sculpture with its granite base was viewed by over 25,000 people, who also came to remember the sacrifice by Michigan’s veterans in the Civil War.

Dr. Dennis Montagne, director of the monument research and preservation program for the National Park Service, along with Andrzej Dajnowski, director of the Conservation of Sculpture & Objects Studio in Forest Park, Ill., were selected to recondition the statue, which has been aging in the outdoor environment for the last 100 years.

To view Dr. Montagne’s presentation on sculptor Edward Clark Potter, creator of the Custer Monument, visit http://www.knowledgestream.org/kstream/index.asp?item_id=6863.

You can find more on Custer at the Monroe County Historic Museum at 126 South Monroe Street.