When I think about where Civil War monuments might be, I don’t think of Nebraska.
When I lived back east, it seemed that every city had a Civil War soldier perched on an obelisk in some prominent location. Whether their sympathies were Union or Confederate, town after town had raised the funds to memorialize its war dead and its living veterans.
Since Nebraska did not achieve statehood until March 1, 1867, two years after the Civil War concluded, it does not seem to be the most likely place to have Civil War monuments dotting the courthouse squares. Surprisingly, those monuments grace many places in Nebraska.
Even though its wartime population was tiny, just 28,841 in 1860, Nebraska did contribute three regiments, a battalion and two independent scout companies to the Union cause.
Most of those who were memorialized on these monuments did not serve in the Nebraska Civil War contingents. They moved in after the war to settle the new state. Those locations include Adams County, where I grew up, although I never knew it until last week. Originally, the obelisk stood in front of the courthouse, but was moved to Parkview Cemetery when a new courthouse was built in the early 1960s.
Few — if any — of the soldiers memorialized on the obelisk’s base served in any Nebraska regiment. They came from all over the country hoping to start a new life in a new state. But they did not leave the memory of their wartime service behind. They joined Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) posts and were a force in politics for many years.
Now the Hastings GAR obelisk is the centerpiece of a larger memorial to all Adams County veterans.
One of those veterans was Maj. James Laird, who served with the U.S. Volunteers in the Civil War. He was a Delegate to the 1875 Nebraska State Constitutional Convention and later served in as Nebraska’s Second District Representative in Congress from 1883 until his death in 1889. Even though he was politically successful in his later life, his grave marker has a decided martial air. It’s the most unusual grave marker I have ever seen.GHTime Code(s): 08114