ANGOLA — Steuben County Commissioners received some bad news about the condition of the Steuben County Soldiers’ Monument on Monday but were buoyed by the fact that Columbia will not have to be removed for repair in a shop.
“There was damage we could not see out in the field,” said Gary Fair, Steuben County maintenance supervisor who has been working with Hagerman Construction on repairs of the Civil War monument that was erected in 1917. “It’s not looking good, that’s for sure.”
It was feared that damage to Columbia or the base upon which she rests would necessitate her removal. However, upon inspection and talking with workers from Hagerman, Commissioners Jim Crowl and Lynne Liechty were assured corrective measures could be done in place.
The four soldiers that stand on each corner of the Monument have been removed for repair in a shop. Their mounting equipment had worked loose, and there’s damage to the granite bases where they rest.
Hagerman employee Jerry Loar said each base where the soldiers stand would receive a buildup of a cement-like material, pyramid-shaped, under the hollow pressed copper statues. This will allow better drainage from precipitation and prevent it from sitting on the bases that could result in freeze-thaw damage. The current bases are pock marked from water damage.
The mortar joints in the Monument’s barre granite have been removed by Hagerman. A new joint materials is being applied. It is like an epoxy grout type of material, which is impervious to water.
There’s also the opinion that the Monument might actually be settling somewhat.
“Something’s going to have to be done,” Crowl said.
It has been mentioned in the past that the heavy truck traffic is causing vibration that is damaging the Monument, which weighs about 150 tons. Crowl, whose profession is excavation, earth work and other heavy construction, suggested putting in a concrete footing around the mound to serve as a barrier to vibration to the truck traffic.
“I suggest stopping the semis,” Fair said.
“You’re not going to stop the semis on a federal highway,” Crowl said, referencing U.S. 20 that runs east-west and circles the mound on which the Monument sits.
The Monument is a tribute to the 1,278 men who served in the Civil War from Steuben County, which includes 280 who died in the war. The names of all the men who served from Steuben County are inscribed in four tablets that are attached to the four sides of the Monument.
Since the statues representing the military of the day — army, navy, cavalry and artillery — have been removed, there has been much inaccurate speculation on social media that they were taken down because the recent movement in the U.S. to remove statues commemorating men who may have been involved in slavery or who owned slaves.
“That’s a bunch of bull,” Crowl said, repeating a similar sentiment he expressed in a meeting in August. The statues were removed because they were in dire need of repair.
The mortar joint work is likely to last another couple weeks, Loar said. It is not known when all of the work will be complete and the statues will be returned.
The statues might not be back in time for the Oct. 9 dedication of U.S. 20 as the Indiana Medal of Honor Highway from the Indiana-Ohio border to the Indiana-Illinois border, a stretch of 163 miles. The highway was designated the Medal of Honor Highway during this year’s session of the Indiana Legislature. The legislation was authored by Rep. Denny Zent, R-Angola.
Numerous officials are supposed to attend the Oct. 9 event, which starts at 1 p.m. An effort is being made to have Vice President Mike Pence attend, if his schedule permits.