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Civil War Memorial Arrives at the Frazier Museum

The nation’s oldest existing Civil War memorial arrived at its new home Wednesday, the Frazier International History Museum. Known as the “Bloedner Monument,” the 3,500-pound limestone memorial is of exceptional national and historical significance, especially as the country approaches the Civil War’s 150th anniversary in 2011.

The Bloedner Monument, whose official name is the 32nd Indiana Infantry Monument, was carved in the weeks following the 1861 Battle of Rowlett’s Station near Munfordville, Ky., and recently was conserved following decades of exposure at Cave Hill National Cemetery where it had been since 1867. It now is on display in the Frazier Museum’s lobby, where visitors can see it for free.

The Battle of Rowlett’s Station was a one-hour skirmish on December 17, 1861 during which the 32nd Indiana Infantry, a regiment of German-Americans, warded off a Confederate attack. Union Pvt. August Bloedner used a natural outcrop of limestone to fashion the monument to honor 13 of his fellow soldiers killed in battle. It was placed on the graves at Munfordville before the infantry marched on. In 1867, the remains of 11 of the soldiers and their monument were moved to the northwest corner of historic Cave Hill National Cemetery in Louisville.

In December 2008, the fragile Bloedner Monument was transported to a curatorial facility at the University of Louisville where it was conserved by Conservation Solutions, Inc. A new monument designed to pay homage to the original will be returned to Cave Hill next year with informational markers. Both the location selection and new monument design were determined by project partners in consultation with the public, veterans and representatives from Kentucky Civil War military sites. The Bloedner Monument is on loan to the Frazier Museum for a minimum of 10 years.

The museum was selected to house the monument based on its Civil War exhibition plans, controlled environment, financial stability and annual visitation, according to its owner, the National Cemetery Administration, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. The Frazier Museum had been one of three locations up for consideration by VA historians, working in collaboration with the Kentucky Heritage Council/State Historic Preservation Office and Heritage Preservation, Inc., which solicited proposals for placing the monument and conducted site visits.

The Frazier Museum currently is developing a new Civil War exhibition that will be on display starting in the fall of 2011. The original exhibit, entitled “My Brother, My Enemy,” will center around Kentucky’s unique experience as a border state and how its physical and political positioning lead to deep divisions among families and friends. As part of the exhibit, rare papers documenting Mary Todd Lincoln’s involuntary commitment at an Illinois insane asylum will be publicly shown for the first time, framed in the greater context of Kentucky’s unique position in this tragic and pivotal national conflict. The historic papers, acquired via auction in June, provide a chilling insight not only into the one of the lowest points of Lincoln’s life, but into the lives of women at the time. Other artifacts on display in the exhibit will include uniforms, letters, photos and other memorabilia never before seen by the public.

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