For nearly 100 years the soldier has silently watched over downtown Greensburg, a silent reminder of those Westmoreland County residents whose lives were lost in battle. While many may be familiar with Greensburg’s soldier statue, many more may not know the story behind this somewhat enigmatic statue.
Beginning in 1865, at the end of the Civil War, the Westmoreland County Monument Association mounted a 60 year effort to provide “a suitable memorial to the many brave and gallant soldiers of Westmoreland County, who served and fell, in the Civil War.”
Greensburg in the Civil War
Greensburg served prominently in the Civil War with many of its residents serving in the 11th Pennsylvania regiment (best known for their mascot Sallie the War Dog). Richard Coulter, a prominent Greensburg businessman, was originally the Lt. Colonel of the 11th Pennsylvania but by the end of the way was promoted to Major General.
The Greensburg Soldier Statue
Anyway, so back to the statue. The community raised funds for 60 years until the statue of the Union soldier on a 20-foot pedestal could be erected outside of what was City Hall on North Main Street. Inscribed on it was “Defenders of the Union 1861 – 1865.”
There was just one problem.
In those 60 years it took to raise the funds for the statue, America was involved in another conflict — World War I. So while the statue was originally envisioned to be a Civil War memorial, the soldier statue took on new meaning as a remembrance to all Westmoreland County armed forces. It ended up being paid for not only by veterans of the Civil War but also veterans of WWI.
Dedicating the Monument
The monument was finally dedicated on May 30, 1925 on the grounds of City Hall and was flanked by four cannons.
In 1949, City Hall moved to its current location on South Main Street and the art museum took over the property and possession of the statue. It remained in place until apparently a decade later when it was moved a few feet to accommodate a museum project. The idea had been floated to move the statue to nearby St. Clair Park, but the plan was met with such strong opposition that the statue remained on the museum grounds.
The Soldier Monument Today
In 2013 the Westmoreland Museum of Art announced a multi-million dollar expansion project which necessitated the removal of the statue. A committee was formed and several prominent locations were discussed before finally settling on the square outside of old section of the courthouse. Unfortunately, the moving and refurbishing of the statue proved to be expensive and the statue was put in storage for two years until funds could be raised to refurbish the soldier and rebuild the pedestal.
The statue now proudly stands in Courthouse Square after is rededication on May 25, 2015. Now honoring those who have fought in every American conflict from the American Revolution to Operation Desert Storm, the statue still is shrouded in a bit of mystery.
New engravings have joined the original “Defenders of the Union” engraving to memorialize the various conflicts, however no one knows who or what group commissioned them. The engravings were doing at various points of time and in similar style but who is responsible remains unknown.
The soldier isn’t the only curiosity in Greensburg though. Check out these other things you may not have known …