The Victorious Charge
Save Victorious Charge!
Milwaukee's Civil War Memorial

flag bunting

This bronze monument is the most important 19th century Civil War memorial in the state of Wisconsin. When erected in 1898, it was the centerpiece of the city. Located on a green boulevard space at the top of a slight hill on Milwaukee's main street, then named Grand Avenue, critics considered the monument to be the most artistically sensitive interpretation of the Civil War at the time. Artist John S. Conway dramatically captured a moment in battle with great intensity and realism.

The 1898 dedication ceremony
The dedication of the monument on June 28, 1898, have have been Milwaukee's largest civic ceremony of the century with tens of thousands of people in attendance. The ceremony coincided with the Golden Jubilee of Wisconsin's entry into the Union. Governor Edward Schofield attended, as well as local dignitaries. Mayor David S. Rose accepted the monument on behalf of the city. Marching veterans, drum corps and bicycle performers entertained the crowds. The patroness, Lydia Ely Hewitt, unveiled the bronze work while the band played "Marching Through Georgia".

1898 dedication ceremony
A crowd of thousands fills the street and boulevard surrounding The Victorious Charge after its dedication in 1898.

A brilliant design
Missing bayonet
The overall corrosion and broken bayonet at right are clearly seen.
Artist John Conway's brilliant composition for this monument gives the sculpture a feeling of movement, force and great energy. Four Union soldiers are grouped in action, moving forward toward victory. The standard bearer, having fallen, supports himself on his left forearm. His weapon has dropped from his left hand and his cap has fallen from his head, but he still clutches a portion of the broken flag staff in his right hand. The flag is borne aloft by a young private, who appears to have just taken it from the hand of his dying comrade. By the private's side, an officer, pistol in his left hand and drawn sword in his right, continues forward. Alongside the officer, a private advances with fixed bayonet.

While artists of most Civil War monuments chose to soften and idealize the horrors of the war, Conway dramatically captured a moment in battle with great intensity and realism. The Chicago Evening Post described Conway's efforts as the "most artistic monument to the soldiers' dead ever conceived or executed."

Badly corroded
Today, Wisconsin's grandest sculpture tableau is in terrible condition. A sad trail of rust runs down the trouser leg of one of the soldiers, revealing the deterioration of the iron armature that supports and holds together the elaborate monument. The sculpture is at risk of collapse. The entire surface is covered with dirt, rust and corrosion. Incorrect attempts at the monument's restoration resulted in poor alignment of the sections of bronze, allowing water to enter the inside, where corrosion is hidden. Some worry that the work of art may implode.

The most important 19th century Civil War monument in Wisconsin needs your help. When erected in 1898 it was the centerpiece of Milwaukee. Today it is severely corroded and in danger of collapse.

Rear view of monument shows corrosion
The City of Milwaukee is fiscally conservative and cannot allocate funds for the restoration of the monument. Estimates for the restoration work range up to $139,000 as the sculpture will need to be removed from its pedestal and a major project enacted to restore the monument by qualified bronze conservators. Work will include replacement of all corroding iron with copper alloys, cleaning the interior of the sculpture and replacement of the internal armature where needed, replacement of the missing scabbard, bayonet tip and monocular, cleaning of the bronze, repatination, and cleaning and tuck pointing the granite pedestal.

This is truly a private/public partnership project. The Milwaukee Arts Board has begun fundraising efforts through Save Outdoor Sculpture!, the Target Stores and the National Endowment for the Arts. Local historical organizations including the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War has begun publicizing and fundraising work and the Milwaukee County Historical Society has recently opened a wonderful new Civil War exhibit. The State of Wisconsin, local civic groups, corporations, foundations and individuals will be asked to help with the restoration project.

September 15, 2003 RESTORATION UPDATE: Work on the bronze monument has been completed, with repairs to the pedastel of the monument all that is left to be done. The green is gone and the bronze now has a rich, lustrous shine. Missing details have been replaced and the monument now looks much as it did 125 years ago!

March 1, 2003 FUNDRAISING UPDATE: A recent grant of $4,000 brings the total raised to $134,000. Only $5,000 left to go!

February 23, 2003 RESTORATION UPDATE: Conservationists will return to Milwaukee in June and July to commence work on the monument on-site.

November 30, 2002 RESTORATION UPDATE: Scaffording was erected around the monument and preparations were made for dismantling and removal of the monument. It was discovered that a significant amount of concrete was present inside the monument, which was not expected. The process of dismantling is stopped and being re-assessed.

October 28, 2002 FUNDRAISING UPDATE: A total of $128,000 has been raised. Dismantling of the monument will commence in November, 2002.

July 29, 2002 FUNDRAISING UPDATE: We are at 90% of our goal! The bronze monument may be removed from its pedestal this fall, then sent out for restoration work to begin.

May 1, 2002 FUNDRAISING UPDATE: Total gifts and pledges have crossed $100,000.

July 27, 2001 FUNDRAISING UPDATE: The State of Wisconsin has included $50,000 in its 2001-2003 budget to help fund restoration of Victorious Charge. This is a major step toward ensuring the survival of this monument for future generations.

November 1, 2001 FUNDRAISING UPDATE: To date, fund raising has reached $89,000.

For more information on how you can help save The Victorious Charge, please call Ms. Diane Buck (Milwaukee Arts Board) at 414-964-8681. You may make a contribution right now by printing this page, and including the form below with your donation. Your participation in this restoration project will be greatly appreciated.

Mail this form and check, payable to Milwaukee Arts Board to:

The Milwaukee Arts Board
Attention: Karen Spahn
809 North Broadway
Milwaukee, WI    53202

Name(s): ___________________________________________________
Street Address:___________________________________________________
City, State, Zip:___________________________________________________
Phone: _______________________________
My Contribution:

Maintained by
Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War
Department of Wisconsin

Comments to Dept. Signals Officer
Last update: