Made of St. Cloud granite, located in Minneapolis, and dedicated to Minnesota veterans, the Soldier’s Monument at Lakewood Cemetery was initially designed to serve as a monument to Minnesota’s Union Army veterans of the Civil War. Today, it also includes veterans of the Spanish-American and First World Wars. The initial proposal for the monument dated back to December 1888, when the Minneapolis chapter of the Grand Army Burial and Monument Association attempted to reserve a section of the cemetery to bury its Union Army dead and erect a monument in their honor.
Over the course of negotiating a plot of land and raising the necessary funds for doing so, the United States became embroiled in the Spanish-American War and the end of the nineteenth century and later on, World War I, at the beginning of the twentieth century. By the time a plot of land was secured and the necessary funds were raised, the Grand Army Burial and Monument Association began to face pressure from the Veterans of Foreign Wars and American Legion organizations founded after the Spanish-American and First World Wars, respectively, to include veterans from the two succeeding wars. On May 26, 1923, after 35 years of negotiations and delay, the Soldier’s Monument went from a vision to fruition with its dedication ceremony held on this date.
Located deep inside the cemetery, the Soldier’s Monument is simple, yet individualistic in its design and commemoration of the three wars it represents. The left and right columns on this monument represent the Spanish-American War and First World War, respectively, with the center, the monument’s largest section, dedicated to the Civil War. On the right column dedicated to World War I, there includes a plaque inscribed, “In honor of Minnesota veterans of the World War, 1917-1918,” with a design above it of a replica helmet, gas mask, and cartridge belt modeled after the standard equipment used by Americans overseas.
As one enters Lakewood Cemetery, one is forced to walk along the lengthy pathway, observing the graves of famous Minneapolitans on one’s way to viewing the Soldier’s Monument. As one approaches it, one cannot help but notice its simple and individualistic design. The monument possesses a highly localized aura due to the fact that it not only commemorates Minnesota veterans of three different wars, but is located in Minneapolis and is made of granite from St. Cloud.
However, as one observes the monument and the three wars it commemorates, they cannot help but conclude that its central focus is on the Civil War. On one level, this should not come as a surprise, given the fact that the body responsible for the dedication of this monument was the Minneapolis chapter of the Grand Army Burial and Monument Association. However, the fact that so little space was dedicated to the Spanish-American War and World War I also reflects the place which these two wars hold in American history as largely forgotten.