SARATOGA SPRINGS – The city will replace the Union soldier Civil War statue destroyed earlier this month in a still-unexplained act of vandalism, city Public Works Commissioner Anthony “Skip” Scirocco said.
While the cost of replacing the historic cast iron and zinc statue that stood in Congress Park for 145 years remains undetermined, Scirocco told the Saratoga Springs City Council that an insurance claim is being filed, and a number of private donors have come forward willing to help pay for a replacement.
“We’re going to put back what was there. I promise you that is going to happen,” Scirocco said.
The statue honored the New York 77th Regiment, which was recruited in and around the Saratoga area at the beginning of the Civil War in 1861, and went on to fight in most of the major battles of the Army of the Potomac before being disbanded at the end of the year in 1865. The statue went up in 1875 after veterans of the unit raised $3,000 for its casting and installation.
City police, meanwhile, continue their investigation into the vandalism that took place sometime overnight into the morning of July 16. City Public Safety Commissioner Robin Dalton said hours of surveillance video from in and around Congress Park are being reviewed, and pieces of the shattered statue have been sent to laboratories for fingerprint and DNA testing.
The destruction of the statue that has stood on a tall pedestal near the Broadway entrance to Congress Park has proven baffling. While protests in recent months have focused on removal of statues in the South that have honored Confederate military leaders who fought to preserve slavery, there has been no movement to act against monuments honoring those who fought on the Union side, to end slavery.
The incident was so unusual — and came on the opening day of the uniquely fanless Saratoga thoroughbred racing meeting, in a community typically crowded though not overwhelmed with tourists — that it earned a story in the New York Times.
The destruction followed an incident the previous Saturday night in which the lengthy Katrina Trask staircase at the southern end of Congress Park was tagged with spray-paint, as were nearby trees, benches, and garbage cans. Police have said it’s unknown if the incidents are related.
The statue, showing a soldier in a coat and cape posing at rest with a rifle, was cast from the foundry of J.W. Fiske of New York City, using what at the time was a stock cast for Union Civil War memorials. Scirocco said several identical statues exist in Canton, Mass., and Mansfield, Ohio — possibly there is one in Albany. Based on that, Scirocco said one possibility is that a statue in another community could be laser-scanned to help with the design of and dimensions of a replacement.
“The Department of Public Works is actively working on how to repair the damage or how to fabricate a new statue,” Scirocco said. “This a great caring community that loves its public spaces, so a number of individuals and organizations have already reached out to make donations in support of the work needed to rectify the vandalism.”
He said anyone wishing to contribute or help can contact his executive assistant, Rachel Fragmeni, at [email protected].
“It’s unfortunate what they did, but again, this is a resilient community and immediately people got behind us,” he said. “They were really upset and they really want to see it restored and put back.”
The Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War also announced a GoFundMe campaign that it hopes will raise $20,000 toward the campaign.