A Monumental Gesture
G.A.R. members devoted themselves to protecting survivors, -- making sure pensions and other benefits were distributed - and remembering their fallen comrades. The Indiana G.A.R. initiated an effort to fund and build a number of monuments to honor the sacrifices of Hoosiers. Indiana's Soldier & Sailors Monument on Monument Circle, a 284-foot "grand gesture" would outlive even the youngest of G.A.R. veterans and their children's great-grand children.
The majestic Soldiers and Sailors Monument has become one of the symbols of both Indiana and the city of Indianapolis. Monument Circle also provides a venue for a variety of ongoing civic and cultural events.
For generations, the Indiana Soldiers and Sailors Monument has stood as a tribute to the past and an inspiration for the future. More than 24,000 Hoosiers gave their lives to preserve the Union. Although Indiana was geographically a border state, almost 75 percent of the state's eligible men served in the Union army, a percentage higher than every other state except Delaware.
In 1862, long before the Civil War ended, a letter to the editor in the Indianapolis Daily Journal suggested that the state should "erect a monument...to the memory of all the dead of Indiana who have fallen in defense of the Union." Forty years passed between that suggestion and the dedication of the Monument in 1902.
Featured on and around the structure are unique examples of the sculptural art of its time, representing both history and mythology. It has been estimated that building a similar structure today would cost over a half of a billion dollars.
The Colonel Eli Lilly Civil War Museum, located in the monument's Lower Level, reflects the war experiences of residents from all regions of Indiana. Exhibits are drawn from letters, diaries and speeches of that era, which reflect Hoosier viewpoints before, during and after the Civil War. Photographs, paintings and artifacts reveal Hoosier life at that time: recruitment, camp-life, drills, battles, medical treatment, and on the homefront.
From the upper level visitors can walk the three hundred and thirty stairs or take the elevator to the observation level for a panoramic view of downtown Indianapolis.