MATTOON -- Construction of phase two of the Mattoon Civil War Memorial Ellipse began on Monday and funds are being raised for the "Last Sentry" sculpture that will eventually be the centerpiece.
Workers from the Mattoon Public Works Department have started building the elliptical concrete pathway that will a give a circular shape to the memorial site, which is located near the eastern end of the city's Roundhouse Complex along Shelby Avenue.
Steve Thompson, a member of the Ellipse Project Steering Committee, said this group has raised money to reimburse the city for its labor and materials. He said they also have raised money for placing six granite markers around the perimeter of the path this fall as part of phase two of the project.
Thompson said the largest of the markers will honor Ulysses S. Grant, who served in May 1861 as captain of the camp that Illinois created in Mattoon to organize area recruits before they were sent to training camps and deployment with the Union Army.
Grant climbed through the ranks to lead the Union Army to victory over the Confederacy and later served as president. The site he commanded in Mattoon became known during the war as Camp Grant. The planned memorial is located on the south side of where the camp was located.
The other markers will honor the five infantry regiments of more than 5,000 recruits that were organized at Camp Grant, Thompson said. He noted that Grant was elected colonel of one of these regiments -- the 21st Illinois Volunteer Infantry Regiment -- while these soldiers were training in Springfield.
"That was Grant's first Civil War combat command," Thompson said.
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Thompson said the memorial will honor area Civil War veterans, while also creating an educational resource and historical attraction that will help beautify the neighborhood. He said phase two also will include the installation of trees and other landscaping around the memorial.
Adams Memorials representative Sarah Pardi said Adams plans to have the six granite markers, as well as a site sign, completed in time for a dedication ceremony near Veterans Day, Nov. 11. Pardi said the project is a great way to tell local history and to honor Civil War veterans.
In addition, Adams is slated to create the granite pedestal for the "Last Sentry" bronze sculpture for phase three of the memorial. Thompson said this depiction of a Union soldier will look north toward the former location of Camp Grant.
Thompson said the project steering committee is raising approximately $125,000 for the sculpture and pedestal. He added that they are seeking donations locally and from groups outside of the community who are interested in historical monuments.
Committee member David Tolle said he has contacted the Grant Monument Association in New York, the Ulysses S. Grant Presidential Library in Mississippi State, Miss., and other groups about references to possible donors.
Donations for the Mattoon Civil War Ellipse Fund are being taken through the nonprofit Mattoon Area Community Foundation, which is a member of the Southeastern Illinois Community Foundation. More information about donating is available by calling the Southeastern foundation at 217-235-2500.