Tales of Calvary 2- Veterans Day
-photo by Mitch Waxman
21 Roman Catholic Union soldiers are interred amongst the 365 acres of first Calvary Cemetery in Queens, nearby the cuprous waters of the much maligned Newtown Creek.
The wars of the 20th century, terrible in scope and vulgar in effect, cause us to overlook these men who vouchsafed the American Republic in the 19th century as we focus in on the veterans of the second thirty years war which modernity myopically calls World Wars One and Two. Woodrow Wilson proclaimed a federal holiday called Armistice Day in 1919, celebrating the anniversary of the legal end of the first World War in 1918. Congress agreed, seven years later, and then took six years to pass an act which made Armistice day an official United States federal holiday celebrated on November 11 annually.
Ed Rees, a populist Representative from the state of Kansas during the post World War 2 era, spearheaded a successful campaign in 1953 to have “Armistice Day” reclassified as “All Veterans Day” so as to include the veterans of WW2, and the ongoing conflicts fought by our “permanent government” on the world stage.
On April 28, 1863, the City of New York purchased the land for this park from the Trustees of St. Patrick’s Cathedral and granted Parks jurisdiction over it. The land transaction charter stated that Parks would use the land as a burial ground for soldiers who fought for the Union during the Civil War (1861-65) and died in New York hospitals. Parks is responsible for the maintenance of the Civil War monument, the statuary, and the surrounding vegetation. Twenty-one Roman Catholic Civil War Union soldiers are buried here. The last burial took place in 1909…
The monument features bronze sculptures by Daniel Draddy, fabricated by Maurice J. Power, and was dedicated in 1866. Mayor John T. Hoffman (1866-68) and the Board of Aldermen donated it to the City of New York. The 50-foot granite obelisk, which stands on a 40 x 40 foot plot, originally had a cannon at each corner, and a bronze eagle once perched on a granite pedestal at each corner of the plot. The column is surmounted by a bronze figure representing peace. Four life-size figures of Civil War soldiers stand on the pedestals. In 1929, for $13,950, the monument was given a new fence, and its bronze and granite details replaced or restored. The granite column is decorated with bronze garlands and ornamental flags.
-photo by Mitch Waxman
It is hard for we moderns to conceive of the psychological pathologies of the post Victorian era, as our “end of the world scenario” is played out as either an expanding cloud of nuclear fire, or some “romeroesque” dystopia populated by hordes of disease maddened and resource starved ghouls- either way- it involves the apocalyptic ascendance of one of the “ism’s”.
Have no doubts though, that the world which created Calvary ended in an apocalypse, and our modern world was built upon the ashes of the Fin de Siècle.
In many parts of the world people take a two-minute moment of silence at 11:00 a.m. as a sign of respect for the roughly 20 million people who died in the war, as suggested by Edward George Honey in a letter to a British newspaper although Wellesley Tudor Pole established two ceremonial periods of remembrance based on events in 1917.
-photo by Mitch Waxman
The soils of Calvary, a vast cocktail of loathsome and ghoulish ichor, contain many Civil War dead- as well as citizen soldiers from every conflict since. Forgotten and long neglected, the obelisk and its attendant bronzes are in a tremulous condition, etched at by a century of pervasive industrial pollution arising from Newtown Creek, and the greater city beyond.
from a newtown pentacle post, from july 31 of 2009, titled “Up and through Calvary”
Daniel Draddy was an irish speaker from County Cork, and the son of John Draddy- a stonecarver and prolific author in the Irish language who hailed from a family on Quaker Road. In context, they came from what modernity would describe as “an oppressed religious underclass involved in an ethnic and cultural war with an aggressive and powerful neighbor willing and and able to actively engage in state sponsored genocide and ethnic cleansing“ but which they would have called the Irish Potato Famine.
Daniel maintained his marble studios on 23rd street in Manhattan, near the east river. Known as a cultured and gracious host, he was beloved by the Tammany men. Contemporaries describe him as a first class carver, mechanic, historian, and he had the ability to write in the Irish language “druidically”.
This is masonic iconography, with its obelisk splitting the solar wisdom into the four cardinal directions and the four deities of the spaces found between standing watch at intersecting 45 degree vectors. Such falderol was quite in vogue after the Civil War, look at the Capitol Dome or Supreme Court building in Washington D.C. for similar thematic elements.
Don’t forget- Draddy was a stonecutter, from a family of stonecutters. That made him a Free and Accepted Mason, who’s existential threat was the subject of much Catholic liturgy. The Masons, especially after their successes in the Lowlands and North America in the 17th and 18th centuries, were considered a dangerous fifth column in the power structure of Europe. In the United States, the origins of the mythology surrounding them was beginning to form. In the 19th century men like Draddy would have been considered as subscribing to an “ism”, and its odd to find such iconography in a Catholic cemetery. The Church bore a special antipathy toward the Masons in this period of time, and even today they officially shun members.
-photo by Mitch Waxman
The statues here at Calvary’s Soldiers Monument seem to have been the original castings of a much reproduced statuary design. Placed here in 1866, they predate the identical statues found at Green-Wood Cemetery, and exact issuance of the mold has been confirmed in New England, North Carolina, and all over New York State. As early as 1875, fumes from a nearby Ammonia Factory at Newtown Creek were graving pitted marks into them.
Check out this amazing nytimes.com report of the ceremonies held, at this very spot- on Memorial Day, June 1, 1875.
In accordance with a resolution to celebrate the ceremony of decorating the graves of their dead comrades with more impressiveness than had attended that event in the past, John A. Rawlius Post, No. 80, with the members of the veteran corps of the old Sixty-ninth Regiment, Meagher’s Irish Brigade, Corcoran’s Irish Legion…
Observation, Speculation, and musing- the thinking out loud section
During the Civil War, the United States Union organized its troops by State, City, and town- hence the “XXth New York Regiment” or the “XXrd Illinois”. What this meant, in a meat grinder conflict like the Civil War with its high casualties, was that an entire neighborhood or town could lose ALL of its sons in a single battle.
The long economic decline of upstate New York, New England- especially Massachusetts- began soon after the Civil War partly because of this depopulation- and a generation of widows it created (the decline of “green energy” powered cotton cloth production in area textile mills is a major factor as well). The population important to politicians ceased being the rural mill town or agrarian producer and shifted to the newly crowded urban centers. In “the country”, a fascination with Spiritualism took hold while “the cities” set about building concrete cathedrals.
Radical politics, moralist movements, and fringe religion ruled in a depopulated countryside. The worn out land of the family farm wound inexorably toward a dust bowl, and there was no way to keep your sons and daughters from moving to “The City” and its possibilities. Stricken by endemic poverty, disease, ethnic violence, and starvation, the reality of “the good old days” before the Fin de Siècle is something that just doesn’t jibe with “you could leave your doors unlocked when you went to sleep, back then” that my grandfather used to proclaim.