Posts Tagged ‘equestrian statue’

General Winfield Scott Hancock Memorial

General Winfield Scott Hancock Memorial

This bike ride took me to the General Winfield Scott Hancock Memorial, which is located at 7th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue (MAP) in the Penn Quarter neighborhood of northwest D.C. The equestrian statue was created by American sculptor Henry Jackson Ellicott together with architect Paul J. Pelz. It was commissioned on March 2, 1889, and dedicated on May 12, 1896, by President Grover Cleveland. The memorial is part of a group of statues entitled “The Civil War Monuments in Washington, D.C.” which are spread out through much of the central and northwest areas of the city. They are listed as a group on the National Register of Historic Places.

Winfield Scott Hancock and his identical twin brother Hilary Baker Hancock were born on February 14, 1824. The twins were the sons of Benjamin Franklin Hancock and Elizabeth Hoxworth Hancock. Indications of Winfield’s future military career started early. He was named after Winfield Scott, a prominent general in the War of 1812. He also attended the United States Military Academy at West Point.

Winfield Scott Hancock was a career U.S. Army officer and was known to his Army colleagues as “Hancock the Superb”. He served with distinction in the Army for four decades, including service in the Mexican-American War and as a Union general in the Civil War. He was noted in particular for his personal leadership at the Battle of Gettysburg. He was also wounded twice.

Hancock was the Democratic nominee for President of the United States in 1880. Although he ran a strong campaign, Hancock was narrowly defeated by Republican James A. Garfield. Of almost nine million votes cast, Hancock lost by only thirty-nine thousand votes. Hancock took his electoral defeat in stride, however, and actually attended Garfield’s inauguration.

Some other interesting facts about Hancock include that at the close of the Civil War, he was assigned to supervise the execution of the Lincoln assassination conspirators, including Mary Surratt. Also, he was elected president of the National Rifle Association in 1881. Hancock’s last major public appearance was to preside over the funeral of President Ulysesses S. Grant in 1885.  And Hancock’s portrait adorns U.S. currency on the $2 Silver Certificate series of 1886.  It was also in 1886, in a manner that seems incongruous with the successful life he had led, Hancock died, the victim of an infected carbuncle.
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SimónBolívar1
The equestrian statue of Simón Bolívar, located at the intersection of Virginia Avenue, 18th Street and C Street (MAP) in northwest D.C.’s Foggy Bottom neighborhood, is a public artwork by Felix de Weldon. It depicts Bolívar wearing a military uniform with great detail, including the gold medallion that was given to him by George Washington.  He is shown riding his horse, and holding a sword in his right hand and wielding it upward over his head.

Bolívar is remembered as “El Libertador,” or The Liberator, so it is befitting that his statue is part of a series, entitled “Statues of the Liberators,” honoring liberators and other national figures of western-hemisphere countries.  The statues can be found along Virginia Avenue between 18th and 25th Streets, near the headquarters of the Organization of American States in northwest D.C.’s Foggy Bottom neighborhood. The statues were erected by various Latin American countries, and are maintained by the National Park Service.  The sculpture of Bolívar was authorized by the U.S. Congress in July of 1949, and installed at its current location in June of 1955.  It was donated by and the installation was paid for by the government of Venezuela.

Simón José Antonio de la Santísima Trinidad Bolívar y Palacios Ponte y Blanco, more commonly known as Simón Bolívar, was the son of a Venezuelan aristocrat of Spanish descent.  He was born to wealth and position, and travelled to and was educated in Europe, where the thought of independence for Hispanic America took root in Bolívar’s imagination.  The Latin American independence movement was launched a year after Bolívar’s return, as Napoleon Bonaparte’s invasion of Spain unsettled Spanish authority.  Bolívar became an outstanding military general and charismatic political leader, and played a key role in Latin America’s successful struggle for independence from the Spanish Empire.  He not only helped drive the Spanish from northern South America, but also was instrumental in the formative years of the republics that sprang up once the Spanish had gone.

Having also traveled to the United States, Bolívar was an admirer of President George Washington, with whom he shared two commonalities.  First, like President Washington, Bolívar was a Freemason.  George Washington and Bolívar also shared the same objective, namely, independence for their people and the establishment of democratic states.  But Bolívar differed in political philosophy from George Washington and the leaders of the revolution in the United States on two important matters.  First, unlike his northern counterparts, Bolívar was staunchly anti-slavery.  Second, while he was an admirer of the American independence, he did not believe that the same governmental system could function in Latin America, and establishing a republic there would require making some concessions in terms of liberty.

Bolívar is considered by historians as one of the most powerful and influential figures in world political history.  Yet today, outside of Latin America where he is still practically worshipped, his name and who he was is almost unknown.

The Joan of Arc Statue

The Joan of Arc Statue

On this day in 1431, Jehanne d’Arc, or Joan of Arc, was burned at the stake for insubordination and heterodoxy. After succumbing to the flames, the English raked back the coals to expose her charred body so that no one could claim she had escaped alive.  They then burned the body twice more to reduce it to ashes and prevent any collection of relics.  Afterwards, they cast her remains into the Seine River.

A peasant girl born in what is now eastern France, who claimed divine guidance, Joan of Arc led the French army to several important victories during the Hundred Years’ War, which paved the way for the coronation of Charles VII.  She was captured by the Burgundians, transferred to the English in exchange for money, put on trial by the pro-English Bishop of Beauvais Pierre Cauchon,” and burned at the stake as a heretic when she was only 19 years old.

Twenty-five years after the execution, an Inquisitorial court authorized by Pope Callixtus III examined the trial records.  The court’s verdict exonerated her, and she was declared her a martyr.  Joan of Arc was beatified in 1909 and was recognized as a Christian saint by the Roman Catholic Church in 1920.  Saint Joan of Arc is a national heroine of France.  Her feast day is also today, May 30.

To recognize the events of this day in history, I rode to historic Meridian Hill Park in the Columbia Heights neighborhood of northwest D.C. (MAP), to see the statue entitled “Joan of Arc” by Paul Dubois.  The bronze equestrian statue is located on the upper level of the park above the fountains, overlooking the city with a view all the way downtown to The Washington Monument.   The statue is the only equestrian statue of a woman in D.C., and depicts her riding with a sword in her right hand.  The sword she originally held was stolen in 1978, and not replaced until just recently.

The statue was a gift from Le Lyceum Société des Femmes de France (the “Ladies of France in Exile in New York”) to the women of the United States in 1922, two years after she was cannonized as a saint.   DuBois’ original work on which this statue is based is located in Reims, France, in front of the Cathedral of Notre-Dame.

As I was there in the park I couldn’t help but wonder what Joan of Arc would have thought of her status as a popular figure in cultural history, and the existence of this statue memorializing her located in a park in the capital of a country that wouldn’t be founded for more than three centuries after her death.

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