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The Washington Monument

SKETCHES FROM THE SEAT OF WAR
by A Jewish Soldier
VIII.

It having been announced, that on the Anniversary of Washington, the raising of the national flag on the Washington Monument, was to form part of the day's celebration, I was one of the crowd that hastened to that spot, at the appointed hour, to witness that interesting ceremony, and, at the same time, to have a good look at this remarkable structure, which, for some reason or other, is not as frequently visited either by inhabitants of the capital or strangers, as it richly deserves, on account of its inherent magnificence, as well as the many curiosities collected in an adjoining building. At present, it has the appearance of an unfinished obelisk about 235 feet in height, and consequently has not the striking effect it will have, when complete. The design of that monument contemplates a shaft of 600 feet in height, the marble obelisk 55 feet square at the base, resting on a foundation of gneiss 17.5 feet high, 8.25 feet square, and extending 7 feet below the surface. The wall is perpendicular, with an inclosed space of 25 feet square. The 15 foot wall will ascend until the gentle taper reduces it to two feet of thickness. It was a part of the original plan, to have a Pantheon base, as represented in the model exhibited at the Patent Office, but it has been decided to dispense with this addition, and to substitute the plain square base which is the characteristic of the obelisk. This change in the plan, while it will reduce the cost of the monument to one half of the cum contemplated in connection with the Pantheon, will, at the same time, conform it to the recognized rules of art.

The total cost of the obelisk, (which, by the by, is situated in the center of the District of Columbia), has been estimated at $552,000; the Pantheon alone would have cost $570,000, but a plain and appropriate base may be built for less than a tenth of that sum. This obelisk, when finished, will be the highest structure in the world, as the loftiest edifices in the Old World are far from reaching the proposed elevation. There are the following; viz:

Antonine's Column at Rome is................... 135   feet
Trajan's Column is................................... 145    "
Napoleon's Column at Paris is................... 150    "
Sesotris' Obelisk at Thebes is.................... 200    "
Column of Delhi, is................................... 262    "
St. Paul's, London, is................................. 320    "
Cathedral Tower, Strasburg, is.................. 460    "
St. Peter's, Rome, is.................................. 465    "
Great Pyramid of Cheops, Egypt, is............. 480    "
Tower of Malines, Belgium, is...................... 550    "
Washington Monument is............................ 600    "

It is, therefore, to exceed the highest-structure in the world by fifty feet. The interior walls of the obelisk are to be ornamented by the insertion of numerous slabs and pieces of sculpture sent from all parts of the world, as tributes of respect to the memory of Washington. Such of these as have yet not been inserted in the wall, too high for inspection at present, in the unfinished state of the obelisk, are exhibited in a temporary wooden building close to the monument. I examined them with great pleasure, and was surprised to find such superior works of art, and such valuable contributions from foreign countries.

Among the latter, I was particularly struck with the following interesting gifts, viz: a large marble slab with the Chinese inscriptions, conveying a high tribute of respect to the memory of Washington, given by the Emperor of China; a large stone from the famous Alexandrian Library in Egypt given by the Pasha; a large piece of marble with Greek inscriptions, presented by the King of Greece; a splendid piece of polished red marble, with brass shield and ornaments, and inscription by the citizens of Bremen; a stone of considerable dimensions contributed by "the Tuscarora tribe N. 5, the 7th Sun Hunting Moon, Grand Sire," as the inscriptions say; a splendid piece of Mosaic pavement, representing a horse under a fruit tree, taken from the ruins of Ancient Carthage; a stone from the temple of Aesculapius, Island of Poras; another marble slab, presented by the Governor and Commune of the Island of Poras and Nancy in the Greek Archipelago; an ancient piece of sculpture made between two or three hundred years ago by the ancient Egyptians, for the temple erected in the honor of Augustus on the Banks of the Nile; marble stones with Turkish inscriptions, from the Sultan of Turkey, and another piece, the handsomest of all foreign contributions, consisting of a marble facade with turrets and floral decorations of exquisite workmanship, and Arabic inscriptions of sky-blue shields. The size of these stones is, on an average, five by seven feet in length and breadth, and the inscriptions are expressions of reverence for the great patriot of this Republic. There are also valuable contributions from the rebel States, as well as, from the loyal, and it is amusing in one sense, and painful in another to read the expressions of devotion they breathe for the Union; for instance: Tennessee gives a splendid piece of polished marble from her own quarries, with the following inscription: "The Federal Union, it must be preserved." Louisiana's contribution bears the inscription: "Ever faithful to the Constitution and Union." The Freemasons and "Odd Fellows" from the various States send some of the most splendid works of art, consisting of masterly pieces of sculpture on marble slabs, representing, in symbolical figures, the objects of their associates and the insignia of their order.

The Temperance societies, Fire companies, and other popular associations, have shown their patriotism by forwarding works of art emblematical of their special objects, which must have cost enormous sums. There are also contributions from Medical and Literary Societies, from the dramatic profession, from the two disciples of Daguerre, from Sabbath-school children, and the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church. All these works of art are to be inserted in the interior wall of the Obelisk, and will, doubtless, present a panorama such as is rarely seen in this or any other part of the world. The obelisk itself promises to be, by itself, as famous for the genius displayed in its construction, as for its extraordinary height. The gradual slope, the neatness with which the stones are cemented together, the symmetrical proportions of the base, will entitle it to a prominent place among the masterpieces of architecture, and it may one day, be designated as one of the wonders of the world. It is intended to have a staircase inside of considerable proportions, and resting places at convenient distances; otherwise, no human being would ever be capable of reaching its summit. The raising of the national banner on that Monument, naturally called together a large concourse of patriotic people, civilians as well as soldiers, who were much gratified to see the elegant folds wave in the sky, and rise to the summit of the unfinished obelisk, amid the booming of cannon, the rattling of musketry, with the cheers of the people.

This monument is not the only work dedicated to the memory of Washington in this capital. There are two statues of the patriot in other parts of the city. Greenough's statue of Washington, of colossal size, represents him as sitting on a pedestal of granite, in the grounds east of the Capitol, with his right hand pointed to Heaven, while the left holds a Roman sword, with the handle turned from his person, symbolic of his trust in Providence and ascription of the glory of his achievements to that Source. It has been pronounced by competent judges, to be one of the greatest works of sculpture produced in modern times. The other statue, by Clark Mills, represents the courage and daring by which Washington, at the crisis of the battle of Princeton, rallies his troops, and turned the scale in favor of his country, by that which, at another time, would have been a reckless exposure of his person. The horse is represented as striking back before the destructive fire of the enemy, while his rider surveys the scene with the calmness and resolution which knows no fear, when honor and duty are at stake. The hand and face are from a bust by Houdon, taken in Washington's lifetime, one of the best in existence. The statue is colossal in size, being eleven feet if standing erect, and upon horseback, fifteen feet.

What with the reading of his Farewell Address, and the valuable monuments erected to his memory, it cannot be said that he has served an ungrateful posterity.
 

Sketches from the Seat of War