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S.D. Civil War Monument Rededicated In Pierre

Courtesy S.D. State Historical Society

A monument to veterans of the Civil War was rededicated in Pierre yesterday, exactly 95 years after the granite marker and statue were first erected in the state’s capitol. But turning the Civil War shrine from an idea into reality took longer than the historic conflict.
When you think of states that were involved in the Civil War, you don’t generally include South Dakota. And you’d be right – sort of. After all, no battles related to the war-between-the-states took place here. 

And though this state had just become part of the Dakota Territory when shots were fired on Fort Sumter in April 1861 to start the Civil War, thousands of veterans from both sides of the conflict relocated to this area once the fighting stopped.

South Dakota State Historical Society spokesperson Matthew Reitzel explains.

“There were a number of veterans who came to South Dakota…mainly late 1870s…1880s,” Reitzel comments. “So, a lot of veterans were involved in the early history of the state…and they were located throughout the state.” 

Credit Courtesy S.D. State Historical Society
South Dakota Civil War Veterans Monument - Pierre.

In fact, nearly 6,000 Civil War veterans were spread out across the Dakota Territory.

Conversations about a memorial to those veterans begun in 1912 were approved by the state legislature in 1913 but it took until 1915 to allocate $1,000 - and then only if the veterans would raise $5,000 themselves.

But Governor Frank Byron thought asking 70-year old veterans to raise money for their own monument was a bit out of line. The state paid the full $10,000. Finally completed in 1918, the monument arrived too late the following year to be dedicated – an event that took place in 1920 – 8 years after the monument was first planned and twice as long as the war fought by the veterans it’s meant to honor.

One final note of confusion – the words “Civil War” aren’t mentioned anywhere on the granite. So with the numbers “1918” and the engraving “to the defenders of our nation”, many visitors thought the monument was intended for those who fought in World War One.

Upgrades to the monument site include sidewalks, lighting, benches, landscaping, a flagpole and placards intended to clear up any past confusion about this monument to South Dakota’s Civil War veterans.