Forgiveness and Respect

It’s a monument (see below) to the Irish brigades who fought at Gettysburg (the 63rd, 69th, and 88th) New York Volunteer Infantry Regiments. We don’t often think of immigrants who fought to preserve our union. The Celtic cross with the Irish wolfhound at its base reminds us of the contributions of those who came to America for a new beginning. At the time the Irish were often reviled in New York where they settled.

The sculptor of the monument was William Rudolph O’Donovan who was born in Preston County, West Virginia (part of Virginia when he was born). He was self-taught. As a child, he worked as an apprentice to a marble cutter in Uniontown, PA.

Following the Civil War, O’Donovan went to New York City to continue his artistic career. He was hired to work for the National Fine Arts Foundry which made a number of historic memorials. The tribute to the Irish brigades was one of those memorials. The Irish Cross memorial was dedicated in 1888 and is located near where the Irish Brigade fought.

O’Donovan fought at Gettysburg even though he had been wounded in battle a year earlier. The Irish brigades had also been engaged in the battles when he was wounded.

What is often missing in memorials and monuments is the story behind the creator of these tributes. Just imagine that the creator of the tribute to the Irish brigades of the Union Army was a Confederate soldier who was likely wounded by those honored by the memorial he created.

This is a monument to forgiveness and respect. It’s a monument we should honor today for the lessons to be learned about those who we may have once opposed. Have forgiveness and respect disappeared in our fractured society? Let’s hope not for they are the essence of democracy.

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

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