Gen. Gouverneur Kemble Warren
West Side of Grand Army Plaza, Brooklyn
This statue of the Civil War general Gouverneur Kemble Warren, who commanded the Army of the Potomac's Fifth Corps at Gettysburg and who was, in his day, best remembered for organizing the defense of Little Round Top -- uhh, but who also was remembered for being relieved of his command at the Battle of Five Forks two years later -- sits in a weed-pocked paved area on the west side of Grand Army Plaza in Brooklyn, right where Plaza Street West and Union Street connect with eastbound traffic on Flatbush.
Warren is posed looking to the east, in the general direction of the plaza's giant monumental arch. He is wearing a general's uniform and holding binoculars in his left hand, as though he had just been gazing through them wondering how they got those horses on top of the arch.
The figure is made of bronze, and the pedestal is cut from Conway green granite actually taken from Little Round Top. From the base to the tip of his hat, Warren's statue stands about 17 1/2 feet tall. A similar statue of him can be found at Gettysburg.
The statue was a gift of the Warren Post No. 286 of the New York Department of the Grand Army of the Republic, the grass-roots veterans organization, as part of a concerted effort to rehabilitate Warren's image, which took a beating during the latter stages of the war. In short, the controversy began at Five Forks, during the final weeks of the war. Warren's troops are roundly regarded as having clinched the Union victory there, but his commanding officer, Gen. Philip Sheridan, thought Warren acted too slow and relieved him. The overall Union commander, Gen. Ulysses Grant, apparently took Sheridan's side, stonewalling Warren's efforts to restore his reputation even when Grant was president. Warren was eventually exonerated by a court of inquiry, though, unfortunately for Warren, the judgment was reached about six months after he died.
The monument, the product of an extensive fund-raising campaign, was dedicated June 26, 1896, in a ceremony with considerable military pomp. Besides members of the Warren post, there were arrayed in the plaza that day a contingent from the Mansfield G.A.R. Post No. 35; Light Battery K of the 1st Artillery, U.S. Army; a battalion of engineers; and a dizzying list of now-forgotten but still-interesting military men, including Gen. Horatio C. King, a medal of honor winner who fought at Five Forks; Gen. Stewart L. Woodford, a Civil War veteran who would become the ambassador to Spain in the years before the Spanish-American War; and Gen. Hiram Duryea, who became a wealthy businessman after the war and was famously murdered by his son in Bay Ridge in 1915. Also present were Warren's son, A. Sydney Warren; the 1st Artillery's band; and a chorus of girls wearing red-white-and-blue sashes.
The ceremony began at 10 a.m., according to a report in The Times. The band kicked things off with "God of Might, We Sing Thy Praise." The Rev. Charles F. Hull, who served with Warren in the Fifth Corps, then said a prayer and, as the band played the national anthem, Warren's son stood in front of the flag-shrouded statue and cut a cord to unveil it. The artillery battery thundered a salute and there followed a likely just as deafening series of speeches, beginning with Henry A. Foster of the Warren G.A.R. post offering the statue as a gift, the parks commissioner accepting it and a ponderous review of Warren's life by Gen. James R. O'Beirne, another medal of honor winner who, as provost marshal in Washington, participated in the apprehension of John Wilkes Booth, the presidential assassin. Afterward, Warren's old bugler played taps, and they called it a day.
The Times's report includes a reference to a minor controversy involving a women's auxiliary group who raised money for the statue. Apparently, the women felt they were not given due credit for their efforts and had threatened to distribute flyers outlining their grievances at the dedication ceremony. (They didn't show up at the ceremony.) The reporter for The Times added a scathing assessment of the women's claim, saying that most of their subscriptions could not be collected and that the women, in the end, contributed only $400 to the statue's $10,000 cost.
The bronze figure was sculpted by Henry Baerer, who attended the dedication, (his signature can be seen in the stone at Warren's feet) and cast Henry-Bonnard Bronze Co. of New York in 1893.
The pedestal is engraved in the front with Warren's name, and there are two bronze plaques, one set on top of the other. The top one dryly reports his name, the date he was born and the date he died, adding the endorsement: "EVERYTHING WITH HIM WAS SUBORDINATED TO DUTY."
GRADUATED AT WEST POINT, 1850. CORPS OF ENGINEERS U.S. ARMY. CONDUCTED EXPLORATIONS WEST OF THE MISSISSIPPI, 1855-58. SERVED IN ARMY OF POTOMAC 1861-65. ROSE BY MERIT FROM LIEUTENANT COLONEL, 5TH NEW YORK VOLUNTEERS, TO MAJOR GENERAL, COMMANDING 5TH ARMY CORPS. ENGAGED IN 17 GREAT BATTLES AND 20 MINOR ACTIONS. WAS TWICE WOUNDED. SAVED LITTLE ROUND TOP AT GETTYSBURG AND MADE VICTORY AT FIVE FORKS DECISIVE. OF HIS PROFESSIONAL SERVICES 1865-82, THE CHIEF OF ENGINEERS STATES: "IN SCIENTIFIC INVESTIGATIONS GENERAL, WARREN HAD FEW SUPERIORS, AND HIS ELABORATE REPORTS OF SOME OF THE MOST IMPORTANT WORKS WHICH HAVE BEEN CONFIDED TO THE CORPS OF ENGINEERS ARE AMONG THE MOST VALUABLE CONTRIBUTIONS TO ITS LITERATURE."
Gen. Warren was born Jan. 8, 1830, in Cold Spring, N.Y. He graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1850 and became a decorated commander in the Union Army during the Civil War. After the war, he stayed in the Corps of Engineers and was credited with building numerous bridges and railroads and whatnot. He died on Aug. 8, 1882, in Newport, R.I. Read more about him here.
The monument was refurbished in 1938, and again in 2001.
Updated October 2007