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Manchester park’s Civil War statue being used to repair Gettysburg twin

By BETH LaMONTAGNE HALL
New Hampshire Union Leader

August 12. 2011 11:04PM
Making a mold - Joe Catchings, left, and Brian Griffin, National Park Service monument restoration experts from the Gettysburg National Military Park, brush on latex rubber to create a mold of the head and ramrod of the Civil War soldier statue in Manchester's Veterans Memorial Park that will be used to cast a new head for the identical statue in Gettysburg that was vandalized. (BOB LaPREE / UNION LEADER)


MANCHESTER - By this time next summer, a vandalized Civil War monument in Gettysburg National Military Park will be back on its pedestal with a new head and cannon ramrod, both cast from a mold created from a statue now standing in Veterans Memorial Park.

This week, a team of six National Parks Service staffers were in the park to create a rigid mold from the south-facing statue in the Veteran Memorial Park fountain Civil War monument. The statue, sculpted by Caspar Buberl in 1878 and from the MJ Power Foundry, is of a Civil War soldier standing tall and holding a cannon ramrod. Buberl was a prolific sculptor who crafted many Civil War monuments, as well as relief panels and statues outside various Smithsonian Institution buildings, but Manchester's memorial is believed to be the only other statue of its kind in the country.

Click here to view a photo gallery showing how Manchester is helping Gettysburg restore a piece of history.

The Gettysburg statue is a monument to Smith's Battery, also known as the 4th New York Battery. It was one of three state memorials vandalized on the same night in February 2006. Vandals knocked the statue off its pedestal, removed the head and top of the ramrod. Despite a $30,000 reward, no arrests were made.

Dennis Montagna, of the National Parks Service regional office in Philadelphia, said once the agency started looking into replacing the missing pieces, it received a tip that Manchester had a similar statue.

'I was up here several years ago on a different project and came over here to take and look and it was the one,' said Montagna.

Gettysburg Supervisor of Monument Preservation Luke Flickinger said the parks service hopes to have the statue restored and back on the battlefield by early next summer. Damage to statues is typically from automobile accidents or graffiti, he said, and not usually this severe.

'This situation is rare because it's a head on a monument,' Flickinger said. 'We often deal with swords, bayonets, backpacks, smaller items.'

To create the mold, the team was in Veterans Park on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday undertaking the time-consuming process of laying molding materials and waiting for them to dry.

The first step is to prepare the surface with wax to smooth any damage or pock marks and to cover it with a releasing agent for easy removal of the mold later.

Next, the team layers rubber onto the head and ramrod until a thick layer has formed.

The final step is to add a liquid plastic hardening agent. Once the final layer is dry, the team cuts the mold in half and brings it back to Pennsylvania where the casting work will be contracted out to a private company.

'That's where the art is going to come in,' said Montagna. The casting artists must create a new bronze head, add small details like the eyes and hair and then create a chemical patina so the new pieces match the rest of the statue, he added.

Flickinger said the work will take about 90 days but it's the contract bidding process that will carry the project into next year.

The team said that the city and Parks Director Peter Capano offered valuable help during the project.

'The Parks Department has been extremely helpful,' said Flickinger, adding that the staff has offered ladders and other equipment to the team. 'It makes it easy traveling as far as we've traveled and having staff that's not even the same agency offer help.'


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