MUSCATINE, Iowa - It's been 135 years since hands have touched it.
Now, the Civil War memorial soldier, which stood a silent watch over the Muscatine County Courthouse, has come down to be saved from more damage by the Earth's elements.
On Monday afternoon, local historian Lee Miller, 70, watched as a Muscatine Power and Water crew wrapped a harness around the 6-foot, 2-inch statue's waist, gently placing wood between the arms to protect it from breaking.
"We've already decided if he crumbles apart, he crumbles apart," Miller said, his eyes staying on the statue.
Some of it did. While the half-ton statue was lifted up from its 30-foot pillar, its fragile musket and worn legs snapped, crumbling to the ground in pieces. But the destruction stopped there.
As the soldier was brought down to the ground, his mustache, tilted brim hat and ragged cape were still visible. Small indentations were still present where his mouth and eyes once were.
The memorial was created by a monument company in the late 1800s, Miller said, and was dedicated in 1875 by Gov. Samuel J. Kirkwood. Kirkwood noted that "more names (of Civil War veterans) were to be added later," Miller said, but that never happened.
When the monument was moved to the left side of the lawn in 1910 and rededicated in 1925, over 60 names of other Civil War veterans were still left off the bronze plaques that are affixed there today.
Through fundraising, Miller and the other members of the Civil War Memorial Committee - Muscatine County Supervisor Wayne Shoultz, Dan Clark, Ron Miller, Sandy Lee, and Paul Blanchard - hope to have a new soldier built and added to the current memorial and the 63 names placed on an additional, shorter monument next to the old one.
The total cost for the refurnished memorial is estimated at $17,000. Miller hopes to see it completed and ready for rededication on July 4, 2011 - the year of the 150th anniversary of the start of the Civil War.
Chad Behnke, an apprentice lineman with Muscatine Power & Water, was one of three MP&W employees helping on behalf of donated company time and equipment.
"I've never done anything like this before," Behnke said.
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After conversations with professional preservationists, Lee Miller and his committee decided to take the soldier down.
Blanchard, commander of the Muscatine VFW, spent most of the two hours in a box crane, securing the soldier's harness for its removal.
"Back then, they thought marble would last forever," he said after the soldier was placed in a flatbed trailer.
Miller believes the pollution from factories, exhaust from cars, along with Iowa's ever-changing seasons and harsh climates might have contributed to its deterioration.
As those present picked up pieces of the statue's broken remains, Blanchard suggested selling the pieces to raise money for the new statue and additional monument.
After the statue was removed, the question was where to keep it. Plans at one time had the statue stored at the Muscatine Art Center or MP&W, but space constraints have changed those plans.
Supervisor Dave Watkins and Eric Furnas, director of administrative services, suggested the work release center as a place for temporary storage.
"We just want to get him inside," Miller said. "If we get him inside, we can stop the deterioration."
As the crews gathered their supplies and trucks left the lawn, Civil War Committee members looked at the soldier now removed from his pedestal.
"It didn't go the way we planned," Blanchard said after bringing the broken statue down. "It's fragile."
Miller, however, was happy with the result. He expected the worst.
"I'm amazed," he said watching it swing from the crane on its way down. "I really didn't think we'd get this much of the soldier."