The Sighting The Enemy Monument

The George Armstrong Custer Equestrian Monument, better known as The Sighting The Enemy Monument, was sculpted by Edward Clark Potter who was chosen from among 25 artists contending for the honor. It was designed to represent Civil War hero General George Armstrong Custer’s defeat of the Confederate cavalry at Gettysburg. General Custer is shown wearing his US Civil War uniform. Since General Custer was alive during the period the statue represents, the horse in the sculpture has all four legs on the ground. The fourteen foot tall sculpture cost $24,000 at the time of it’s unveiling on June 4, 1910 in Monroe, Michigan.

The statue was originally located in Loranger Square, in the middle of First Street and Washington Street, in front of the Courthouse. President William Howard Taft was present for the unveiling ceremonies and paid tribute to the world's cavalry commanders including General George Armstrong Custer, of whom he said "stands equal with them all". General Custer’s widow, Mrs. Elizabeth Bacon Custer, was a native of Monroe. Libbie, as she was known, did not speak at the ceremonies. To unveil the statue she cut a yellow satin ribbon breaking apart two American flags which revealed the statue. Mrs. Custer is said to have looked up at the statue, smiled, and nodded in approval. Cannons fired in salute, the band struck up "The Star Spangled Banner" and the crowd of 25,000 roared their approval.

The monument was eventually moved from it’s Loranger Square location to Riverside Park, on East Front Street along the River Raisin, in 1923. Riverside Park is now known as Soldier and Sailors Park. The monument was moved because it had been deemed a traffic hazard to Monroe’s growing motor vehicle traffic. The relocation caused quite a furor not only in Monroe, but in the state of Michigan as then Governor Alex J. Groesbeck threatened to move the monument to Lansing. Libbie Custer promised never to return to her hometown of Monroe because she was so unhappy that the memorial to General Custer was being moved from it’s position of prominence. Libbie was a New York resident at the time.

Due to public protests, Monroe moved the statue to a much better location in August 1955. Sadly, when workers arrived in Soldier and Sailors Park they could not find the monument due to overgrown vegetation. The monument now stands on the southwest corner of Elm Avenue and North Monroe Street, still along the River Raisin. The rededication ceremony took place September 3, 1955. Members of the Custer family were honored at the ceremony. Regarding the move, Lieutenant Colonel Charles A. Custer stated "The City of Monroe keeps faith with the devoted wife and widow of General Custer&ldots;Libby Bacon Custer.". The US Army’s First Cavalry Division, which included General Custer’s world famous Seventh Cavalry, also played a part.

The Monroe County Historical Society underwrote a refurbishment of the statue in preparation for the 100th anniversary of the monument. On June 4, 2010 more than three hundred people, myself included, attended. Several local politicians were present at the event and spoke. The Monroe County Historical Society distributed a very nice souvenir commemorative poster to attendees. Later this year I’ll have a page dedicated to the 100th anniversary celebration.

 

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