Town Hall, November 16, 1992
Concord Oral History Program
Renee Garrelick, Interviewer.
Major General Charles H. Perenick.
I am Major General Charlie Perenick, Deputy State Area Commander for the Massachusetts Army National Guard and am pleased to be before you this evening to provide an update to you on behalf of over one half million men and women, citizen-soldiers, who wear the uniform of the Army National Guard.
I am proud to represent these citizen-soldiers as I too, share a special feeling for the town of Concord and its commitment to preserving its historical significance, its works of art, antiquities, and living history for all Americans to share.
I am the Clerk Magistrate of the Concord District Court. I have worked in Concord for the past 21 years. I am a citizen soldier and I feel well qualified and honored to present on behalf of the Army National Guard, our plans for the replication of the Daniel Chester French statue.
The Minuteman as you know, is the national symbol of one of our nation's greatest assets, the National Guard. With a deep history that dates back to the late 1600s, we stand ready today and tomorrow as did our brothers in arms over 350 years ago, as the original military regiments of the bay colony.
Not only do we as citizen-soldiers treasure our early presence as the framers of national defense, all citizens from across this great Commonwealth of Massachusetts, share a special bond for the National Guard. For even as we speak tonight, the oldest units in the United States Army trace their lineages back to the three original regiments formed by the Massachusetts General Court.
We in the National Guard have progressed professionally during the last 350 years. We have carried the spirit of the Minuteman forward as the defenders of life, liberty, domestic tranquility, and freedom when attacked by foreign enemy. A spirit, the Minuteman symbolizes not only to Concordians, but on a much grander scale to our nation's population, the men and women and children of our 50 states and territorial possessions.
We, the National Guard, come before you this evening as good neighbors to advise you of our plans to duplicate the Minuteman statue so it can appropriately represent our nation's National Guard and stand guard at its new Army National Guard Headquarters in Arlington Hall, Virginia.
We speak on behalf of our ancestors and fellow citizen- soldiers who over the years have mobilized from the surrounds of the milldam to fend against the threats to American ideals and values.
Native sons and Concord National Guard Commanders by the names of Barrett who stood at the bridge, Henry Saunders in the War of 1812, George L. Prescott-Civil War, Captain Cyrus Cook in the Spanish American War, and Michael Dee of World War I. Captains William Haggerty, John Hutchinson, and Otis Whitney, later to command the 26th Yankee Infantry Division, deployed for combat in World War II. All native sons, the Minutemen of their times.
And we are particularly proud of another local son, Concord native and resident, a past Concord National Guard Commander who too answered the call, mobilized in support of Desert Shield/ Desert Storm Major Ben Benoit. Ben is with us tonight and will speak later in our presentation.
The symbolism of the Minuteman is revered by all National Guard personnel, of years past, today, and will be well into the future. It is most appropriate at this time to introduce our leadership in Washington on behalf of the men and women in our ranks. It gives me great pleasure to introduce the Director of the Army National Guard and my good friend, General Jack D'Arraujo of the National Guard Bureau.
It is extremely difficult to relay the emotional, factual, and spiritual essence of the Daniel Chester French piece before any gathering in such a short period of time. We are extremely proud of our citizen-soldiers, of the ideals, principals, and values for which our men and women over the years have served unselfishly, committed to the symbol for which we speak about this evening.
I would ask that you share with us for the next 7 1/2 minutes our story, that of local and distant Americans at their best, our brothers and sisters who have, and will always continue to share the bond of all Minutemen.
This film was directed and produced exclusively for this presentation. Many scenes were filmed here in Concord. The opening scenes portray Samuel Prescott, re-enacted by Dr. Seymour DiMare, alerting Concordians that the British are on the march.
These are Americans at their best, fighting domestic enemies of drug and substance abuse, placed in harm's way off the shores of this great country, answering the most recent domestic relief calls to Florida, Louisiana, and Hawaii as during the past several months.
We would not undertake this project without realizing, planning for, and creating a replication of this piece without insuring for the highest standards of quality throughout the process.
I would like to call upon Major Ben Benoit, who came forward about nine months ago and asked to be involved with this endeavor as he too, a native son, and Massachusetts National Guard officer, has been instrumental in developing the planning and execution of this project.
Major Benjamin L. Benoit, III, Mass National Guard Officer.
Thank you sir. Good evening, I'm particularly proud to stand before this gathering tonight as both a responsible citizen, having served on town boards, as a corporate citizen on the milldam for a number of years, and as a lifelong resident of the town. I too share a marshal bond for this town treasure for often I have seen the symbol of the Minuteman on the tailfins of F-15 fighters deployed to the Gulf, on the patches of my comrades in uniform, on fire engines deployed for domestic emergency in the forests of California and Colorado, on the medical sets and engineering kits of National Guardsmen and women recently deployed in Florida, Louisiana, and Hawaii to name but a few.
It is equally an honor to speak this evening as a citizen- soldier on behalf of the hundreds of thousands of men and women of the Army National Guard having served my town, state, and country as a local National Guard Commander, recruited by General Otis Whitney, and today a senior training officer of the Massachusetts National Guard.
In 1974, as a result of a bomb found at the base of the present statue, the Minuteman National Historical Park commissioned the Cascieri and diBaccari Studio of Boston to make a mold of the Minuteman statue located at the North Bridge.
A government contract was executed on January 8, 1975 by the studio and the National Park Service, Department of the Interior.
Both parties had contracted for a mold to be made which could be used for pouring a new statue in the event of loss, destruction, or other harm to the original statue in view of pending bicentennial activities in April of that year.
Since all copyright protection and subsequent extension of such rights had expired on or around 1929, the statue, then and now, in the category of "public domain" was removed from the site by Cascieri and diBaccari in order to craft a permanent mold for future safekeeping at and under the custody of the National Park Service, Concord, Massachusetts.
In 1984, it was verified by the Air National Guard and the National Park Service that in fact such a mold for future use is not in existence. Furthermore, it was verified that a plaster of paris cast, primarily consisting of three major pieces, the torso and base with musket lock, the "bust" portion from the waist up, and the plough are in safekeeping. Additionally, there are a number of smaller casted pieces consisting of the musket butt, barrel, hands, and so forth.
The cast, not a mold which was contracted for, having been purchased with federal funds and now the property of the United States Government, is currently stored at the Minuteman National Park, in Concord, a federal facility.
The mold is non-existent, having been made of a gelatin-type substance and has since been destroyed. We are also aware of minor surface damage to the cast pieces which require restoration for the cast to be used once again.
It is illegal for the Army National Guard, a government agency, to expend government funds to duplicate a new cast. The present cast in the opinion of certified and nationally recognized sculptors, to include the individual who in 1974 sculptured the existing cast, is suitable for the fabrication of a permanent silicon mold and subsequent casting of a duplicate statue, although a new statue would not be of the same size and specification.
In cooperation with the National Park Service, the current custodian of the existing cast, and a representative of the town, the National Guard Bureau will remove the cast under the supervision and control of a recognized sculptor, conservator, and other experienced parties as required for the duplication of another statue of bronze medium and complimenting patinization.
The Federal Government will require the cast to be insured while absent from its present custodian and to require all specifications to include restoration of the original cast, and bear all expenses attendant to the project. The existing statue which stands at the North Bridge will not be affected by this process. It is further anticipated that a new permanent silicon mold will be returned to the National Park Service in addition to the plaster cast for future safekeeping on behalf of the town.
We anticipate the complete replication process will take approximately 5-6 months will all work performed in accordance with the scope of work as mutually agreed upon by the National Guard Bureau, and the National Park Service. Additionally, we shall continue to seek advice and recommendation from the town by its representatives as appropriate. All work shall be bid, executed and completed in accordance with federal procurement regulations as was the earlier work in 1974.
Additionally, proper recognition identifying the replication, on behalf of the citizens of Concord, past and present, will be suitably affixed by bronze tablet on the plinth of the statue.
In closing my remarks, we intend to commence this project within the next 45 days and look forward to continue working with our fellow government representatives of the National Park Service and representatives from the town.
Major General Charles H. Perenick.
We are indeed sensitive to the proper recognition to be given to the Daniel Chester French statue, not only in the fabrication of the statue, but to preserve in perpetuity a special recognition to and from the cooperation of all Concordians. We believe this approach is a win-win for all parties concerned. We seek your continued support, assistance and recommendations as appropriate, and thank you on behalf of our command leadership and the men and women of yesterday's, today's and tomorrow's National Guard, our citizen-soldiers, the Minutemen we represent and come before you this evening to speak for.
Lawrence Gall, Superintendent, Minuteman National Historical Park.
I think it is important that I clarify the Park Service's attitude on this matter. When we were approached by the National Guard, there were a couple of issues that I felt needed to be made clear. One of them, of course, is the technical aspect of this. Could this cast be made safely, in a manner that would not damage the original casting? We determined that that could be done. The issue of the legality of the casting I think has been resolved satisfactorily. However, at the same time it is not our obligation to allow the casting to be used for replication, and what that required in my mind was to visit the conditions under which we manage the statue and also the conditions under which we, the Park Service, receive permission through the taking of the mold of the statue. The National Park Service manages the Minuteman statue and the land around it, the North Bridge, the monument and the road leading to the monument in trust for the town of Concord. It is with those areas in particular that we consult with the town of Concord. It is our understanding that the circumstances under which the Park Service was given permission to make the mold of the statue were limited to the means of having that mold in order to replicate the statue in case of damage, and secondly, that we would go to the town in the event there was a request to use that mold and get a sense of the feelings of the town. I believe vociferously in that policy, and I believe when I spoke with the gentlemen who are here tonight originally, I indicated that they needed to consult this town on this issue, so that's where we, the Park Service, stand.
Anna M. Manion.
Concord has a special place in American history and American literature. It is our responsibility as present day citizens to preserve and protect our unique heritage.
Daniel Chester French lived in Concord on Sudbury Road and had a studio next door. When he was 23 years old, a Town Committee wrote him a letter dated November 10, 1873 as follows: "Dear Sir: The inhabitants of the town of Concord authorize you to construct a model for a minuteman for a monument proposed to be erected near the site of the Old North Bridge in Concord, according to the terms set forth in your letter to John S. Keyes dated November 1, 1873."
A financial summary for the year March 1, 1976-March 1, 1877 in the Town Report shows an appropriation for $1,000 to D.C. French for a model of a minuteman and payment thereof in that year. Ebenezer Hubbard in his will left $1,000 for this monument. The selectmen carried out his wish.
Ralph Waldo Emerson on April 19, 1875, unveiled that statue. The pedestal on which it stands contains the first verse of his Concord Hymn, known to every school child as where the embattled farmer fired the shot heard round the world.
The Minuteman has become famous and launched French as a nationally successful sculptor, one of whose last great works was the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. One of his finest monuments is the Melvin Memorial in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery.
People come from all over the world to see the Minuteman here. They expect to view it at the beautiful pastoral site in the Buttrick Meadow on the Concord River for which it was intended. That site is a National as well as a Massachusetts Historic landmark. In one of French's letters he showed how sensitive he was to the proper placement of any monument. He said and I quote "The effect of a monument or statue, rightly placed does a great deal for the embellishment of the area... I have come to feel that a mediocre statue, rightly placed, is of more value and importance than a good statue badly installed. The important thing is, not to find a site for a statue, but a statue for a site" end of quote.
Placing a copy of the Minuteman anywhere else would weaken the historic bond. It is a magnificent work of art dedicated to one particular event, the Concord fight.
I object to any replication of the statue. Aesthetically and historically it is a singular piece, a national treasure entrusted to Concord for safekeeping.
As members of the Board of Selectmen in 1975, five of us voted to have a cast made because there had been a bomb threat. The minutes of that meeting January 20, 1975, record "The Minuteman statue was removed from its pedestal at the Old North Bridge area last Thursday, January 16, 1975, in order that a cast could be made in case the original was destroyed or removed illegally."
That is the only reason I voted in favor.
Michael Richman, chief archivist of the Daniel Chester French papers in Washington, D.C. and Paul Ivory, Director of Chesterwood in Stockbridge have sent letters recommending the Town of Concord retain the North Bridge as the only site of the statue. They tell us only two of French's monuments have been replicated. In each case, the replicas were ordered by the client and performed under the artist's direct supervision during his life time for a special purpose that did not compete with the original. I do not think Concord wants to be known as the first client to approve replication since French's death.
When we refer to the cooperative agreement between the town and the National Park dated June 6, 1963, signed by Conrad F. Wirth, Director of the National Park Service and by five Concord Selectmen, we read under Article 1 and I quote "The Town will retain ownership of the said historic structures, objects and grounds in the Battleground area." These objects include the Minuteman statue and the Old North Bridge. I hope the cast will also be covered as an object.
I trust that we continue to protect the Minuteman where it stands. We commissioned it, paid for it, placed it where it belongs and now must defend it from a dilution of its historical and artistic significance.
To the Honorable, the Board of Selectmen:
I urge that the Town of Concord NOT permit a copy of Concord's Minuteman statue be made for installation in Washington, D.C., or anywhere else. The use of a picture of our Minuteman to inspire the American People to win World War II has made it perhaps the most widely known statue in America. Nevertheless, the statue belongs in Concord and nowhere else.
Towns in Middlesex County and elsewhere in the Massachusetts Bay Colony had long maintained militia companies for the defense of their towns against Indian attack. By the early 1770s Indians were no longer the problem. British troops, rapidly increasing in number became the threat instead of the Indians. A call-up of the militia on September 1, 1774, to prevent the British seizure of military supplies in Cambridge and Watertown failed because the militia organization was too unwieldy to move swiftly.
On September 26, 1774, Concord voted:
that there be one or more Companys Raised in this Town by
Enlistment and that they Chose their officers out of the
Body So Inlisted and that Said Company or Companies Stand
a minutes warning in Case of an alarm and when said Company
should be Called for out of Town, in that Case the Town
Pay said Company or Companies Reasonable wages for the
time they were absent.
Other towns followed suit.
These minute companies were strictly local, responsible only to the selectmen of their towns. They could, and they did, respond swiftly to the call when it came. Estimates vary as to the number of American troops involved in the events of April 19, 1775. The minutemen came from 24 towns, according to one historian.
Many of these towns have raised monuments to their men, some of them sooner than we did. None have copied Daniel Chester French's statue. Concord's statue celebrates Concord men, as Lexington's does Lexington's, as all the other Revolutionary War monuments speak to and for their own communities.
If the National Guard wishes to put up a statue of a minuteman, more power to them. But let them commission a sculptor to create one for them. The National Guard has a long and honorable history. Why don't they erect a statue of a National Guardsman?