The Bethlehem Pike, the road that leads north from Chestnut Hill, Pennsylvania, toward places like Blue Bell passes by a number of modest cemeteries. Union Cemetery in Flourtown is one of them (it is now associated with the Saint Miriam Parish and Friary).

There among other notable monuments I discovered that of George Jago, a soldier fallen in the Civil War. The anagraphic data:

Figure 1. Jago monument. Union Cemetery, Flourtown, PA. Photo: author.

Born Sept. 10, 1834,
Died July 15, 1863,
Aged 28 yrs, 10 mos & 5 days.

Below the anagraphic data is a poem notable for being tailored to the deceased despite its conventional elements.

The tired soldier bold and brave,
Now rests his weary feet,
And in the shelter of the grave,
George made his last retreat.

It was characteristic of nineteenth-century commemorators to find an appropriate text—and solace—in a religious hymn or a popular song. Jago’s commemorators found just such in “The Tired Soldier,” a ballad collected and published in 1828 on page 83 of The Melodist (“Embellished with humorous engravings”) by H. Arliss in London. One imagines the song is rather older. The text:

Figure 2. “The Tired Soldier,” page 83 of The Melodist, pub. H. Arliss, London 1823. Photo: Google Books.

It was collected once again on page 209 of The Quaver; or Songster’s Pocket Companion, published (again) in London by Charles Jones, in 1844, with slightly different wording:

Figure 3. “The Tired Soldier,” page 209 of The Quaver (London, Charles Jones 1844). Photo: Google Books.

And again and again in other collections and later editions of those same books. So one can safely assume that by the 1860s this was a well-known song—enough so that Americans seeking to commemorate their dead might land upon it, or adapt it.

For example, one finds a close parallel contemporary to Jago’s monument in that of John Clevenstine, in Saint Peter’s Pikeland United Church of Christ Cemetery in Chester Springs, Pennsylvania (he died after the battle of Chancellorsville):

The tired soldier bold and brave,
Now rests his weary feet.
And to the shelter of the grave,
John made his last retreat.

One notes that the American versions follow that in The Quaver (figure 3) rather than the one in The Melodist (figure 2).

There appears to be a maker’s mark or just possibly a snippet of verse at the bottom right of the face of the monument, right justified. I couldn’t make it out under the lichen coating the stone.

The most perplexing thing about the monument is the small image of a fallen soldier in a recess at the top of the stone (figure 4).

Figure 4. Jago monument. Detail: image of fallen soldier. Union Cemetery, Flourtown, PA. Photo: author.

The posture of the soldier is not one where gravity is pulling a lifeless corpse down. It might be more accurate to say that the figure is falling, for his coat, hard to see in the shadow, billows up behind him. On the other hand, the figure has its foot firmly planted on the right-hand frame of the relief as though it represented a ground line. It cannot be: for if you look closely, there’s a cannon and its telltale wheel just visible above and to the right of the billowing coat. The wear on the stone makes it difficult to make out details anywhere, but the figure had perhaps lost a kepi just above (i.e., to the left of) the head. Could the small bump just in front of (i.e., below) the forehead be the remnant of a hand (the figure’s right) thrown under his head? I do not know what the figure has grasped in its left hand. With less wear to the stone it might have been easier to parse.

If I were compelled to guess, I would imagine that the cutter has taken a pattern of a standing or striding soldier and flipped it so that the figure is shown falling. That has the virtue, at least, of explaining the anomalous posture.

Published by gsb03632

A college professor living in Scranton, PA

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