When Portsmouth’s founder Colonel William Crawford selected the intersection of Court and High streets as the center of the community he envisioned, his grand plan embraced the concept of a town square.
Colonel Crawford designated the four corners of the Court and High Street intersection for public use – one each for a church, courthouse, jail, and market.
Of the original structures, only Trinity Episcopal Church, the oldest church in Portsmouth, is still in existence today. It was built in 1762. Across High Street from Trinity church is the Norfolk County Courthouse of 1846. It was designed by William Singleton in the Roman Classical style with four Doric columns, a high podium, and high pilasters surrounding the structure.
In 1752, when he established Portsmouth, Colonel Crawford never envisioned the coming of the American Revolution, let alone the bloody Civil War that followed it 85 years later.
Today an impressive Confederate monument stands in the middle of Court Street, barely a stone’s throw from Trinity Church across the road.
The Monument Association that funded the granite Confederate memorial was organized in 1875. A design created by Portsmouth native and architect Charles E. Cassell was chosen for the monument. During the Civil War, Cassell served in the engineer corps under the command of General George Pickett. The installation of the cornerstone on December 14, 1875, took place with with Masonic honors.
The completed monument was dedicated on June 15, 1893. It was constructed at a cost of $11, 763.34. Labor and stonework accounted for $9, 236.34 of the expenses incurred for the project. The four white metal statues that surround the sides of the memorial cost a total of $2,500.
The stone required for the Confederate monument was gifted to the Memorial Association by the Seaboard & Roanoke and Raleigh and Gaston railroads. Costs for the quarrying ad handling of the granite were funded by the association. The railroads hauled the stone to Portsmouth without charge.
Portsmouth City Council donated the site for the monument. A committee comprised of H.V. Niemeyer, Jetson Jett, Samuel Watts, George M. Bain, Jr., and J.T. Borum selected the site at Court and High streets.
Portsmouth’s Confederate monument stands 55 feet six inches tall and the base is 15 feet square. The sub-base of the monument is seven feet square and 15 feet high. White metal statues mounted on the memorial’s sub-base represent four branches of the Confederate service. – infantry, artillery, cavalry, and navy. The monument is protected by an ornamental iron fence.
On the die block behind the metal figure that represents the infantry are the words – “To Our Confederate Dead.” The monument was dedicated to the memory of the thousands of soldiers and sailors of the South that perished during the Civil War.
-By Bob Ruegsegger
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