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Fundraising effort underway to repair DeKalb County Courthouse Civil War memorial

Ron Maness thinks that an iconic, local monument sitting vandalized for years in front of the DeKalb County Courthouse is a problem that needs to be fixed.

“Walking around the monument, you look up at the statue and see that the musket is just a stick of sorts,” Maness said. “The sword was obviously missing, too. But many people see the monument but never look at it closely.”

Maness, an associate member of the Sons of the Union Veterans of the Civil War, is working with the group to fix up the Civil War monument on the courthouse lawn in downtown Sycamore. The monument featuring three soldiers is missing a sword and a musket, both of which disappeared years ago. The stolen musket was replaced with one carved out of wood, which is now weathering.

Members of the group think it’s important to fix up the statue, as it represents many local men who lost their lives in the Civil War, so they are working to raise $10,000 this year to restore it. Any money left after the repairs will be used to restore Civil War veteran grave markers throughout the county. The group hopes to have the project completed by 2015, the 150th anniversary of the end of the war.

“Over 2,200 men from DeKalb County were in the war,” said James Locke Lyon, commander of Illinois’ Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War. “We mustered up quite a few guys. It was brother against brother, father against father. If we don’t do something about [this statue,] who’s going to?”

One mistake that won’t be corrected is the misspelling of a battle etched on the side of the statue – Antietam is spelled Anteitam. Lyon said there is no good way to correct that mistake after so long. He said when the statue was dedicated in 1897, many people were illiterate and it was probably an honest mistake. The 12 battles listed on the monument are battles in which DeKalb County units served.

The men in the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War have a passion for Civil War history, but they believe it’s important that all people remember those who served. Maness, who lives in Florida but grew up in DeKalb County, is an associate member because although he is not related to anyone who served in the Civil War, he finds it fascinating.

Based in Sycamore, the Gen. E.F. Dutton camp of the organization is comprised of members who have traced their ancestry back to someone who was involved in the Union’s efforts in the Civil War. The group works on many projects similar to the monument restoration, especially grave restoration for Civil War veterans who are buried in DeKalb County.

“I’ve had an interest in the American Civil War that I cannot explain, since earliest memory,” Maness said. “When you carry something this long in your life, it’s something you’d call a passion. Maybe it’s a bit strange to others, but not a day goes by in my life that I don’t read about something about the Civil War. It manifests itself in projects like this.”

A meet-the-artist event will be held Aug. 28 at the Sycamore Depot, 475 DeKalb Ave. It will be the first time artist Michael Kraus will travel from Pennsylvania to see the statue.

Kraus was selected by Maness because he has preserved and created Civil War monuments for many other communities. He is also the curator of the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall in Pittsburgh and was a historic adviser to the directors of “Gettysburg” and “Cold Mountain” movies.

“We should acknowledge that we live in a pretty good place,” Maness said. “It may again come to a time that we just drive right by the [monument.] But for this moment in time we are thinking about it and want to restore it, and that’s what’s right.”

To donate

• Checks can be made payable to the Civil War Monument Restoration Fund

• Send checks to DeKalb County Community Foundation, 475 DeKalb Ave., Sycamore, IL 60178

• For more information, contact James Locke Lyon at 815-895-6735 or

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