De ye ken...
Our story is about two women, one of Scotland and the other American, and seven men, six of Scotland and one American. It begins in a way at 4:30 AM on Friday, April 12, 1861, when Confederate Brigadier General P. G. T. Beauregard gave the order to begin shelling the United States’ Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor, Charleston, South Carolina. The shelling of Fort Sumter officially started the American Civil War which would last for four long years and see 2.1 million Union soldiers fight 880,000 Confederates. Of those who fought, there were many who came from overseas to fight for the Union cause, most unknown to us today. Because of the two women of our story, we know the names of five men, natives of Scotland, who served in the Union forces.
- Sergeant Major John McEwan, Company H. 65th Regiment Illinois Volunteer Infantry.
- Lt. Col. William L. Duff, 2nd Regiment Illinois Volunteer Light Artillery.
- Robert Steedman, Company E, 5th Regiment Maine Volunteer Infantry.
- James Wilkie, Company C, 1st Regiment Michigan Volunteer.
- Robert Ferguson, Company F, 57th New York Volunteer Infantry.
- Alexander Smith, Company G, 66th Regiment New York Volunteer Infantry.
All six of men returned to Scotland after the war and went forward in living their lives. Lt. Col. William L. Duff died soon after returning to Edinburg from wounds received in the war.
John McEwan married and eventually settled in Edinburgh where he became sick and was unable to work. His wife and children worked for five shillings a week to keep themselves from the poorhouse. When he died in 1890, his widow, having heard the American Government was providing a pension for Union soldiers, approached the American Consul, Wallace Bruce to inquire about a widow’s pension. Proof was obtained and the pension granted.
One day during the process, Anne Bruce, wife of Wallace Bruce happened to be present and heard Mrs. McEwan’s story. She encouraged her husband to do more, and he came to envision a burial-place in Edinburgh for Scottish-American soldiers of the American Civil War. He wrote letters to the Lord Provost, Magistrates and town Council asking for a plot in one of the city cemeteries. The Town Council of Edinburgh approved a plot in the Old Calton Cemetery for pensioned Scottish soldiers of the American Civil War.
Wallace Bruce then decided a worthy memorial was needed for the site, and, returning to the United States to address the Grand Army Chautauqua, he announced his idea of a monument to the five thousand attendees. In less than five months six thousand dollars was raised and George E. Bissell, a well-known sculptor was given the commission for the bronze figures, President Abraham Lincoln and a freed slave; Stewart M’Glashen & Son, of Edinburgh, the stonework.
The monument was unveiled August 21, 1893 with kilted soldiers and pipe band, as Bruce’s young daughter pulled the covering away while hundreds of onlookers cheered. The monument is the only monument to the American Civil War outside the United States and is the only statue of Lincoln in Scotland.
David Harlan Irwin