Wisconsin's Civil War Memorials
Lake Park, Milwaukee

Brig. Gen. Erastus B. Wolcott

Erastus B. Wolcott (1804-1880) was a military officer and physician. In 1836, he was posted at Mackinac Island, where he met Solomon Juneau, who convinced him to move to Juneau's new settlement. Being more of a gentleman than a pioneer, Wolcott became a dedicated and respected leader in the frontier community. During the cholera epidemic of 1849, when men and women fell in the streets, Wolcott served many of the sick and dying patients, some of whom had been abandoned by their families and friends. His reputation as a skilled surgeon was reinforced when he performed one of the earliest recorded successful removals of a diseased kidney.

E.B. Wolcott monument in Lake Park

In 1857, Dr. Laura J. Ross came to Milwaukee, the third woman to be licensed to practice medicine in the U.S. Shortly after her arrival, she became the first woman doctor in Milwaukee. Ross applied for membership in the Milwaukee Medical Society, which had been formed by Dr. Wolcott and other male physicians. Dr. Wolcott was impressed by the young woman and strongly advocated her acceptance in the society. the other male members, who had refused to accept her, finally accepted Dr. Ross in 1869. Thereafter, Laura Ross became the bride of Erastus Wolcott, who had been a widower. In addition to medicine, the two shared similar interests in the anti-slavery, humane, and woman's suffrage movements.

With the start of the Civil War, Erastus B. Wolcott was named Surgeon General of Wisconsin. He visited many of the battlefields, where he cared for the sick and wounded and sent messages of comfort to fathers and mothers. Back in Wisconsin, he exerted his influence in recruiting for the army and navy. At the war's close, he was instrumental in the opening of the National Home for Disabled American soldiers in Milwaukee.

When the Grand Army of the Republic post was reorganized in Milwaukee, in January 1880, Post #1 chose Wolcott as its namesake. Wolcott had died only weeks before.

At the time of Dr. Laura Wolcott's death in 1915, her will contained provision for an equestrian statue of her husband to be erected in either Juneau Park or lake Park. The two executrices of her estate visited many well-known sculptors around the country before selecting Francis H. Packer.

Wider view of Wolcott memorial

The monument was dedicated on June 12, 1920 (in 90 degree temperatures), during a ceremony that included members of the E.B.Wolcott GAR Post and the Milwaukee County Medical Society. Col. J.A. Watrous, governor of the Wisconsin Veterans' Home, in his dedicatory address, paid tribute to Wolcott as one of the nation's most devoted patriots. Mayor Daniel Hoan accepted the monument on behalf of the city. Mrs. William Cramer read the speech of Gov. Emanuel Phillipp, who was unable to attend. Addresses were also given by Rev. J.R. Thain, chaplain of the Soldiers Home, and Col. Joseph E. Crain, governor of the Home. Members of E.B. Wolcott Post made impromptu remarks. Dudley Crafts Watson, well-known lecturer at the Layton School of Art, spoke about the monument as a work of art and recommended its view from the north at twilight as most impressive.

That night, a banquet was given by the physicians and surgeons of the city and county.

Albert Randolph Ross, later an architect of the Milwaukee Courthouse, designed the pedestal for the equestrian statue and the tiled terrace in front of the monument. Originally, two bronze eagles designed by Francis Packer, had been perched at each end of the bench. They were removed by vandals and only the inscriptions and the logos on its pillars remain. It has been necessary to replace the original bronze letters fastened to the pedestal with an engraved version of the dedication:

Brigadier General Erastus B. Wolcott
Surgeon General of Wisconsin in the Civil War and for
13 years afterward.
He lived a blameless life.
Eminent in his profession,
A lover of humanity,
Delighted to serve his fellow men, city, state and nation.

The monument is located in Lake Park, northwest from the north end of the Lion Bridges. Wolcott is depicted astride his favorite horse, Gunpowder. It is one of three equestrian monuments in Milwaukee. (The others are Baron Von Steuben and Taddeus Kozcusko.) The Wolcott monument is believed to be one of the best pieces produced by sculptor Francis Packer.

- from Outdoor Scuplture in Milwaukee by Diane Buck; State Historical Society of Wisconsin, Madison 1995

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Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War
Department of Wisconsin


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