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Billy Yank

Billy Yank. The statue atop the Soldiers, Sailors and Pioneers Monument in Hamilton is officially entitled "Victory, the Jewel of the Soul," but has been better known as Billy Yank, the name given the common soldier during the Civil War (1861-1865). The figure -- who stands 17 feet and weighs 3,500 pounds -- was designed and built by Rudolph Thiem. The statue was placed on the Monument in December 1904.

Thiem, a Hamiltonian for 42 years, was born in Berlin Oct. 22, 1859. He learned sculpture and model-making in Germany before coming to the United States. Shortly after his arrival in New Orleans in 1881, Thiem met and became a friend of Lazard Kahn, soon to be a Hamilton industrialist. Five years later, 1886, Thiem took a job at Kahn's Estate Stove Co. on East Avenue in Hamilton. His duties included designing the art work that adorned Estate stoves. Later, Thiem had his own business, capitalizing on his varied artistic skills. Thiem died Oct. 1, 1928, and is buried in Greenwood Cemetery. His design for the monument statue was selected in a national competition with other sculptors and artists. Thiem worked on the statue in a structure on South A Street, and at 110 North B Street. Several local Civil War veterans posed for the sculptor. Thiem began with a wood model of the statue. Then he formed a soft clay figure from which molds were formed for the bronze casting. The statue was cast at the National Caster Co.

Details are so exact that the buttons on the coat of the bronze soldier include the letters U. S. A. Initially, there were critics of Billy Yank's un-military pose. He is not standing at attention, or marching in step. Instead, it is an informal pose, representing his spontaneous reaction to victory and peace at the end of the Civil War. The wreckage of war is at his feet. His right foot is on an unexploded shell. His right hand is clasping his musket. His cap is uplifted in his left hand. His mouth is open as he shouts "Hurrah!" at the realization that the war is over -- and that the destruction and killing will stop.

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