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Milford Beacon
  • Statue honoring Milford’s general unveiled

  • On Sunday, June 29, the Milford Museum unveiled its monument to Gen. Alfred Torbert, a 7-foot bronze statue that now stands less than a mile down Walnut Street from where the Civil War general lived 130 years ago.


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  • Milford’s general finally has his statue.
    On Sunday, June 29, the Milford Museum unveiled its monument to Gen. Alfred Torbert, a 7-foot bronze statue that now stands less than a mile down Walnut Street from where the Civil War general lived 130 years ago.
    “This should have been done a long time ago,” said Marvin Schelhouse, chairman of the committee that designed, raised funds for and installed the statue.
    The statue will present an opportunity for Milfordians to learn about “a local, historical figure of extraordinary talents,” Milford Mayor Dan Marabello said at the dedication ceremony.
    For Schelhouse, the statue is the culmination of more than 40 years of research and dedication to Torbert’s life and achievements.
    “I’ve been building toward this since 1964,” he said.
    The former Marine has been a Civil War buff since before he enlisted, and he spent much of his time in the Marine Corps base at Quantico, Va., studying Torbert. And as it turns out, he contributed more than enthusiasm to the project.
    Two months ago, when the statue arrived, it was almost perfect, except for the sword in its hand, which was almost a foot too long. The museum had a replacement ready well before the unveiling, but actually swapping out one sword for the other required a bit of brute force, and two of the hooks that held the sword onto the statue’s belt snapped off in the process.
    That’s not an easy thing to replace, but Schelhouse found the perfect replacement in a surprising place – his own closet. The statue is now wearing two hooks from his own replica Civil War belt.
    “It was an exact match,” he said. “Now it’s wearing something of mine.”
    The push to build a statue began in January 2007, and was a community effort from the beginning. The cost to commission the work was supported largely by donations from individuals and private companies.
    “We took in $75,000 in private donations,” said committee member David Kenton. “And when we hit a hurdle, we needed $10,000 and the city of Milford came through.”
    Milford School District Superintendent Bob Smith and his assistant, Peggy Short, took over 100 reference photographs for the sculptor to use – a good thing, since they ended up giving the job to a sculptor in Beijing, China, who would have had to fly 8,000 miles to see the models first-hand.
    Schelhouse said that price was the biggest factor in commissioning the job outside the United States.
    “Museums are poor. We scrape money where we can,” he said.
    Ze Feng Tao, the artist and owner of the local Portrait For You art studio, volunteered to be the project’s liaison to China, making contact with the artist and reporting progress back to Milford.
    Page 2 of 2 - “I figured the liaison would have to be in China for as much as a month. Tao was there for four months,” Schelhouse said.
    Torbert was born in Georgetown as the youngest of seven children, and entered the United States Military Academy in West Point after high school, he received a second lieutenant’s commission after graduation. In 1861, he turned down commission to serve in the Confederate Army, opting to stay loyal to the Union.
    He commanded both infantry and cavalry in the Civil War, first as colonel of the 1st New Jersey Infantry – part of the Army of the Potomac, the largest Union force in the eastern front – and then as commander of the 1st Division of the Army of the Potomac’s Cavalry Corps. He fought in the campaign surrounding the Battle of Gettysburg, and in 1865 briefly commanded the entire Army of the Shenandoah.
    “He’s a genuine hero,” Schelhouse said.
    After the war, Torbert took on a series of diplomatic posts in Cuba, France and El Salvador before settling down in Milford. He died in 1880 in the sinking of the S.S. Vera Cruz, and is buried in the Methodist Episcopal Cemetery in Milford. “It’s easy to pick out which grave is General Torbert’s – it’s the biggest monument in the cemetery,” said Rev. Earle Baker, who gave an invocation and benediction at the ceremony.
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