General Fowler’s Statue

Last weekend an exhibition portraying the possible renovation of General Fowler’s Triangle was presented to the residents of Fort Greene. The proposed alterations included new trees, larger public space, and changing the location of the General’s statue.

“I don’t know about that. I like the General just the way he is,” I told one of the reps for the plaza’s restoration. “I sit in Frank’s and stare out at the General and he stares back at me. He certainly is a comfort.”

“Moving him would create more room on the other end of the plaza.” The well-dressed man showed me the plans. He was right. There would be more room.

“Would you change the direction of his gaze?”

“Some people suggested down Fulton Street.” The middle-aged man must have sat at board meetings.

“Into the sun?” I shook my head. “Secondly all Civil War statues face the South to remind the living of those who fought to free the slaves.”

“I didn’t know that.”

“In New England every town has a statue facing south.” At least I thought they were facing south. “And every southern town has a Confederate facing north. Those things aren’t supposed to change.”

I recalled in Lewiston, Maine a florist raised money to redirect the Civil War monument from looking East to the City Hall to a southern gaze.

“I’ll mention that to the committee.”

I wandered away thinking that the committee had already decided what they were going to do without ever telling the public of their plans until now.

Later that afternoon I researched General Fowler. He had served as a colonel with Brooklyn’s 14th Regiment or the “Red-Legged Devils. His regiment fought at the First and Second Battles of Bull Run. At the later engagement the regiment suffered 90% casualties. After recovering Fowler was appointed commander of a military hospital, earning the gratitude of wounded soldiers from throughout the Union. Fowler returned to active service in the summer to 1863 to capture the Mississippi Brigade at Gettysburg. Subsequently his regiment fought with distinction during the Wilderness Campaign and the battle of Spotsylvania. He mustered out of the Army in late-1864 to reside in Brooklyn at 178 Fort Greene Place.

I also learned that the General had originally been erected in Fort Greene Park, however several attempts by scrap metal thieves to steal the statue from its lonely posting forced his relocation to the present setting in 1976.

That evening I was sitting at Frank’s Lounge with LA Larry and told him about the plans for the plaza and he laughed before taking a sip of cognac.

“Two years ago some of the new people to the neighborhood protested that the statue should be moved, because it was looking at Frank’s Lounge like he wanted a drink.”

“You’re joking?” Some people have nothing better to do.

“Not at all. I can’t blame the General for staring at Frank’s. It’s been here as long as he has and standing in all kinds of weather can work up a man’s thirst.”

“Better than pigeon pee.” Rosa quipped pouring me another Stella beer.

“But what’s starnge is that until that protest I hadn’t even noticed the statue.” LA Larry turned his head and raised a glass to the General. “Ten years of sitting on this stool and not even notice him. It’s not like it’s a small thing.”

“You watch other things out that window.” Rosa worked Sundays and Monday. Everyone liked drinking with the Chinese bartender. Her beauty was a sight for sore eyes and her sense of humor was as sharp as a meat cleaver.

“Not so loud. My wife had good ears.”

“All women do.” We clinked glasses and back home I checked about the protest thinking LA Larry might have been funning me, because I’m one of the new people too ie white ofay.

Sure enough a Martin Horowitz was urging the city to rotate a statue of Gen. Edward Fowler about 90 degrees so that he’ll properly greet oncoming traffic from his perch at the intersection of Lafayette Avenue and Fulton Street instead of Frank’s Cocktail Lounge.

I like seeing the General looking my way.

He was a good man.

And every time I see him I raise my glass to Old Ned.

It’s a good thing.

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