Downtown Oberlin Walking Tour
of Civil War Monuments

Giles Shurtleff Home and Statue

Main Tour

First Church (The Meeting House)

Wilson Bruce Evans House

Chauncey Wack House

Harper's Ferry Memorial

Oberlin-Wellington Rescue Monument

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Monument

Oberlin War Memorial

Giles Shurtleff Home and Statue

Extended Tour

Courtesy of Geoffrey Blodgett

Giles Shurtleff Home and Statue, 159 South Professor Street
Geoffrey Blodgett
Oberlin Architecture, College and Town -- A Guide to its Social History (Oberlin, Ohio: Oberlin College, 1985).

This was General Shurleff’s third and final contribution to the movement of village architecture across the Gilded Age. Having sold his first home (the Shurtleff-Monroe house, now standing by the conservatory parking lot) to James Monroe in 1870, he next built an elegant Italianate house on Elm Street (later known as Elmwood, and pulled down in 1963 to make way for South Hall). In 1892 he hired the firm of Weary & Kramer to design this fashionable Shingle Style home on the former site of Oberlin’s first graveyard. The long arc of the north gable roof, sweeping down past cozy balconied windows and over the porch, is the most striking feature of an elaborate design, and is best viewed from the pathway along Plum Creek.

Giles Shurtleff, who was born in Quebec just north of the Vermont line, graduated from Oberlin College in 1859. He was a strong-willed anti-slavery man, and he fought a lively Civil War. Captured while leading the Monroe Rifles (an Oberlin company named for James Monroe) in western Virginia in August 1861, he spent a year in confederate prisons. After release in a prisoner exchange he shunned medical discharge and took command of a black regiment organized by fellow Oberlinian John Mercer Langston. Shurtleff led the regiment through several fierce battles in northern Virginia, was badly wounded, and came out a brigadier general. Life was calmer after that. He devoted it to teaching Latin and raising money for his alma matter. He held several important administrative posts at the college before his retirement. In 1898, 33 years after Appomattox, he got his sword and faded blue uniform and posed for sculptor Emily Ewing Peck, who in good Oberlin fashion relieved the general of his sword. The resulting neo-classical statue has stood on the lawn in front of Shurtleff, amusing college students since its unveiling in 1911.

The college converted his home into a dormitory in 1912.

The text on the monument reads as follows:

"Freedom can not be given, it must be earned."

"Giles Waldo Shurtleff (1831-1904): Believing in the ability of the negro to aid in the fight for his freedom, he organized the first regiment of colored troops raised in Ohio. Inspired by his leadership they offered their lives for the freedom of their race."

"Captain Co. C. - Oberlin Students - 7th Regt., Ohio Volunteer Infantry, 1861
Prisoner of War, August 1861-August 1862
On Staff of General Wilcox, 9th Army Corps, October 1862-March 1863
Engaged in the Battle of Fredericksburg, December 1862
Lieut. Colonel and Colonel, 5th US Colored Troops, July 1863-June 1865
Before Petersburg, this regiment lay two months in the trenches under daily fire.
Nearly half its men were lost and he was severely wounded in the charge on New Market, September 1864.
Brevetted Brigadier General, March 1865."

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