York Town Square

Part of the USAToday Network

A tale of a headless soldier

The wind took off the head of the Salem Square statue in the western part of York City. For a look at the restore monument, check out Salem Square.

A blogger pointed out that a good candidate for an overlooked county treasure is the now-headless statue on Salem Square in that part of York City.

Good point.

The York-area boasts few odes to the Civil War to begin with, so we should treasure them all.

But what war does the statue celebrate? See controversy below.

We’ll see how that is resolved. But the simple point is that the statue observes the bravery of the York Rifles, early responders in both the Revolutionary and Civil Wars.
And why is the statue headless?
Well, the wind took care of that, and the city is accepting funds for its rehab. Checks should be made out to City of York with a notation that it is for the monument. To date, the city has received donations totaling $1,175.00. A state grant for $7,500.00 will be forthcoming. That means the city is looking for an additional $6,325.00 to complete the project.
So there it is, overlooked county treasure No. 6. (See earlier posts on the Little Courthouse, Prospect Hill Cemetery, War Mothers Memorial, York County Academy’s former gymnasium and the Cookes House.)
And now for the controversy:
York Daily Record/Sunday News writer Mike Hoover wrote the following on Tuesday, May 4, 2004:
The look of the hat didn’t fit.
The uniform was the wrong style.
The bushy hair and handlebar mustache were nearly 100 years out of date.
But the clincher for David Spangler was the rifle on a statue in Salem Square, York.
As a longtime history buff, the 67-year-old York Township resident immediately recognized the long-barrel gun as a percussion Springfield model, 50-caliber musket used in the American Civil War.
Piecing together the evidence, Spangler said the statue was not of Capt. Michael Doudel of the York Riflemen and the American Revolution as indicated by a dedication marker on the monument.
“There’s no way. The look is all wrong,” said Spangler, who has a history degree from Towson University.
Spangler began his research after seeing a photo in Monday’s York Daily Record. The story called for raising money to re-attach the statue’s head, which blew off a few months ago.
The statue stands facing above the inscription, “Erected in memory of Capt. Michael Doudel and his company of York Riflemen who left York July 1, 1775 and joined the American Army under Gen. George Washington at Boston, Mass. July 25, 1775 in the war of the Revolution By the York Cadets June 22, 1912.”
Examining the pedestal Monday, Spangler remembered that the city refurbished the statue during the administration of Mayor Bill Althaus in the early 1980s to repair a broken musket. He said that the statue was replaced facing the wrong direction, above the wrong dedication marker for the York Riflemen.
Doudel was also spelled differently than other memorials in the city for the York Riflemen, which used “Doudle,” he said.
“The statue isn’t facing the way it was. If I didn’t know anything about history, I would walk out there and say this is Capt. Doudel from the Revolutionary War,‿ said Spangler, whose ancestor Daniel Spangler is listed on the monument as a private of the York Rifles during the Civil War.
Rather, the statue should be placed over a dedication marker also at the base of the statue that reads: “Roster of the York Rifle Co who accepted the call of Gov. A.G. Curtain for troops in defence of their country April 20, 1861 fully armed and equipped.”
Doudel should be wearing a three-corner or square hat with a fringed, buckskin jacket, Spangler said. The statue was wearing a “Capi” style hat, common in the Civil War, he said.
Spangler said he is considering contributing to a fund-raising effort by the city to raise the $8,400 needed to repair the statue.
“But it needs to be done right,” he said.
James Gross, the director of Public Works for the City of York, said the statue will be researched as part of any restoration project to assure it is standing over the right marker.
“We have to take him down to fix him. So if we figure out what direction he is supposed to be standing, we’ll put him up that way,‿ Gross said.