General Edward Fowler Statue
This statue by Henry Baerer (1837 – 1908) honors Brooklynite and Civil War hero Brigadier General Edward Fowler (1828 – 1896). Fowler was born in Manhattan, and his family moved to Brooklyn when he was still an infant. He studied to be an accountant at Brooklyn Gaslight before a youthful military career; by 18 he was a first sergeant. In 1847, Fowler – then a lieutenant – began a long association with the 14th Regiment of the New York State National Guard. The regiment was largely comprised of Brooklyn tradesmen, businessmen or members of the Brooklyn Fifth Fire Brigade. In 1852, then-Lieutenant Colonel Fowler married Annie Cook at the Methodist church on Hanson Place, Fort Greene; they would have three children — Sara Emma (1853), Robert (1854) and William (1869).
At the outbreak of the Civil War, the 14th Regiment was under Fowler's command and stationed in Fort Greene Park. Two months later, Fowler's regiment was engaged in combat at the Bull Run in Virginia. Their ferocity in battle, coupled with their distinctive bright red breeches, earned them the name, the "Red-Legged Devils." The regiment was well-regarded for its spirit and camaraderie, and was fiercely loyal to Fowler, affectionately known as "Ned." They subsequently fought at the Battle of Manassas, also called Second Bull Run, on August 30, 1862, and there the regiment was nearly destroyed, losing 860 of its 960 members. Fowler survived, though he was hospitalized with "a lot of lead" in his thigh from skirmishes at Groveton. While convalescing at Alexandria, he was promoted to full Colonel and named commandant of the military hospital. Poet Walt Whitman (1819 – 1892), was sending dispatches from Washington to the Brooklyn Eagle at the time, and mentioned Fowler in the descriptions of his encounters with wounded Brooklyn men.
Fowler returned to the field in January 1863, and the Union forces were in disarray. In early July 1863, the Red-Legged Devils were involved in the horrific Battle of Gettysburg. Though suffering great losses, their participation with the First Army Corps helped the Union troops stand their ground against overwhelming odds on the first day of battle. Fowler's regiment went on to distinguish itself at the Battle of Mine Run (November 1863), the Wilderness campaign, and at Spotsylvania (May 1864). A monument to the 14th Regiment was erected at Culp's Hill at Gettysburg, and the inscription recounts 22 military engagements. When the regiment was mustered out of active duty, Fowler was brevetted a Brigadier General on June 6, 1864.
Returning to Brooklyn, Fowler resided first at 208 and then 178 Fort Greene Place (later razed for the Atlantic Terminal). Retaining an affiliation with the 14th Regiment for two more years, he worked as an officer of the Long Island Savings Bank, treasurer of Atlantic & Pacific Company, and auditor of Commercial Cable Company. Fowler also served as chief clerk of the Brooklyn Board of Audit, and was a member of the Kings County 11th Ward Board of Supervisors. Fowler died at his 47 Brevoort Place home on January 16, 1896. His body lay in state at Brooklyn Borough Hall, and he was buried in full regalia at Greenwood Cemetery. On May 18, 1902, the City of Brooklyn dedicated the sculpture of Fowler in Fort Greene Park. Positioned on a cylindrical granite pedestal, the statue depicts the general in military garb, cap in his left hand and sword in his right.
Sculptor Henry Baerer was born in Kirscheim, Germany, and came to the United States in 1854. He was especially well-known as a portrait sculptor, and contributed six sculptures to the parks of New York City, including statues of composer Ludwig van Beethoven in Prospect and Central Parks, General Gouveneur Kemble Warren in Grand Army Plaza, Brooklyn, and a bust of industrialist Conrad Poppenhusen in College Point, Queens.
Over time, this monument suffered environmental corrosion and vandalism, and by the 1960s was stored for protection. In 1976, it was reinstalled at its present location at Fowler Gore (formerly Lafayette Square). In 2005, through a city-funded capital project, the sculpture was conserved, and missing decorative and dedicatory bronze elements were replicated. As an unidentified author commented in the Brooklyn Eagle in 1902, "Dear old 'Ned,' when in the flesh, would have been embarrassed could prophetic eyes have realized the imperishable bronze, but his heart would have been gladdened by a practical recognition of his services also."