Major Gen. Alpheus Starkey Williams sits atop his horse in the middle of Belle Isle, checking a map as his steed seems to saunter toward downtown.
Williams, a Detroiter, was a congressman, a judge, a lawyer, a postmaster, a newspaper publisher and a failed gubernatorial candidate, but he made a name for himself in the military, serving in the Mexican-American War and for the Union in the Civil War.
The monument of Detroit’s mounted hero was unveiled by the Loyal Legion and city officials on Oct. 15, 1921. A band played as a muslin shroud slipped away revealing the general and ol’ Plug Ugly cast in bronze atop a large block of white granite. The sculptor Shrady cast Williams atop the horse studying a map of the battlefields during a storm, perhaps symbolic of the tempest in the union at the time. A weary ol’ Pap wears rain gear with his hat pulled down over his eyes as a tired ol’ Plug trudges on through the mud.
For more information, see:
Dan Austin, Alpheus Starkey Williams Monument, Historic Detroit website
Alpheus Starkey Williams biography on Plug Ugly website
The story of Plug Ugly from the Plug Ugly Project website. All Civil War aficionados are familiar with Lee’s horse Traveler, Stonewall’s Little Sorrel, Grant’s Cincinnati and Sheridan’s Rienzi, but who knows about Plug Ugly? If Alpheus Williams was an unsung hero, then so was his battle mount Plug Ugly. Partly because Plug Ugly’s story, which is metaphoric of the frequent fate of living beings in war, and partly because his name describes the American Civil War more closely than his more famous equine cousin’s, I have named this project in his honor.
In 1959, Wayne State University Press and the Detroit Historical Society published a collection of Williams’ letters to his family as “From the Cannon’s Mouth: The Civil War Letters of General Alpheus S. Williams.” The book helped to raise his legacy as a leader of the Civil War.
Jeffrey Charnley, “Michigan’s General A.S. Williams and Civil War Historians: A Century of Neglect”, (Michigan Historical Review 12 [Spring 1986], Central Michigan University 1986).