On an auspicious afternoon in late September 1903, a crowd of Baltimoreans converged onto the intersection of Mount Royal Avenue and Lanvale Street to witness the unveiling of the William H. Watson monument. The monument, erected by the Maryland Association of Veterans of the Mexican War, honored Marylanders who lost their lives during the U.S.-Mexican War.
Taking place on the fifty-seventh anniversary of Lieutenant Colonel Watson’s death during the Battle of Monterey, spectators watched as aged survivors of the war took their places on the grandstand. Meanwhile, they also laid eyes on the over ten-foot statue, draped in the flag that had shrouded Watson’s corpse as it left Mexico. The most symbolic moment came when Watson’s last surviving child, Monterey Watson Iglehart, walked towards her father’s likeness and unveiled the statue. The unveiling by Iglehart, born on the day her father died, was the highlight of a ceremony that included speeches from U.S.-Mexican War veterans, politicians, and other dignitaries.
Given U.S. activity in the Caribbean at the time, and the monument’s connection to the U.S.-Mexican War, the memorial presented a counterpoint to the overall anti-imperialist sentiment that existed in Baltimore. By highlighting the valor and honor of Baltimore’s U.S.-Mexican War heroes, the public viewed the veterans as heroes of a conflict which greatly benefited the United States, as opposed to participants in an unjustifiable land grab. Thus, the monument served to legitimize the United States’ imperialist endeavors of the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries.
The monument, created by sculptor Edward Berge, was originally located at Lanvale Street and Mount Royal Avenue. In 1930, the monument was moved to Reservoir Hill—what was then the entrance to Druid Hill Park—because of a planned extension of Howard Street. Today, the monument blends into the scenery of west Baltimore. The war that it commemorates has faded from memory.