Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument, Boston

Boston honors its Civil War veterans with a 72-foot high monument near the center of Boston Common.

The Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument, originally known as the Army and Navy Monument, was dedicated in 1877 at the top of a small hill near the Common’s Frog Pond.

A dedication on the monument’s west face reads, “To the men of Boston who died for their country, on land and sea, in the war which kept the Union whole, destroyed slavery and maintained the Constitution. The grateful city has built this monument that their example may speak to coming generations.”

The monument’s base has four bronze bas-relief plaques depicting war-related scenes. The tablets illustrate the departure and return of local residents, a naval battle against a Confederate fort, and the work of the Boston Sanitary Commission (a civilian group that treated wounded troops).

The monument’s column is topped by a bronze allegorical statue representing America. She stands with a sword and laurel wreaths in her right hand and cradles a flag in her left arm.

The four granite figures on the column’s shaft represent the northern, southern, eastern and western sections of the reunited nation.

Unfortunately, the monument carries several vandalism scars. Along with the obvious graffiti in several locations, miscreants have pried the heads from several figures in the bas-relief scene depicting the return of the troops.

As you can see in the stereograph image, the monument originally also had four bronze statues on its corner pedestals. The statues represented a soldier and a sailor, peace and history. The statues have been removed in recent years to prevent further deterioration.

The monument was designed by sculptor Martin Milmore, who created a number of public works and monuments in the greater Boston area before dying in 1883 at the age of 38.

Dedication Day

U.S. attorney general Charles Devens, for whom Fort Devens was named, was one of the featured speakers at the monument’s dedication on September 17, 1877. In his remarks, Devens pointed out that the date marked not only the 25th anniversary of the Battle of Antietam, it also was also the anniversary of the adoption of the U.S. Constitution 90 years earlier and the founding of Boston in 1630.

Devens, a native of Charlestown, Mass., practiced law before serving in the Civil War. Devens was promoted to brigadier general and would be wounded three times during the war.

Devens is depicted in the bas-relief scene illustrating the return of the troops. Of the two figures on horseback under the blue graffiti, Devens is on your right.

Nearby Monuments

The plaza surrounding the Soldiers’ and Sailor’s Monument includes two other noteworthy monuments. A 1959 plaque affixed to a small boulder honors the service of military nurses.

To the east of the monument, a naval mine mounted on a carriage honors the placement of more than 56,000 mines in the North Sea during World War I. The mine monument was dedicated in 1921.

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