Monument Square, Concord, Mass.

Concord, Mass., honors its war heroes with a collection of monuments on the town green.

The first and largest memorial on Monument Square is the 30-foot granite obelisk honoring Concord residents killed in the Civil War.  A dedication plaque on the monument’s west face reads, “The Town of Concord builds this monument in honor of the brave men whose names it bears, and records with grateful pride that they found here a birthplace, home or grave. 1866.”

The east face features a plaque reading “They died for their country in the war of the rebellion,” and lists the names of 32 residents. Among the dead are three members of the Melvin family, who died while serving with the First Mass. Heavy Artillery.

The south face has been inscribed with the dedication, “Faithful unto death,” and the north face bears the years of the Civil War.

The monument was dedicated on April 19, 1867, the 92nd anniversary of fighting at Concord’s North Bridge at the beginning of the American Revolution. The date also marked the anniversary of the departure of Civil War troops from Concord in 1861.

The monument’s foundation contains a large granite block from the abutment of North Bridge.

The Civil War monument was designed by Hammatt Billings, an architect and artist who illustrated the first edition of Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Billings also designed the National Monument to the Forefathers in Plymouth, Mass., as well as the original platform protecting Plymouth Rock.

At the green’s south end, a large boulder features a plaque honoring 25 residents who died in World War I. The plaque also includes poetry verses writted by Concord resident Ralph Waldo Emerson.

At the north end of the green, a plaque affixed to a boulder honors three residents who were killed in the Spanish-American War.

Southwest of the green, a small plaza has three memorials commemorating  those lost in more recent conflicts. The central monument honors the 25 residents lost in World War II. The monument on the left honors three residents killed in Korea and one lost in Iraq. The right monument honors five killed in Vietnam and one who died in the U.S. occupation of the Dominican Republic in 1965-66.

Molasses Flood Site, Boston

A small plaque in a Boston park marks the site of the Great Molasses Flood, which killed 21 people in 1919.

The disaster is marked with a small plaque on a playground wall near 529 Commercial Street.

The molasses flood occurred on January 15, 1919, when an industrial holding tank with 2.3 million gallons of molasses burst open. A wall of molasses surged through the neighborhood at 35 miles per hour, knocking over buildings, crushing cars and trucks, and shearing supports for an elevated railway.

The disaster killed 21 people, injured 150, and left the Commercial Street neighborhood in the city’s North End in ruins.

Immediately after the disaster, officials spraying water to clean up the sticky mess only spread the molasses further. Pumping salt water from the harbor caused the molasses to foam, compounding the problem.

Accounts from local residents say people could smell molasses in the neighborhood for decades after the disaster.

The cause of the tank’s rupture was never determined decisively. The owner of the tank, the Purity Distilling Company, blamed the disaster on explosives planted by anarchists. After extensive litigation, the company was held responsible for not caring for the tank responsibly. The company paid more than $1 million in damages.

As an aside, “Boston Molasses Disaster” is also the name of a local jam band.


Massachusetts Historical Society

Eric Postpischil’s Molasses Disaster Pages

Robert Gould Shaw Memorial, Boston

Massachusetts honors a largely African American Civil War regiment with a notable Saint-Gaudens monument on Boston Common.

The Robert Gould Shaw Memorial, dedicated in 1897 near the corner of Beacon and Park streets, honors Shaw and the members of the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment. The unit blended white officers with African American troops recruited from several states and Canada.

Shaw and other members of the 54th died during an assault on Fort Wagner, which stood near Charleston, S.C.

The front (north) face of the monument features a large bas-relief illustrating the regiment’s departure from Boston on May 28, 1863. Shaw, the regiment’s commander, is depicted on horseback while the regiment, guided by an angel, marches alongside him.

Under the relief, a dedication reads, “Robert Gould Shaw. Colonel of the Fifty Fourth Regiment of Massachusetts Infantry. Born in Boston 10 October MDCCCXXXVII (1837). Killed while leading the assault on Fort Wagner, South Carolina, 18 July MDCCCLXIII (1863).

Under the dedication is a verse from a poem, “Memoriae Positum,” by James Russell Lowell.

The monument also features two large eagles on its east and west sides. Modern-era granite markers on the site provide information about the monument and its sculptor.

On the south side of the monument, a lengthy dedication by Harvard president Charles W. Eliot provides information about the regiment and praises its African American soldiers for having the “pride, courage and devotion of the patriot soldier.”

The names of five regimental officers killed in the war (two during the Fort Wagner assault) are inscribed on the monument and surrounded by wreaths. The names of 62 soldiers killed in the Fort Wagner assault were added to the monument’s south face during a 1982 restoration.

The monument was created by noted sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens, whose other famous works include a standing Lincoln statue in Chicago as well as statues of Union general William T. Sherman and Admiral David Farragut in New York.

The regiment, which had trained outside the city, passed by the monument’s location during their march to the Boston Harbor ships that would take them south. The unit’s route passed the Massachusetts state house (across from the monument) and the Shaw family home at 44 Beacon Street. Shaw raised his sword as he passed the home.

After the fighting at Fort Wagner, the Confederates buried Shaw and his troops in a common grave, a move that defied the honorable treatment traditionally provided to deceased officers. Shaw’s family declined later offers to have him exhumed, saying they were honored that he was buried with his troops.

Old North Bridge, Concord, Mass.

Monuments on both sides of the Old North Bridge in Concord, Mass., mark the site of the first militia victory in the American Revolution.

The famous “shot heard ‘round the world” was fired on April 19, 1775, by a member of a militia raised from Concord and nearby towns including Acton, Bedford and Lincoln.

The troops, nicknamed “minutemen,” repulsed British troops that had marched from Boston to Concord to search for weapons and ammunition being stored at a Concord farm.

The west, or “American” side of the bridge features the Minute Man, a famous statue created by sculptor Daniel Chester French. The statue depicts a farmer who is walking away from his plow, rifle in hand, to fight for what would become a new nation.

The Minute Man, dedicated in 1885 to mark the 100th anniversary of the skirmish, features an inscription from an Emerson’s “Concord Hymn” reading, “By the rude bridge that arched the flood, their flag to April’s breeze unfurled, here once the embattled farmers stood and fired the shot heard ‘round the world.”

On the east (“British) side of the river, the first monument commemorating the fighting at North Bridge was dedicated in 1836. The obelisk features an inscription on its east face reading, “Here on the 19 of April 1775 was made the first forcible resistance to British aggression. On the opposite bank stood the American Militia. Here stood the Invading Army and on this spot the first of the Enemy fell in the War of that Revolution which gave Independence to these United States. In gratitude to God and in the love of Freedom this Monument was dedicated. AD 1836.”

As you face the 1836 monument, to your left is a gravesite for two British troops killed in the skirmish (a third was buried in Concord Center).

The Minute Man was the first major monument for French, who would later sculpt the statue of Abraham Lincoln in Washington’s Lincoln Memorial. The Minute Man image serves as the logo for the U.S. National Guard, appears on savings bonds, and was on the back of the 2000 quarter honoring Massachusetts.

The statue was cast from former Civil War cannons (which was common for monuments created in that era).

Today’s version of Old North Bridge, which stands over the Concord River, was built in 1956 and restored in 2005. The bridge is the fifth to stand on that location, which is vulnerable to flooding that has claimed several bridges over the years.

About a quarter-mile away from the bridge, a former homestead has been converted into the North Bridge Visitor’s Center. In front of the center, a monument honors Major John Buttrick, a local farmer and militia leader who led the minutemen down the hillside toward North Bridge.

Bunker Hill Monument, Boston

The first major battle of the American Revolution is commemorated with a large granite obelisk in the Charlestown section of Boston.

The 221-foot obelisk was dedicated in 1843 to honor the Battle of Bunker Hill, which was fought on June 17, 1775, on Breed’s Hill (more about the hills later).

Inside the monument, 294 steps lead to observation windows just below the monument’s peak. The monument was closed at the time of our visit, sparing us the decision about whether to attempt the climb.

The battle was the first major engagement for Continental troops, who were defending a hastily constructed fort against British forces. The Continental troops repelled the attackers twice before an ammunition shortage prompted their retreat.

Although the Continental forces lost the battle, their strong showing and the large number of British casualties (nearly half of the 2,200 troops) demonstrated the viability of the Continental troops and provided a strong moral victory.

The granite building at the monument’s east base was completed in 1903 to display battlefield artifacts.

Four gateways leading to the monument site have been named after nearby states, and feature granite markers honoring a local hero. The stairways are being refurbished with federal stimulus money.

To the immediate west of the monument’s base, an 1881 statue  honors Massachusetts native Colonel William Prescott. Prescott, who commanded the Continental troops along with Connecticut’s Israel Putnam and Colonel John Stark, is most commonly cited as the officer who gave the legendary command  “Don’t fire until you see the whites of their eyes.” (Different accounts attribute the quote to Putnam or Stark, or dispute whether anyone said it.)

The Prescott statue was created by sculptor William Wetmore Story, a Boston native who gave up a promising law career to pursue sculpture. A number of his classical female figures are displayed in U.S. museums.

Efforts to honor the battle began with a wooden monument erected in 1794 by local Masons to honor Dr. Joseph Warren, who was killed during the battle.

A movement began to erect a more prominent monument, and the obelisk’s cornerstone was laid in 1825 during ceremonies marking the battle’s 50th anniversary.

Funding challenges stalled construction over the years, and the committee raised funds for the monument by selling a good chunk of the battlefield for real estate development.

Confusion about the battle’s name and location started before the first shot had been fired. Prescott had been ordered to fortify nearby Bunker Hill, but the Continental commanders decided Breed’s Hill would be more suitable. A British cartographer mapping the battlefield reversed the names of the two hills, and Breed’s Hill was consigned to the historical shadow of its more famous neighbor.

The Bunker Hill site was administered by a private association until it was turned over the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in 1919. In 1976, the site was transferred to the National Park Service and added to Boston’s Freedom Trail.

Civil War Monuments, Orleans, Mass.

Civil War Monument, Orleans, MAThe Town of Orleans, Mass., honors its Civil War veterans with two monuments along Main Street.

At the corner of Main Street and Monument Road stands an 1883 monument depicting an infantry officer standing atop a granite base. While the monument’s appearance resembles many traditional Civil War monuments, the Orleans monument is uncommon because the figure is made of zinc instead of the more typical choices of granite or bronze.

The dedication on the front (west) face of the monument reads “Erected by the Town of Orleans to the memory of those who died that their country might live 1861-1865.”

The west face also features a decorative element depicting flags, cannon balls and a drum that, like the infantry figure, is made of zinc.

The north and south faces of the monument both list the names of four residents who were killed in the war, while the east face is blank.

Civil War Monument, Orleans, MALess than two-tenths of a mile east along Main Street stands a boulder with an undated bronze plaque that also honors local Civil War veterans. A dedication on the north face of the monument reads “A grateful tribute to the men of Orleans who served in the Army and Navy in the Civil War.”

The monument lists the names of 22 residents who served in the Army, 12 who served in the Navy, and four who served in both. One person (Joseph Moody) is listed among the dead on one monument, but is not listed among those who served. Such inconsistencies are not unheard of, given the difficulty many towns had in assembling service rosters after the war.

Civil War Monument, Orleans, MAZinc monuments, which were produced primarily by the Monumental Bronze Co. of Bridgeport, CT, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, were marketed as “white bronze.” Today, zinc monuments can be spotted in older cemeteries by their distinctive pewter-like color. While zinc resists wearing better than stone, it can become brittle, which makes the material better suited for headstone-sized monuments than large Civil War monuments.

Most large zinc Civil War monuments, including examples in Stratford, CT, Gettysburg and two towns in New Hampshire, have required structural repairs.

Civil War Monument, Orleans, MA

Civil War Monument, Orleans, MA

Civil War Monument, Orleans, MA

War of the Rebellion Monument, Stockbridge, Mass.

War of the Rebellion Monument, Stockbridge, Mass.For today’s post, we take our first look at a monument outside the state of Connecticut by highlighting the War of the Rebellion monument in Stockbridge, Mass.

The monument, located at the intersection of West Main and Pine streets, is a brownstone obelisk, topped by a bronze eagle sculpture, that was dedicated in 1866.

The front (south) face of the monument bears the dedication “To her sons, beloved and honored, who died for their country in the great war of the rebellion, Stockbridge, in grateful remembrance, has erected this monument.”

The front also features an ornate carving of two flags, crossed swords, a wreath and a soldier’s haversack. This face also lists the battles of Gettysburg and the Wilderness (Va.), and bears the U.S. and Massachusetts seals.

The east face of the monument honors 15 residents killed during the war. Of these, 14 were listed with Massachusetts units and one was affiliated with a New York unit. The east face also lists the battles of Spotsylvania and Petersburg (Va.).

War of the Rebellion Monument, Stockbridge, Mass.The north face bears the dedication “to bravery and patriotism,” and lists the battles of Antietam (Md.) and Chancellorsville (Va.)

The west face lists 13 names, including 10 affiliated with Massachusetts units and three with Connecticut units, along with the battle of Donelson (a fort in Tennessee) and soldiers who were lost at Andersonville (a Confederate prisoner of war camp in Georgia).

A small cannon has been mounted in front of the monument’s south face.

War of the Rebellion Monument, Stockbridge, Mass.

War of the Rebellion Monument, Stockbridge, Mass.

War of the Rebellion Monument, Stockbridge, Mass.

War of the Rebellion Monument, Stockbridge, Mass.