Waltham

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Waltham Soldiers and Sailors Monument (Middlesex County)

Location: On the Common behind City Hall at 610 Main Street, Waltham
Coordinates: 42°22’32.1″N 71°14’08.2″W
Date dedicated: May 29, 1868
Architect: George F. Meacham
Number of soldiers listed: 54 lost in the war

The was monument was designed by George F. Meacham (the architects of the Public Garden in Boston and many other parks and buildings). The key note speaker during the dedication ceremony was General and former Governor Nathaniel Banks, a native of Waltham. A statue of Banks on a large pedestal stands not far from the Soldiers Monument.

A letter to the editor of the Waltham Sentinel that appeared during the planning stages of this monument tells us a great deal about the way people thought about the role of remembrance and how it fit into everyday life. The writer, a Waltham resident, objected strongly to locating the monument on the town common and insisted it instead should be placed in a more sequestered, consecrated space, such as a cemetery or church yard. How could anyone be merry on the town’s park, he questioned, in the shadow of a reminder of such suffering and grief? It would, he wrote, render both the purposes of the common and the monument ineffective.

However reconciled we may have become to the loss of our gallant countrymen, their memorial will always be connected with…memories of…death and desolation…the weary painful toilsome marches; the fierce, cruel fight; the ghastly gaping wounds; the mutilated, tortured bodies…Let the sacred memento be placed in the middle of quiet and seclusion…We do not wish to mingle the secular and the holy.[1]

His letter reminds us how visceral these memories were after the war and how emotionally charged these projects were. All too often today, these monuments have simply faded into the background. But after the war they were powerful reminders to those who had directly experienced loss. The same disagreement played out in towns across the Commonwealth. Each community had to come to terms with the appropriate setting for remembrance. Many chose town commons. And many chose cemeteries.

Among those listed on the monument are two brothers, 1st Lt. George F. Brown and Sgt. Charles L. Brown who both served with the 16th Massachusetts Infantry. Both died as a result of wounds received during the Battle of Gettysburg. During that battle, the 16th Massachusetts, part of Sickles’s III Corps, was posted on the Emmitsburg Road north of the Peach Orchard. When Anderson’s Confederate division struck their lines in the late afternoon of July 2, the 16th Massachusetts was forced to retreat. Lt. George Brown was shot twice and died instantly. He was buried on the field. Sgt. Charles Brown was wounded three times, taken to a field hospital and was expected to survive.[2]

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Monument to the 16th Massachusetts Infantry at Gettysburg. Near here, Lt. Brown of Waltham fell and Sgt. Brown was wounded.

On July 6, 1863, three days after the battle, Mr. Leonard Greene of Waltham (brother-in-law of the two Browns) left Massachusetts for Gettysburg, hoping to recover the bodies of the seven men from Waltham who died in the battle. Private Patrick Connolly of the 16th Massachusetts showed him the spot were Lt. Brown had been buried. Greene was very grateful to him as he had little hope of locating his brother-in-law’s remains. Greene was also able to recover the body of another of Waltham’s sons, Private L.F. Fairbanks. According to the Waltham Sentinel, the resting places of the other five remained unknown in the weeks after the battle. They may have been recovered at a later time.[2]

Greene also found Sgt. Charles Brown in the III Corps field hospital. A doctor pronounced him well enough to travel and Greene intended to escort him home. However, Brown’s condition rapidly deteriorated and he died in the field hospital on July 9. The two brothers were buried in Waltham’s Mount Feake Cemetery on July 21, 1863. A tremendous procession including veterans, various civic organizations, and citizens endured torrential rain and winds to accompany the fallen two miles from the church to their resting place.

[1] Waltham Sentinel, March 21, 1867, 2.
[2] “Burial of Lt. George F. and Sgt. Charles L. Brown,” Waltham Sentinel, July 24, 1863, 2. Patrick Connolly, “From the Mass Sixteenth,” Waltham Sentinel, July 31, 1863, 2.

2 thoughts on “Waltham

  1. Nice to know this info. As a person from Waltham with an interest in history I had heard of the Brown brothers at Gettysburg. I did not know for example that they were under Sickles poorly positioned command at Gettysburg. I have been to Gettysburg 3 times but did not know there was a monument to the Browns there. If I make it back again I will certainly try to locate the mark and pay my respects. Thank you and the Brown gentlemen for their service.

    Bill Stanton

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    1. Thanks, Bill, I’m glad you enjoyed the article. The Gettysburg monument depicted is the 16th Massachusetts regimental monument, not specifically for the Browns. It is located where the 16th fought on the Emmitsburg Road.

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