Location: The Town Common, 7 Meeting House Hill Road, Sterling
Coordinates: 42°26’16.4″N 71°45’37.1″W
Date dedicated: June 17, 1866
Number of names: 26 lost in the war
The Sterling monument is one of the earliest in the Commonwealth. It was the third monument placed by a municipality to honor all those from a given town who died in the war. (The Ladd and Whitney monument in Lowell and the Camp Meigs monument in Dedham were placed earlier but do not fall into the category of town-wide monuments). Sterling’s marker records the names of the 26 men from the town who died in the war, as well as the dates and locations of their deaths. The primary inscription reads, “Erected in Memory of the Patriotic Volunteers of Sterling Whose Lives Were Sacrificed in Defense of Liberty and Union during the Great Rebellion.”
On the day of the dedication, thunderstorms drove the ceremonies indoors to a nearby church where Rev. George Putnam gave the keynote address. A native of Sterling, Rev. Putnam was a highly esteemed theologian and pastor of the Roxbury First Parish Church. In 1836 he was one of the four Harvard graduates (including Ralph Waldo Emerson) who met to discuss the creation of what would be called the Transcendentalist club.
The first name on the monument is Capt. Charles Goss, who commanded Company E of the 21st Massachusetts Infantry Regiment when he was killed during the assault on Petersburg, Virginia on June 17, 1864. Goss, a mechanic from Sterling, enlisted in August 1861 as a sergeant and rose through the ranks to the command of a company. The historian of the 21st Massachusetts wrote of him, “Captain Goss, of Sterling, was struck in the head by a bullet and instantly killed, early in the charge. A conscientious, brave, and faithful officer, the whole regiment respected and loved him. He was severely wounded in the thigh in the battle of Antietam, then being second lieutenant in Company I. In this, the last of his twenty battles, he sprang to the front with a noble enthusiasm, at the order, Forward.”
The Sterling monument was dedicated precisely two years after Goss’s death.