Mansfield Memorial Library (Bristol County)

MansfieldLocation: Mansfield Soldiers Memorial Library (now Mansfield School Department offices) 1 Park Row, Mansfield
Coordinates: 42°01’24.9″N 71°13’00.2″W
Date dedicated: June 17, 1901
Architect/Sculptor/Manufacturer: Peabody and Stearns (architects)

The cornerstone of the Mansfield Soldiers Memorial Library was laid in 1899 and the building was dedicated on June 17, 1901. It was designed by Peabody and Stearns, a prominent architectural firm of the period. They had designed Worcester City Hall and would later design the Dorchester Heights Monument and Boston’s famed Customs House Tower. The building originally housed a library on the first floor and the quarters of the Grand Army of the Republic John Rogers Post 170. It presently houses the offices of the Mansfield School Department.

Mansfield’s local Civil War hero was Lt. Samuel Crocker Lovell who was placed in charge of a detail from the 4th Massachusetts Cavalry and given an assignment of great symbolic importance on April 11, 1865. Two days after the signing of the surrender at Appomattox, General Robert E. Lee was to depart for his home in Richmond. Union commanders did not wish for Lee to leave the field ignominiously without an escort. And so Lovell and 16 men of the 4th Massachusetts Cavalry were assigned to escort Lee to Richmond.

On April 12, the escort reported to Lee’s headquarters at Appomattox and waited for the general to finish a humble breakfast of hardtack and coffee. Another officer in the detail, William Arnold of Abington later wrote, “I was right guide of the detail, and I thought at the time that we were pretty good representatives of the Union cavalry.” Lee mounted and the group departed. Arnold recalled, “From the time we left his camp till we passed the last of his regiments the men seemed to come from everywhere and the ‘Rebel Yell’ was continuous.” A few miles out of camp, Lee decided to drop the formalities and dismissed the escort. Lt. Lovell obliged. Arnold wrote, “General Lee rode up to Lieutenant Lovell and thanked him for the escort, and saluted as he went his way, while we returned to Appomattox. At night the army of Northern Virginia was gone.”

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