Location: Edgell Memorial Library, 3 Oak Street, Framingham
Coordinates: 42°18’05.1″N 71°26’05.3″W
Date dedicated: February 22, 1873
Architect/Sculptor/Manufacturer: Martin Milmore (sculptor)
Number of names: 27 who died in the war (on tablets inside the library)
In 1872, the town of Framingham constructed the Edgell Memorial Library (the handsome gothic structure in the background of the photo) as the town’s first library building and a tribute to the 530 Framingham men who served in the war. It was dedicated February 22, 1873. The statue was originally located inside the building but moved outside around the turn of the century. Tablets inside list the names of 27 Framingham men who died in war.
Among them was Granville H. Smith, a 21 year old shoemaker from Framingham, who enlisted on June 26, 1861 with the 12th Massachusetts Infantry. Of the many engagements in which the 12th Massachusetts fought, their most harrowing was the Battle of Antietam outside Sharpsburg, Maryland on September 17, 1862. As the Union’s early morning assault on the Confederate left flank fell apart, the Confederates under General Stonewall Jackson launched a counterattack. The 12th Massachusetts was one of the units that stood in the way of this onslaught. Standing toe to toe with the Louisiana Tigers in the infamous Cornfield for some time, the 12th Massachusetts eventually had to retreat under terrific fire. The 12th Massachusetts suffered the worst casualties of any Federal unit on the field that day. Of the 334 that went into battle, 224 were killed, wounded or missing…a casualty rate of 67%. When the 12th Massachusetts regrouped in the North Woods, only 32 men were standing to rally around the colors. Corporal Granville Smith of Framingham survived this ordeal. But not long after the battle, he fell ill and died in camp in Maryland on October 20, 1862. He is buried in Antietam National Cemetery.
Martin Milmore, the sculptor of the statue, was one of the more famous and prolific sculptors in Massachusetts. Born in Ireland, he created numerous Bay State Civil War memorials including the Boston Common Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument, and statues in Framingham, Woburn, Fitchburg, Charlestown, North Brookfield and Roxbury among other towns. The original version of the Framingham statue was first produced for the Charlestown monument in 1871, although that version was in stone and had slightly different facial features.
The fundraising and construction of the memorial library was overseen largely by George B. Brown of Framingham, owner of a successful Boston dry goods business. He had earlier been generous in funding the 13th Massachusetts Infantry in which 28 men from Framingham served. In return, the 13th Massachusetts entrusted to Brown their cherished colors, carried on numerous battlefields, to be displayed in the memorial library. The statue itself was funded almost entirely by a $3,000 donation from George Phipps of Framingham.
The Edgell Library is now maintained as a cultural and community center by Framingham History Center. The organization has recently conserved the colors of the 13th Massachusetts. The flag is one of numerous noteworthy artifacts of the Civil War in their collection.