Plymouth Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument (Plymouth County)

PlymouthLocation: Training Green, 65 Sandwich Street, Plymouth
Coordinates: 41°57’12.2″N 70°39’40.1″W
Date dedicated: August 9, 1869
Architect/Sculptor/Manufacturer: Peter Blessington, design and manufacturer
Number of names: 72 men who died in the war

A victory column on an ornate pedestal, made of granite from Hallowell, Maine, it stands nearly 50 feet tall and is crowned by an eagle with one foot on a serpent and another on a broken chain–representing the defeat of rebellion and slavery. The primary inscription reads, “Memoria in Eterna, The Soldiers and Sailors of Plymouth who Gave their Lives for their Country in the War of 1861.” A Soldiers Monument Association secured the funds through fairs, lectures and popular subscription. It was designed and manufactured by Peter Blessington, stone cutter of Boston who had showrooms on Cambridge Street. Blessington created a number of architectural monuments in Massachusetts including one in nearby Duxbury and in Danvers on the North Shore.[1]

The procession on the day of dedication was enormous, about 5,000 people, including New England governors and a long list of distinguished guests. Gov. Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain of Maine, a celebrated general of the Civil War, was the key speaker. A professor turned volunteer soldier, he had a great talent for composing emotional and stirring words, writing two books and countless speeches recounting his experiences in the war and the significance of the conflict. Only a portion of his Plymouth address was reprinted in papers. He began by reminding those assembled of an anecdote from the Napoleonic Wars during which roll was called in a French unit and when a certain soldier’s name was answered with silence, one of his comrades slowly stepped forward, saluted and answered, “Dead on the Field of Honor.” Chamberlain went on:

They are poetic words—thrilling words. But standing here to-day and looking upon this scene, they come to me fraught with a soberness and sublimity of meaning such as they scarcely had before. As I give place to the recollections that still throng upon my memory, as I think of the gallant spirits that have not shrunk from the highest test of manhood for the cause of man,as I look on this assembly and think of the dear and venerated forms for which you search in vain,as I gaze upon this monument, and comprehend what all this means, I take up these words; and if you call this sacred roll, if you ask for these seventy-two names from Alexander to William, I advance, I salute you, I answer, ‘Dead on the Field of Honor!'[2]

[1] The Builder, October 9, 1869, volume 27, 809.
[2] “Dedication of Soldiers’ Monument in Plymouth, Mass” New York Herald, August 10, 1869, p. 4

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