Location: In front of Stetson Hall, 6 South Main Street, Randolph
Coordinates: 42°09’44.1″N 71°02’28.7″W
Date dedicated: October 21, 1911
Architect/sculptor/manufacturer: Frederick Kohlhagen (sculptor), Gorham Manufacturing Co. (casting), J. N. White & Sons of Quincy (pedestal)
“The Skirmisher,” was sculpted by Frederick Kohlhagen (1842-1927) (another copy can be found in Whitman). Kohlhagen was a sculptor from Germany who emigrated to New York in 1881 and soon settled in Providence, Rhode Island. In 1885, he was commissioned by the monument committee of the 10th Pennsylvania Reserves to design a sculpture to top their regimental monument at Gettysburg. Kohlhagen depicted a soldier on the skirmish line, advancing independently. The design is animated, lifelike, and extraordinarily detailed. It is an exceptional work and quite different from most rigidly posed Civil War monuments.
Kohlhagen’s design was cast by the Gorham Manufacturing Company. Already famous for their production of fine silver and gold tableware, Gorham Manufacturing was looking to get into the monument business. Kohlhagen’s “The Skirmisher” was the first bronze statue they produced. Eventually, it was recast numerous times for monuments in other states. The second version of the monument was placed in Roger Williams Park in Providence in 1898. The Whitman and Randolph statues are the only versions in Massachusetts.
The memorial was restored in 2011 and is in excellent condition. It was rededicated with ceremonies in November 2011, one hundred years after it’s original dedication–almost to the day.
Randolph men served in many different regiments during the war, but the first (and largest) group of Randolph men to volunteer for service were the members of the “Randolph Light Infantry”, a pre-war militia organization formed in 1855. These 80 men became Company D of the 4th Massachusetts Infantry. The regiment served a term of 90 days in Virginia. Half of the regiment took part in the Battle of Big Bethel on June 10, 1861. The 4th Massachusetts was reactivated in August 1862 for a term of nine months. Again the Randolph Light Infantry answered the call with about 80 Randolph men again forming Company D. During this term, the regiment served in Louisiana as part of the operations to take Port Hudson, one of the two remaining Confederate strongholds on the Mississippi River at the time. The 4th Massachusetts saw heavy combat in two unsuccessful assaults on the impregnable fortifications of Port Hudson. The Confederates eventually surrendered when the other stronghold, Vicksburg, was taken by forces commanded by Gen. Ulysses Grant.
At the start of the war and during its 90-day term, the Randolph Light Infantry was commanded by Captain Horace Niles, a 28 year-old bootmaker. After his first term in service, he signed up with the 35th Massachusetts Infantry, a three-years regiment, along with about 45 other Randolph men. He became captain of Company E of that regiment. The 35th Massachusetts was rushed to the front during the Confederate advance into Maryland. They arrived with little training and exhausted after long days of marching just in time to be heavily engaged during the Battle of Antietam on September 17, 1862. Their casualties were high. Capt. Niles was mortally wounded while the regiment took part in a stand against a large Confederate assault which threatened to overwhelm the Union left flank just before sunset. He died 10 days later in a field hospital on the Geeting Farm near the battlefield. He was buried in Randolph.
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