Andover

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Andover Memorial Hall Library (Essex County)

Location: 2 North Main Street
Coordinates: 42°39’24.6″N 71°08’28.2″
Date dedicated: May 30, 1873
Architect/sculptor/manufacturer: John F. Eaton (architect), Abbott & Jenkins (contractors)
Number listed: Tablets inside list 46 who died in the war and an additional 172 who served

Andover’s Memorial Hall Library was first proposed by John Smith, a Scottish immigrant who co-founded the Smith & Dove Manufacturing Co. (which produced flax thread). Smith suggested the location in 1870 in a letter to his son. “You mention in your last letter,” he wrote, “that there was nothing yet done with lots up town where the buildings were burned. I have thought the corner lot where Joseph Abbott shop stood, would be a fine place for a Memorial Hall to be built upon.” He put up half the necessary funds for a fine brick edifice and and endowment, challenging members of his community to raise the other half. The cornerstone was laid on September 19, 1871 and the finished building dedicated on May 30, 1873.[1]

IMG_5924The architect, John F. Eaton, designed the building in the Second Empire style, typical of the Victorian architecture of the time. The building originally featured a mansard roof. Eaton was born in Ireland, raised in Everett, Massachusetts and designed a number of fine Victorian buildings in and around Boston. The library was expanded and redesigned in 1927 in the Colonial Revival style.

Memorial Hall on the second floor features marble tablets (see photos below) listing the names of 46 Andover men who died in the war and the date and location of their death. Three additional plaques list an additional 172 Andover men who served, also recording the location and date of their death–a list spanning decades and ending with Jesse H. Clark who died in 1932 at age 87.

The Battle of Spotsylvania (fought in Virginia on May 19-20, 1864) held a terrible significance for the citizens of Andover. The town’s original company of volunteers was heavily engaged in that battle. After more than two years in service, it was their first time in the thick of combat. The “Andover Light Infantry” was formed during the first days of the war. The company was commanded by Captain Horace Holt, a machinist from Andover. Initially numbering about 100 men (nearly all of them from Andover) the unit became Company H of the 14th Massachusetts Infantry. Early in the war, the 14th Massachusetts was re-designated as the 1st Massachusetts Heavy Artillery. In that role, the unit (and the Andover men in it) manned the big gun emplacements in fortifications surrounding Washington D.C. They saw no serious combat for their first two years and nine months of service.

Then, when General Grant organized a massive offensive in 1864 known as the Overland Campaign, reinforcements were needed in the field. Heavy artillery units were pulled from the Washington defenses and armed as infantry. After years of relative inactivity, the men of the 1st Massachusetts Heavy Artillery were eager to do their part. Yet they had also served long enough to know what awaited them. As the regimental historian wrote, the men “accepted the order to move with a grim joy that words will not reveal.”[2] Transported to Fredericksburg by steamboat, the regiment then marched 28 miles to join the Army of the Potomac the night before the Battle of Spotsylvania.

The next morning, they formed in line of battle on the Harris Farm. A great expanse of fields lay before them and woods in the distance. But there was no sign of the enemy. Nearly half the regiment, including Company H from Andover, advanced across the fields, paused at the edge of the woods, then were given the order to charge. An entire Confederate brigade from North Carolina waited for them in the woods and unleashed a volley that took the Massachusetts men completely by surprise. The regimental historian wrote, “It was like a stroke of lightning from clear skies. In an instant the scene was transformed from peace and quiet to one of pain and horror.”[2] Half of the detachment was killed or wounded. The 1st Massachusetts Heavy Artillery was driven back to the Harris Farm but held there and fought off three successive charges of the North Carolina brigade. During this brutal fighting, 7 men from Andover died on the battlefield and 37 were wounded (of whom 8 later died). Rarely did a Massachusetts town suffer so many casualties in a single hour of the war.[3]

Tablet photos courtesy of the Andover Memorial Hall Library. Click to enlarge.

[1] “Memorial Hall Library, History and Hall Tour,” pamphlet produced by the Memorial Hall Library, February 2018
[2] Alfred S. Roe, History of the First Regiment of Heavy Artillery, Massachusetts Volunteers, (1917), 150-155.
[3] “Lest We Forget: Andover and the Civil War

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