Location: 18 School Street, Milford
Coordinates: 42°08’32.0″N 71°31’10.7″W
Date dedicated: February 26, 1886
Architect/sculptor/manufacturer: Frederick Swasey, architect
Milford Memorial Hall Library was dedicated as a memorial to the 134 men from Milford who did not survive the war. Like other similar municipal buildings built during that period it was a combined library and GAR Hall with rooms specifically for use by the Civil War veterans organization for their meetings. It is now the home of the Milford Historical Commission.
The highest ranking soldier from Milford was Brevet Major General Adin Ballou Underwood. Thirty-three years old at the start of the war and practicing law in Boston, he first served with the 2nd Massachusetts Infantry then was transferred in July 1862 to the new 33rd Massachusetts with the rank of major. He assumed command of the 33rd Massachusetts and was promoted to colonel on April 3, 1863.
Of the many battles in which Underwood and the 33rd Massachusetts fought, perhaps most worthy of note here is the Battle of Gettysburg. During the first day of battle, the 33rd Massachusetts was one of the units held in reserve to safeguard Cemetery Hill as a possible fall-back position for the Union Army. Those who have studied this battle are familiar with the importance of their task. The Union Army was indeed pushed back through Gettysburg to Cemetery Hill. Holding this high ground on the outskirts of town proved essential in winning the battle as the Union army regrouped there and formed a strong, entrenched position.
Atop the hill, watching the retreating forces coming back towards them, Underwood later wrote, “…the officers and men of the Thirty-Third looked down upon the winding lines, three miles long, and watched them as they stubbornly retreated, turning every few rods to fire a volley, facing in every direction…Our troops fought desperately in that retreat but it seemed like fighting the tides of the sea.”
The next morning on the second day of battle, the 33rd Massachusetts, still behind a stone wall on Cemetery Hill, endured a fierce artillery barrage. The projectiles seemed to come from every direction and Underwood actually moved his men from one side of the stone wall to the other several times. That evening, the 33rd Massachusetts was one of the many units hit by the massive Confederate assault on Cemetery and Culps Hills. While fighting North Carolinians in their front, Underwood suddenly became aware that they were taking fire from the rear. He sent his adjutant to the rear to inquire why the regiments on the hill were firing into their own men. The adjutant brought back the answer, “It is the rebels.” It looked bad for a time but Union reinforcements soon managed to drive the Confederate assault back.
The 33rd Massachusetts was transferred to Tennessee that fall and in October 1863 took part in the Battle of Wauhatchie during which Col. Underwood severely wounded. His thigh was shattered by a musket ball and for a time he was believed dead. Being disabled from further field duty he was appointed a staff position and eventually promoted to Brevet Major General for his service.
Tablets in Memorial Hall list all those who served from Milford. Photographs of the tablets were generously supplied by Dan Malloy. Click the images to enlarge. For more information on Memorial Hall and the Milford Historical Commission see Mr. Malloy’s site.