Woburn

IMG_3696
Woburn monument (Middlesex County)

Location: Town Common, 10 Common Street
Coordinates: 42°28’46.5″N 71°09’08.2″W
Date dedicated: October 14, 1869
Architect/sculptor/manufacturer: Martin Milmore (architect and sculptor); statue cast by the Ames Manufacturing Co.; granite furnished by the Concord Railroad Granite Co.
Number of names: 82 men who died in the war

The Woburn monument dominating the center of Woburn Common was dedicated October 14, 1869. A remarkable photo of the dedication ceremonies can be found here on the Woburn Public Library website. General William Cogswell of Salem gave the key note address. The monument features a bronze statue of a soldier at rest by sculptor Martin Milmore (one which so far appears to be unique in the Commonwealth). The primary inscription reads, “Woburn honors the memory of her sons, who fell in the War for the Union and Freedom 1861-1865. The Spirit of Liberty lives in the Ashes of its Defenders.” 82 Woburn men were lost in the war. [1]

IMG_3699Milmore designed and sculpted Civil War monuments for several cities and towns in Massachusetts including Boston, Charlestown, Jamaica Plain and Framingham. He was born in Ireland in 1844. When he was seven, his widowed mother emigrated to Boston and soon after made arrangements for her sons to join her in America. He was taught the stonecutter’s trade by his older brother Joseph. By the late 1860s, the two had opened a studio together in Boston’s South End and had a number of impressive works to their credit.

Among the many men from Woburn who enlisted were three companies of roughly 100 men each. These were the “Woburn Union Guard” which became Company F of the 22nd Massachusetts Infantry in 1861 (commanded by Capt. Samuel Thompson of Woburn), the “Woburn National Rangers” which became Company K of the 39th Massachusetts Infantry in 1862 (commanded by Capt. John Richardson of Woburn), and the creatively named “Woburn Mechanic Phalanx” which became Company G of the 5th Massachusetts Infantry in 1862 (commanded by Capt. William T. Grammer of Woburn).[2]

The various Woburn companies were engaged in many battles but perhaps the greatest disaster for Woburn soldiers occurred near the close of the war during the Battle of Weldon Railroad. The engagement represented an effort by Grant to finally encircle Lee’s army entrenched at Petersburg and cut off their supply lines. The 39th Massachusetts including the Woburn Rangers were heavily engaged during this battle. The regiment suffered staggering casualties including 246 men taken prisoner. 35 of these prisoners were from Woburn. Most of them ended up at the large Confederate prison in Salisbury, North Carolina–a facility designed to hold 500 but by 1864 held almost 11,000. Eleven Woburn soldiers died of disease or exposure there.[2]

The tablets listing those lost in the war divide names into the following categories: 21 killed in action, 17 died in rebel prisons, 17 died of wounds, and 27 died of disease.

[1] Boston Traveler, October 14, 1869, 2.
[2] John D. McElhiney, Woburn: A Past Observed.

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