Somerville

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Somerville monument in Milk Row Cemetery
Milk Row Cemetery Monument
Location: Milk Row Cemetery, Somerville Avenue
Coordinates: 42°22’53.9″N 71°06’07.3″W
Date completed: 1863
Architect/sculptor/manufacturer: Unknown
Number of names: 68 men from Somerville who died in the war (list is incomplete)

Somerville can claim the very first Massachusetts Civil War monument dedicated to all those from a given municipality. It was originally intended to be a memorial to the Somerville Light Infantry, however it was decided shortly after the monument was erected in 1863 that it should memorialize all Somerville’s soldiers lost in the war.[1] The Somerville Light Infantry was a local militia company which answered Lincoln’s first call for troops on April 15, 1861 and became Company I of the 5th Massachusetts Infantry. The company fought at the First Battle of Bull Run and Somerville lost its first two men in that battle—Privates E. F. Hannaford and William F. Moore. After its first term of ninety days, the company was reorganized an additional term of nine months and, later, one hundred days. The company had just returned from their second term in the summer of 1863, a fact which might account for the unusually early timing of the monument–the war was not yet over but it was a good opportunity to honor the service of the Somerville Light Infantry. Because the monument was placed almost two years before the war’s end, names were added to the shaft of the obelisk above the original engraved tablets.[2]

Kinsley, Willard (2)
Capt. Willard Kinsley

One of the names on this monument is Capt. Willard Kinsley, for whom the Somerville Grand Army of the Republic Post was named. Kinsley initially enlisted as a private in the 5th Massachusetts with the rest of the Somerville Light Infantry. In 1862, he reenlisted with the 39th Massachusetts Infantry as a second lieutenant and eventually rose in rank to captain, commanding Company K of that regiment. He was killed in action during the Battle of Five Forks on April 2, 1865 just one week before Lee’s surrender. A fellow soldier from Somerville wrote of him, “His character was unique in many respects. His nature was gentle and loving, and the crucible of war seemed only to develop these high qualities. He was not of a martial temperament, but his devotion to the cause and his conscientiousness were so inspiring that he was equal to all emergencies.”[3]

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Somerville monument on Central Hill
Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument, Central Hill
Location: Adjacent to Somerville Public Library, 79 Highland Avenue
Coordinates: 42°23’09.6″N 71°05’43.0″W
Date dedicated: May 30, 1909
Architect/sculptor/manufacturer: Henry Augustus Lukeman (sculptor), George B. Howe (architect), Gorham Manufacturing Company (casting)

As other towns began placing larger Civil War monument with fine sculpture in the decades after the war, it was not long before Somerville citizens began to consider building another monument. Mayor Charles Grimmons, in his January 1907 inaugural address, was quick to give a respectful nod to the Milk Row monument. “To my mind,” he said, “the grandest monument within our borders is the modest column erected by the Somerville Light Infantry.” However, he also stated, “Sometime in the early future…I feel that our city should have a grand, imposing monument in commemoration of the efforts of the soldiers of 1861-1865.”[4]

The new monument, featuring a unique grouping of statues entitled “American Valor,” was placed on Central Hill next to the Somerville Public Library and dedicated on Memorial Day 1909. During the ceremonies, it was unveiled by Capt. Kinsley’s niece. It was designed by sculptor Henry Augustus Lukeman of New York whose best known work was the massive Confederate memorial at Stone Mountain in Georgia. A writer for the Somerville Journal reporting on the dedication wrote that the “bronze female with uplifted hand typifies the protecting care of the flag she holds.”

[1] Alfred S. Roe (1910). Monuments, tablets and other memorials erected in Massachusetts to commemorate the service of her sons in the war of the rebellion, 1861-1865. Boston, Mass: Wright & Potter Print. Co., State printers, 105.
[2] “The Civil War Monument,” Historic Somerville, Inc.
[3] Edwin C. Bennett (1903), Somerville Soldiers in the Rebellion, Somerville Historical Society
[4] Annual Report 1906, City of Somerville, 16.

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