Gardner

20180901_093810
Gardner Soldiers and Sailors Monument (Worcester County)

Location: Monument Park, 1 Cottage Street
Coordinates: 42°34’43.2″N 71°59’31.8″W
Date dedicated: June 27, 1885
Architect/sculptor/manufacturer: Smith Granite Co. (manufacturer), Charles Fraser (foreman)

The Gardner monument was unveiled as part of the centennial celebration of that town. The military formation during the ceremony number 2000 men. Reverend (and Captain) John F. Ashley of nearby Templeton gave the address on the occasion. During the war he had briefly served as captain of a company in the 7th Massachusetts Infantry and then a company in the 53rd Massachusetts Infantry.[1]

The monument was produced by the Smith Granite Company of Westerly Rhode Island. The top and bottom plinths are engraved with eight principle battles in which Gardner men fought: Antietam, Cedar Creek, Mobile, Newberne, Ball’s Bluff, Fredericksburg, Port Hudson, and Gettysburg.[2] The primary inscription on the monument reads, “Gardner, To Her Brave Sons Who Fought in the War of the Rebellion, 1861-1865.”

The most striking feature of the monument is the bronze sculpture atop the column—a color sergeant in the process of drawing his sword. It is similar, though not identical, to another monument produced by the Smith Granite Company dedicated to the 13th Massachusetts Infantry on the battlefield at Gettysburg (though the Gettysburg color bearer is in stone). The 13th Massachusetts had their monument crafted in the likeness of their color sergeant Roland G. Morris and placed on the spot where he fell defending the colors. As there does not appear to be any strong connection between the 13th Massachusetts and Gardner, the similarity is likely a coincidence. It is an uncommonly fine sculpture.

Also uncommon was the service of one Gardner soldier—Ira S. Joslin. The vast majority of recruits during the Civil War enlisted with volunteer regiments that were part of the state militia system. These units were temporary and not part of the regular army. The regular army itself was a tiny 15,000 man force, scattered across the west in 1860. In addition to calling for hundreds of thousands of volunteers and militia to active duty, President Lincoln also increased the size of the regular army at the beginning of the war. The first unit created under this order was the 11th United States Infantry.

20180901_093827Eighteen-year-old Gardner native Ira S. Joslin enlisted with the regular army in Keene, New Hampshire on August 28, 1861—about a month after the disaster at the Battle of First Manassas. He was assigned to the 11th US Regulars. The regulars were primarily assigned provost duty, policing the comparatively undisciplined volunteer citizen-soldiers, but some Regular units were assigned to the armies in the field. While marching with the Army of the Potomac, Joslin and the 11th US saw action in some 24 battles and sieges.

Ira Joslin was discharged after three years in service, on August 28, 1864. He returned home to Gardner after the war, and married Irene (Chesmore) Ward in 1873. Joslin died on September 10, 1903 and is buried in Green Bower Cemetery in Gardner.

[1] Fitchburg Sentinel, June 27, 1885, 3.
[2] Worcester Daily Spy, June 25, 1885, 3.

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