“The Flag Defenders” by Bela Lyon Pratt, Malden’s Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument

The Soldiers and Sailors Monument, Bell Rock Memorial Park
Location: Bell Rock Memorial Park, 143 Main Street, Malden
Coordinates: 42°25’14.4″N 71°04’02.3″W
Date dedicated: June 17, 1910
Architect/contractor/sculptor: Bela Pratt, sculptor; Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr., landscape architect; R. Clipson Sturges, architect of the base.

Malden’s Civil War memorial is one of the most remarkable in the Commonwealth, both in terms of the fine quality of the sculpture and the grandeur of the surrounding landscaping. The statue was placed atop an outcropping known as Bell Rock in the center of Malden. It was once the location of a colonial bell tower used to call the community to worship at the adjacent First Parish Church (now gone).

In 1904, the City of Malden began planning a recreational park and Civil War memorial. They acquired Bell Rock and the surrounding pastureland, engaged Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr. to design the landscape and and sculptor Bela Lyon Pratt to design the monumental statue.

The statue grouping features a soldier, sailor and color-bearer.  A plaque at the base of the statue provides the numbers of men from Malden who served in various branches (832 in all) and the total casualties, including 64 men who died in the war.

Bela Lyon Pratt

Bela Lyon Pratt was a protege of Augustus St. Gaudens (of Robert Gould Shaw Memorial fame). Raised in Connecticut, he trained in New York with St. Gaudens and in Paris where he won several medals and prizes at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts. He created massive sculptures for the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago. That same year, he settled in Boston and became a respect fixture at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, teaching sculpting and advocating for public arts projects in the city. His allegorical figures representing Art and Science in front of the Boston Public Library are well-known as are his six allegorical figures about the doors of the Library of Congress. His “Whaleman’s Monument” in New Bedford is probably his most popular work. Malden’s “The Flag Defenders” is certainly his most imposing Civil War monument but he also sculpted a crowning eagle for Abington’s Civil War memorial arch and a statue of Lincoln for the City of Lowell.

On the day of the dedication in 1910, 3000 men, women and children got thoroughly drenched, standing outside in a rain storm for a brief dedication ceremony. The addresses, etc. took place in the nearby Centre Methodist Church.[1] 200 veterans of the Civil War were present. Among them was Elisha A. Loring, 68 years old, a veteran of the 38th Massachusetts Infantry, who marched carrying the same musket, knapsack and gear he carried during the war.[2]


Forest Dale Cemetery Grand Army of the Republic Monument
Location: 64 Forest Street, Malden
Coordinates: 42°26’18.4″N 71°03’37.2″W
Date dedicated: 1894
Architect/contractor/sculptor: George T. Brewster, sculptor

The figure that adorns the soldier’s lot in Malden’s Forest Dale Cemetery was sculpted by George Thomas Brewster, a native of Kingston, Massachusetts and a prolific sculptor whose works can be seen in many states. He created some 20 monuments for the Vicksburg National Military Park in Mississippi. Perhaps his most prominent work is the statue of the “Independent Man” which crowns the dome of the Rhode Island State House. His Malden statue, according to an 1894 Boston Globe article, is meant to represent “the valor shown by women during the struggle for freedom.”[3] Four large cannons were placed at the corners of the lot in which 103 Civil War veterans are interred.


[1] Boston Globe, June 18, 1910.
[2] Boston Herald, June 18, 1910.
[3] Boston Globe, March 6, 1894.

Leave a Reply