Jamaica Plain

IMG_3271Location: Monument Square, 1 South Street, Jamaica Plain
Coordinates:42°18’34.0″N 71°06’56.9″W
Date dedicated: September 14, 1871
Architect/contractor/sculptor: William W. Lummus, architect; Joseph Sala, sculptor of statue
Number of names: 23 men lost in the war (although 46 total were credited to West Roxbury)

This impressive monument was actually built by the Town of West Roxbury (of which Jamaica Plain was a part during this time). Jamaica Plain split off from West Roxbury when it was annexed by Boston in 1874. So, this monument is, technically speaking, dedicated to those who served and died from Old West Roxbury–now the boroughs of West Roxbury, Roslindale and Jamaica Plain.

Jamaica Plain underwent rapid change after the Civil War. Before the war, it had been largely agricultural and the location of large estates belonging to Boston’s well-to-do families. With the installation of street car lines, its population nearly tripled during the third quarter of the 19th century as new populations, including many Irish immigrants, settled there.

The scope of the West Roxbury/Jamaica Plain monument reflects the community’s 19th century affluence. It is an imposing granite pavilion in the Gothic style with four arches supported by thick piers, four flanking pinnacles and surmounted by a statue of a soldier at rest. The monument is 27 feet overall. It was designed by Boston architect William W. Lummus. The statue was carved by Joseph Sala.

A tablet beneath the dome bears the names of 23 men who died in the war–although West Roxbury’s total was actually 46.[1] The explanation for this was provided by George F. Woodman, chairman of the monument committee, who stated during the dedication exercises that only those actually residing in West Roxbury at the time of the war were inscribed–not those from other places and credited to West Roxbury’s quota.[2] Among those West Roxbury residents, the ranking soldier was Brevet Brigadier General Thomas J. C. Amory, a career army officer who graduated West Point in 1851, served with the 7th U.S. Cavalry, then was given the command of the 17th Massachusetts Infantry which served in North Carolina. There, Amory succumbed to yellow fever during an epidemic which swept Beaufort, North Carolina in 1864. Among the enlistedmen, representing the Irish population of West Roxbury, was Private Michael Dolan of the 28th Massachusetts Infantry (an Irish regiment) who has severely wounded on the fields south of Sharpsburg, Maryland during the Battle of Antietam and died shortly after.

James Freeman Clarke, a well-known Unitarian minister, journalist, Transcendentalist, and resident of Jamaica Plain, gave the oration on the day of the dedication. He had purchased Brook Farm in West Roxbury, the former utopian community, and offered the land to the Commonwealth in 1861. The 2nd Massachusetts Infantry set up camp and trained there. In his address, he characterized the conflict as one between “Liberty” on one hand and the “Slave-Power” on the other. He spoke warmly of many of the men whose names are inscribed on the monument as he knew them personally. Of the monument, he remarkable that there were many across the North who objected to such memorials, “on the ground that they tend to keep alive the memory of civil warfare, which had better be forgotten. But this is a mistake.” He claimed that such monuments must be built to demonstrate to southerners that the North believed in its cause as much as the southerners believed in their lost one. That cause, he said, was “Union and Freedom.”[3]

Clarke closed with Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, but before launching into that, he reminded those assembled, “When we pass this Monument, when our eyes fall on these names, let us remember that what they saved we are bound to keep safe.”

[1] Walter Marx, “Civil War Monument,” Jamaica Plain Historical Society
[2] “Dedication of Soldiers’ Monument at West Roxbury,” Boston Journal, September 15, 1871
[3] Ceremonies at the Dedication of the Soldiers’ Monument in West Roxbury, Mass: September 14th, 1871, (Boston: Press of Hollis & Gunn, 1871)

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