Northbridge

IMG_0321
Northbridge Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument (Worcester County)

Location: Whitinsville Common, corner of Church Street and Linwood Avenue, Northbridge
Coordinates: 42°06’37.8″N 71°39’49.0″W
Date dedicated: July 29, 1905
Architect/contractor/sculptor: Designed by Herman A. MacNeil and A. D. F. Hamlin; Booth Brothers of New York, carving and construction
Number of names: 39 who died in the war

Located in the village of Whitinsville, this monument is unique in its design. It was the gift of the Whitin Brothers and Whitin Machine Works.[1] Their textile manufacturing company was one of the largest in New England and dominated life in this town in the late 19th century. MacNeil, a sculptor, first conceived of the design and enlisted the help of his friend Hamlin, an architect, in completing plans. MacNeil, a native of Everett, Massachusetts, was an accomplished sculptor. His works include the statue of William McKinley in front of the Ohio Statehouse, a statue of Justice included in the pediment of the U.S. Supreme Court building, and the Soldiers and Sailors Monument in Albany, New York. The stone carving and installation was executed by Booth Brothers of New York, a successful granite company run by two Scottish immigrant brothers, William and John Booth.

According to a local guidebook printed shortly after the dedication, the eagle atop the monument was sculpted by MacNeil after a living one in his possession. It is depicted, holding “in its claws an olive branch, emblematic of peace, and stands with poised wings, gazing into the distance, the symbol at once of the United States and of its imperial power on the earth, with its gaze fixed upon the future, while it is upheld immovably by the triple pillars of religion, education and patriotism.”[2] The statement is an interesting encapsulation of the values of that decade, particular with its emphasis on empire. The “young American” sculpted in light relief at the base of the monument is unusual for a Civil War monument yet typical for artwork of the early 20th century. The allegorical youth is depicted girding on his father’s sword.

IMG_0329Also present on the site is a marker in honor of David P. Casey, an Irish immigrant who enlisted (underage at 16) as a private with the 25th Massachusetts Infantry. During the Battle of Cold Harbor on June 3, 1864, after the second color bearer of the regiment fell, Casey rushed forward to retrieve the fallen colors and the body of the color bearer when very close to the Confederate line. For this he received the Medal of Honor after the war. Casey later wrote of the episode, “The fire of the Confederates was delivered at such short range that the powder from their guns burned and blackened my face, while there was a perfect shower of bullets and grape-shot at short range. It seemed a miracle that I should be uninjured, save by a contusion on the head caused by a grape-shot passing through my hat.”[3]

[1] Alfred S. Roe, Monuments, tablets and other memorials erected in Massachusetts to commemorate the service of her sons in the war of the rebellion, 1861-1865, (Boston: Wright and Potter Printing Co., 1910), 88.
[2] Illustrated Souvenir of Whitinsville, Massachusetts, (Whitinsville, Eagle Printing Co., 1908)
[3] Casey quoted in The Story of American Heroism, (Springfield, Ohio: J. W. Jones, 1895), 417.

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