Watertown

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Watertown Soldiers and Sailors Monument (Middlesex County)

Location: Saltonstall Park, corner of Thaxter and Main Streets, Watertown
Coordinates: 42°22’05.6″N 71°11’16.0″W
Date dedicated: October 1, 1889
Architect/contractor/sculptor: Hallowell Granite Co., contractor; sculptor unknown

The statue of a soldier in the process of loading his musket is a relatively uncommon pose for such memorials which typically displayed the soldier at rest, his battles over. The statue is a copy of the one carved for Beverly, Massachusetts and apparently modeled after the GAR Post commander there, William H. Morgan. The pose was inspired by a popular small sculpture mass-produced for home parlors by John Rogers Co. after the war entitled, “One More Shot.” This small sculpture depicted two wounded soldiers about to retire to the rear but one (exhibiting a pose almost identical to the monument) pauses to take one more shot.[1] The primary inscription reads, “In Honor of the Men of Watertown Who Fought for the Preservation of the Union.”

Watertown before
Watertown monument before restoration (photo from Historical Society of Watertown)

The oration of the day stands out as unusual due to the peculiarly aggressive tone of Rev. L. T. Townsend of Watertown who called upon citizens to remain armed and vigilant…not in expectation of another rebellion or invasion by a foreign nation but against the dangers posed by waves of immigration. His message was ironic given the role hundreds of thousands of German, Irish and other immigrants played in fighting for the Union.[2]

By the 1980s, when the monument was moved slightly west to its present location, it had been subjected to some severe vandalism. The statue had lost its left arm, part of its musket and its face was badly damaged. In 2013 a committee chaired by Mr. Jon Spector oversaw a truly remarkable restoration effort. Daedalus, Inc. of Watertown (an art restoration company) conducted the repairs. David LaRocca of Watertown sculpted the new pieces based on copies of the statue in Beverly and Castine, Maine. The transformation is dramatic. For details see the Watertown Historical Society’s article and photos at “Watertown Soldiers’ Monument, 2013 Restoration and Rededication.”

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[1] Regarding the Beverly monument and “One More Shot” see Boston Daily Advertiser, October 12, 1882, 5; Boston Herald, October 11, 1882.
[2] “Watertown’s Day. Dedication of the Soldiers’ Monument,” Boston Journal, October 31, 1889, 1.

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