Needham Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument (Norfolk County)

Location: Needham Cemetery, 200 Parish Road, Needham
Coordinates: 42°17’21.8″N 71°14’44.9″W
Date dedicated: May 30, 1902
Architect/contractor/sculptor: Unknown
Number of names: None

NeedhamThis distinctive monument marks the Grand Army of the Republic burial plot in Needham. It consists of four cannons welded together. It is unusual but not singular. The town of Winchester also built a monument in this form, although using smaller howitzers. The scale of Needham’s monument is imposing. Indeed, it seems as if the uppermost cannon defies gravity. The primary inscription on the shield reads, “The lot purchased and monument erected by Post 181 G.A.R. of Needham Dep’t of Mass. Guns and shells donated by the 57th Congress dedicated May 30, 1902.”

The address given during the dedication ceremony by Congressman Samuel L. Powers of Newton was typical of the reconciliationist rhetoric. Such sentiments sought to emphasize similarities between those in the blue and the gray and typically ignored more difficult topics such as slavery, civil rights, and secession. “The men we fought were Americans,” he said. “They possessed the courage and spirit which, since the days of the Revolution, have characterized the men of the South…they fought with a conviction that their cause was just…Today we know no North, no South…”[1] These views, so common at the time, contrast starkly with earlier emancipationist speeches such as the one given when Brighton’s monument was dedicated in 1866.

In the collections of the Needham Historical Society there is a striking photograph of Private Ezra Newell Fuller, one of roughly 200 men from Needham to serve. The youth of many a Civil War soldier is plainly evident in countless photographs but particularly so in Fuller’s. Nineteen years old at the time and a student at Tufts College, Fuller posed in a uniform coat too big for him, folding his arms to hide (though not effectively) the fact that the sleeves were too long. He looks a good deal younger than nineteen. The regimental history of the 44th Massachusetts, to which he belonged, singled out Fuller’s death as one that had a powerful impact on his unit. Fuller died of disease in 1863 at Stanley Hospital in Newbern, North Carolina–the year that he would have graduated. “A soldier’s death in the hospital,” the historian wrote, “is always sadder than a death on the field.”[2] His classmates and the faculty of Tufts attended his burial in Needham.


[1] Boston Globe, May 31, 1902, 6.
[2] James B. Gardner, Record of the service of the Forty-fourth Massachusetts volunteer militia in North Carolina, August 1862 to May 1863, (Boston: Privately printed, 1887), 539.

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