Bourne Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument (Barnstable County)

BourneLocation: Town Hall, 24 Perry Road
Coordinates: 41°44’52.3″N 70°36’07.8″W
Date dedicated: July 23, 1914
Architect/sculptor/manufacturer: James Purdon (architect for the town hall)
Number of names: 69 men who served

During the Civil War, Bourne was the western part of the town of Sandwich. It became an independent town in 1884. In 1914, the town built a new town hall on the mainland side of the Cape Cod canal (which opened that very year). The Civil War monument was placed that year in coordination with the new town hall project.[1] Relatively few new municipalities were established in Massachusetts after the Civil War–just 28 out of a total of 351. Though the fallen soldiers and sailors from these new towns were (in most cases) already represented on monuments in their “parent” towns, more than half of these municipalities chose to erect their own Civil War monuments after becoming independent. Residents typically made it a priority to memorialize their own war dead within the boundaries of their new town.

Mrs. Susan D. Phinney, a member of the Women’s Relief Corps of the E. B. Nye Post 203 of the GAR first proposed the monument. She was an active proponent of support for surviving Civil War veterans. The dedication of the new town hall and soldiers monument were celebrated together. Both were designed by architect James Purdon. Rev. Alan Hudson gave the dedication address.[2] Accounts of the event are scarce and it is difficult to find details. This probably has something to do with the fact that war was erupting in Europe that very week and newspapers had other matters on which to report. Indeed, on the very day of the Bourne dedication, Austria-Hungary delivered its ultimatum to Serbia and declared war five days later. It would be interesting to know how speakers that day in Bourne, if they referenced events in Europe, might have reflected on a new, looming war in the context of memorializing the Civil War.

The Bourne GAR Post was named after Lt. Ephraim Bassett Nye, a trader from West Sandwich who enlisted as a private with the 5th Massachusetts Battery in 1861 and later was transferred and promoted to 2nd lieutenant in the 14th Massachusetts Battery. That unit served in heavy action during the Overland Campaign in 1864. During the Siege of Petersburg, as the opposing armies faced one another in stalemate for nine long months, the 14th Mass Battery was transferred to various positions on the siege line. On March 15, 1865, they were posted in Fort Stedman, a key position where the Confederate and Union trenches happened to be at their closest. Ten days later, on March 25, Confederate forces made a desperate attempt to break the Union siege lines during a stealthy night attack on Fort Stedman. Before Union soldiers knew what was happening, about 500 Confederates entered their fortification by a rear gate. Fierce hand-to-hand combat ensued and the Confederates were eventually repelled but casualties were heavy. Lt. Nye was killed in action defending his guns. He was buried in West Sandwich.

In 2016, the monument underwent a $350,000 restoration funded through the Community Preservation Act. The results are impressive. On Veterans Day 2016 it was rededicated during ceremonies which attracted a large audience.

[1] Paul Gately, “Bourne rededicates Civil War Memorial,” Wicked Local Bourne, November 11, 2016.
[2] “New Town Hall and Soldiers Monument at Bourne Dedicated Today,” Boston Globe, July 23, 1914, 14.

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