Grafton Soldiers’ Monument (Worcester County)

GraftonLocation: 24 Grafton Common, Grafton
Coordinates: 42°12’23.9″N 71°41’06.4″W
Date dedicated: October 13, 1867
Architect/contractor/sculptor: Patrick Nugent, stone cutter of Worcester, design and manufacture
Number of names: 59 men who died in the war

The Grafton monument committee voted to erect a memorial near the town hall at a maximum cost of $4,000. Made from Italian marble, it was designed and built by Patrick Nugent of Worcester who spent twice that amount but covered the excess at his own expense.[1] Approximately 360 men from Grafton served in the war. The memorial honors the 59 who died. Men from Grafton made up a company in the 15th Massachusetts Infantry and another in the 51st Massachusetts.

Eleven of those listed on the monument died in the Battle of Antietam. They were members of the 15th Massachusetts which made up part of an assault on the Confederate left flank near the Dunker Church on that September day in 1862. Initially, they pushed the Confederates back to the West Woods but went too far and their division was soon nearly surrounded. To make matters worse, to their rear, a Union regiment in confusion fired into their backs. In less than 20 minutes more than half of the men of the 15th Massachusetts were killed or wounded. To a small mill town like Grafton, a death toll of eleven in a single day must have been a stunning loss to the community.

Rev. George S. Ball gave the dedication oration. He had served as chaplain of the 21st Massachusetts Infantry and was much beloved by the regiment. Later, he was the driving force behind the monument in Upton, his home town. Further biographical information on Rev. Ball can be found on the Upton page. Massachusett Governor Alexander Bullock gave remarks at the dedication as well as Maj. Gen. Charles Devens of Worcester who, as a colonel at the beginning of the war, commanded the 15th Massachusetts in which so many Grafton men served. His remarks were received with special enthusiasm, probably partly due to this fact but also due to their particular eloquence.

Devens, Charles
Gen. Charles Devens

Devens echoed Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address (at that early stage the address was not commonly referenced) saying that while those gathered consecrated the dead, they “must consecrate themselves” to the work the dead had left them to complete:

The American soldier has left to the statesman a task not easily completed; such monuments as this cannot be too frequent, but a nobler one–noble as the heart can design or the hand of man can make, shall rise when through the wide eleven states of the rebellion, manhood and labor shall be equal, when the dark skin of the freedman and the lighter tint of the Anglo-Saxon shall have equal rights, when peace and order shall hold their gentle sway.[2]

Devens was in a unique position to understand that work, having served as military commander of the district of Charleston, South Carolina. From 1865-1866 he worked to further the efforts of the Freedman’s Bureau in his district. He was also in a unique position to understand the unfinished nature of that work.



[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 & Potter Print. Co., State printers, 1910), 56.
[2] “Grafton Soldiers Monument, Dedicatory Services,” Massachusetts Spy, Oct 18, 1867, 1.

6 thoughts on “Grafton

  1. Strange that the driving force behind the Grafton monument doesn’t get a mention…What about Rev. William Scandlin?

    1. Hi Richard, thanks for your comment. The sources I have available to me simply mention Rev. Scandlin as president of the monument committee, which often, but not always, suggests they were a driving force. Sometimes this was a political appointment. I haven’t seen any sources that describe Scandlin’s role as instigator of the whole project. If you have such sources available, I’d be most grateful if you’d be willing to share them.

      1. Rev. William G. Scandlin, during his entire residence in Grafton—aside from the duties of his profession—ever took a lively interest in the welfare of the Town; passing over the earlier part of his residence here to find him present at an informal meeting of the Inhabitants, hastily called on the 20th of April 1861. That being the day after the Massachusetts 6th Regiment was attacked in Baltimore when going to the aid of the National Government.
        Scandlin’s voice was raised in prayer at the opening of the meeting and with the other in the denunciation of the baseness of the Rebels; urging the necessity of immediate action to sustain the Government.
        At that meeting, measures were taken for the immediate enlistment of a Military Company with a view to their being called into the service of the United States Government. Mr. Scandlin was solicited to accept the Captaining of such company.
        His reply was, [“I do not feel that necessity requires me to forsake my people and profession to take command of a military company with the expectation of being called into actual service. Eight years of my life were spent where the roar of cannon and the smell of gun powder were familiar. If the time should come that necessity requires it, I could again become familiar with them. I should like to serve as Chaplain to this company.”]
        Passing over Mr. Scandlin’s service in the Army of the Union, he was in November 1862 chosen Representative from Grafton; the town being a district onto itself at that time. He served in the Legislature of Massachusetts and served the town faithfully, securing passage of a Resolve whereby the town received from the Secretary of the Commonwealth complete sets of the Massachusetts Reports, Pickering’s reports, Metcalf reports, Cushing’s reports, Gray’s reports, also a State Map and many other valuable Books, which the State had, regarding the Towns and Cities; as all of the Town’s had been burned with the Town Clerk’s Office in Grafton in September 1862.
        Scandlin was several times elected by the Town on the General School Committee but for reasons satisfactory to himself but unknown to the writer, always declined serving.
        To his energy and perseverance, more than that of any other person, is the Town indebted for the beautiful Monument Commemorative of our fallen soldiers, now standing on the Common in the center of the Town. As Chairman of the Committee, [made up] of one from each School District in the town—eleven in all—he worked untiringly for a Monument, while the committee at first were nearly equally divided between Monument and Memorial Hall.
        In November 1866 the Town received a donation of one thousand dollars from one of its citizens for the establishing of a Public reading Room and Library and in accepting the gift, appropriated another thousand dollars for the same purpose and made the clergymen of the Orthodox, Unitarian and Baptist Societies in the center of the Town together with the Selectmen and Teacher of the High School “ex-officio Trustees of the same,” which position Mr. Scandlin filled, being Chairman of the Board, and of the “Book Committee” at the time of his death.
        In 1870, when a petition was presented to the Legislature for a Charter for a Branch Railroad from the Boston & Albany Railroad through the center of the Town, he was the man selected by the petitioners to present their case before the Legislative Committee and was successful in obtaining a charter.
        No man in Town was capable of carrying so many voters with him on any question he chose to urge upon the Town, as Mr. Scandlin.

        James W. White
        Town Clerk

      2. I’ll look, but I assume it’s from White’s papers at the American Antiquarian Society. I created scripts for all the reenactors for the 150th anniversary of the construction of UUSGU in 2013. Scandlin’s wife’s (Elizabeth) papers are there, and I believe the material for Col. Devens’ script, Scandlin’s reenactor (Tom Connell) script, and Scandlin’s diaries themselves.

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