Danvers Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument

DanversLocation: Town Hall grounds, 1 Sylvan Street, Danvers
Coordinates: 42°33’46.1″N 70°56’20.6″W
Date dedicated: November 30, 1870
Architect/contractor/sculptor: Underwood & Brooks of Boston, design; Peter Blessington, manufacturer
Number of names: 95 men who died in the war

The monument is dedicated to the memory of the 95 Danvers men who died in the “War of the Rebellion.” At the time of the dedication, 41 of these dead were buried in Danvers and 54 on or near battlefields in the South, according to a report in the .[1] This high ratio of dead whose remains had not yet been brought home is telling of the years immediately after the war. The work of locating remains continued for many years.

Mr. Edwin Mudge, a wealthy shoe manufacturer and the Danvers representative to the General Court, donated two years of his salary to the project (about a quarter of the cost). This, together with an appropriation from the town and $3,000 raised from general subscriptions, was enough to fund the monument. The monument was designed by Underwood & Brooks of Boston. Peter Blessington, a Boston stone cutter originally from Ireland, held the contract for its manufacture. Blessington also produced architectural monuments for Plymouth and Duxbury. Blessington used Hallowell granite from Maine as he did with his other monuments.[1] During the dedication, Rev. George J. Sanger gave the oration. A record of his remarks apparently does not survive aside from a curious reference in a Springfield Republican article reporting that Rev. Sanger spent some time urging a more “charitable remembrance” of the Buchanan administration.[2]

The first name on the monument was the highest ranking soldier from Danvers to die in the war. Major Wallace Ahira Putnam was born in Danvers in 1838. At the start of the war, he was a schoolteacher in South Hadley, Massachusetts. He signed up as a private in the 10th Massachusetts Infantry (made up of men from Springfield and the vicinity) and was promptly elected a second lieutenant. While serving in Virginia, he was brought up on charges for refusing to follow orders he believed to be inhumane. He was eventually exonerated but resigned due to complications this caused within his regiment.

Putnam, Wallace A
Major Wallace A. Putnam

Returning to Massachusetts, Putnam set to studying for the ministry but felt compelled to return to war. He raised a company which was attached to the 56th Massachusetts regiment and was elected captain. During the Battle of Spotsylvania in May 1864, he had command of his regiment as senior captain after the colonel was killed. On May 24, 1864, during the Battle of North Anna, Putnam was shot in the head. He survived long enough to be brought home but died of his wound on June 20. The historian of the 10th Massachusetts wrote that Putnam was, “of quiet, unobtrusive manners, perfectly simple and temperate in his habits, shirking no duty or responsibility, and shrinking from no dangers, he left behind him a clear and enviable record.”[3]

Like so very many soldiers of the war, Putnam was not above taking “trophies” from the South. Family collections and museums in the North contain a vast variety of curious objects taken by Union soldiers as evidence of their sojourns in southern states. While serving with the 10th Massachusetts during the Peninsular Campaign, Major Putnam claimed a number of 17th and 18th century colonial documents from the courthouse in Warwick, Virginia. He sent these home for safe-keeping. One hundred and fifty years later, a Danvers archivist orchestrated the return of these documents to Virginia. For more on that remarkable story, see Richard B. Trask’s article on the Danvers Archival Center website.

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[1] Boston Journal, December 01, 1870, 1.
[2] Springfield Republican, December 2, 1870, 8.
[3] Joseph Keith Newell, “Ours”: Annals of 10th Regiment, Massachusetts Volunteers in the Rebellion, (Boston: C. A. Nichols & Company, 1875), 333.

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