Westminster Soldiers’ Monument (Worcester County). See below for additional images.

Location: In front First Congregational Church, 138 Main Street, Westminster
Coordinates: 42°32’42.1″N 71°54’39.6″W
Date dedicated: July 4, 1868
Architect/sculptor/manufacturer: Unknown

An obelisk made of Fitchburg granite featuring plaques made from Vermont marble, the Westminster monument lists 34 men from that town who died in the war. The first name listed is Lt. Col. Joseph Rice of the 21st Massachusetts Infantry. He was born, lived most of his life, and was buried in neighboring Ashburnham. For his story, see Ashburnham’s page. He was included on this monument as he lived for a short time in Westminster and because, given the manner of his death and his popularity, his loss came as a blow to multiple communities.

William Sweetser Heywood, the author of a 19th century history of the town, in summarizing the causes of the war, offered a lengthy and blistering rebuke of slavery and slaveholders in a chapter he titled, “The Slaveholders Rebellion.” According to Heywood, it would be “impossible to ascertain how many native born sons of Westminster were sacrificed to the demon of American slavery.” He stated that of the 95 men who served on the town’s quota, more than a quarter lost their lives either to battle wounds or disease. He estimated that perhaps another quarter died after the war, taken before their time due to health conditions resulting from their service.[1]

The primary inscription on the monument reads, “In memory of the patriotic volunteers of Westminster whose lives were sacrificed in defence of Liberty and Union during the great  Rebellion.” The dedication took place on July 4, 1868. A correspondent to the Boston Journal wrote an uncharacteristically effusive account of the exercises. This is perhaps related to the chronological proximity to the war. He dwelt on the beauty and solemnity of the day, the procession and the speakers saying he had never attended an occasion marked by such “perfect order and sobriety.” After prayers and services at the monument, about 2000 proceeded to a grove about a half mile away where seating had been set up. Rev. Joseph Peckham of Kingston, Massachusetts gave a “model oration.” General John Kimball of Fitchburg “made a very touching address.” The day would be remembered, according to the correspondent, “as proof to all coming generations that their fathers were not unmindful of the gift bestowed in the redemption of a nation by the sacrifice of their own brothers and sons.”[2]

The four cannons were added in 1883, donated by Congress.

Click to enlarge:

[1] William Sweetser Heywood, History of Westminster, Massachusetts (Lowell, Massachusetts: Vox Populi Press, 1893), 404.

[2] “Letter from Westminster,” Boston Journal, July 08, 1868, 4.

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