Groton Civil War memorial tablets (Middlesex County)

GrotonLocation: In Town Hall, 173 Main Street, Groton
Coordinates: 42°36’29.3″N 71°34’17.6″W
Date dedicated: May 30, 1884
Architect/sculptor/manufacturer: Unknown
Number of names: 40 who died in the war

A total of 400 men from Groton served in the Civil War. When the war began, the town’s militia company, the “Groton Artillery,” was one of the oldest militia companies in the Commonwealth, dating back to the Revolution and continuing to hold musters over generations. They maintained two cannons, hence their name, but drilled mostly as infantry. They received orders to be report for duty the night of Lincoln’s first call for troops on April 15, 1861. The very next morning, the company mustered in Groton (numbering 27 from that town plus others from Pepperell and Townsend) and was sent off to Boston to become Company B of the Sixth Massachusetts Militia. The 6th Massachusetts is famous for becoming the first Union unit to suffer combat casualties during the war on April 19, 1861 as they passed through Baltimore, however no Groton men were injured during the Baltimore Riot.

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Groton Town Hall

Groton Town Hall was constructed in 1859. In 1884 the town’s Civil War memorial in the form of marble tablets inscribed with the names, units, date and place death of those lost in the war was installed in the lobby of town hall. Groton’s tablets are unique in that they list the name of a soldier who first fought for the Confederacy but defected to the Union Army. And he wasn’t from Groton.

At the start of the war in Louisiana, many Union sympathizers were compelled to serve in a number of places including Fort Jackson, near the mouth of the Mississippi River. Shortly after the Union Navy ran past the fort to take New Orleans and the Union Army settled in for an attack, Unionists in Fort Jackson planned a mutiny and mass desertion. On April 27, 1862, some two to three hundred men went over the ramparts and made a dash for Union lines. The Confederates who remained in the fort tried to fire on them, but found that many of the fort’s guns had been spiked.

A group led by Privates Timothy O’Connor and James O’Neill found their way to the lines of the 26th Massachusetts. General Benjamin Butler paroled these many almost immediately. They were offered the chance to go North or to serve with the Union Army. O’Connor and O’Neill chose to enlist with the 26th Massachusetts. They were assigned to a Groton company and so were credited as enlistments from the town of Groton. In 1864, the 26th Massachusetts was transferred from operations in Louisiana to Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley. There, during the Third Battle of Winchester, Private Timothy O’Connor was killed fighting for the Union. His name was therefore included on Groton’s memorial tablets.[1]

[1]Samuel Abbott Green, Facts Relating to the History of Groton, Massachusetts, (Groton: J. Wilson and Son, 1914), volume 2, 44-46.

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