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Charlton Soldiers’ Monument (Worcester County)

CharltonLocation: In front of Charlton Public Library, 40 Main Street, Charlton
Coordinates: 42°08’02.3″N 71°58’12.0″W
Date dedicated: May 30, 1903
Architect/sculptor/manufacturer: Timothy J. McAuliffe, sculptor; Martin Wilson, contractor
Number of names: 32 who died in the war

The monument in Charlton is made of granite taken from the Bird Quarry near Fitzwilliam, New Hampshire. The relief sculpture of a soldier at parade rest was carved by Timothy J. McAuliffe of Worcester. Stylistically, it is unique among Commonwealth monuments. The combination of a column and soldier in relief is seen in very few towns.

McAuliffe is virtually forgotten today but in his time he was a respected Massachusetts sculptor. His workmanship adorns many civic buildings and churches in the Bay State–among his most notable works is the highly detailed relief in the pediment of New Bedford City Hall featuring images related to industry and whaling. McAuliffe immigrated from Ireland in 1872, married Ann Boyle of Worcester in 1879, and established a studio in Worcester where he worked until his death in 1922.[1]

William Henry Dexter, a Charlton native who moved to Worcester, funded the monument as well as the town hall in front of which the monument stands (Dexter Memorial Hall now houses the town’s library). Dexter made his fortune in the flour and grain business. He was long associated with Worcester Academy where he was a board member, treasurer, and generous benefactor.

The orator of the day was Rev. Willard Scott of Worcester. In giving his remarks, he emphasized that his purpose was:

“…Not to fight their battles over again as though they had left some part of the great work unaccomplished, which we may do after them; not even to estimate the awful cost of the war, as though desirous or reveling in the luxuries of its sacrifices; but to rejoice and strengthen our hearts in the memory of our national life preserved, our place among the nations of the earth establish more firmly in the holy mortar of the patriots blood…”[2]

The words are typical of his time, almost forty years after the war, when an emphasis on Union (in particular, a Union entering the world stage) took precedence over earlier and more aggressive rhetoric at monument dedications, condemning secession and slavery. He did speak briefly of slavery as a question that had to be settled in order that both sides be “one brotherhood.” It was tempered language, stressing shared values, something that might have perplexed listeners nearly 40 years earlier but fit entirely with the times in 1903.

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[1] New Bedford Whaling Museum, “The Irishman Who Carved the Pediment above New Bedford City Hall”
[2] Worcester Daily Spy, May 31, 1903, 2.

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