North Attleborough

IMG_1147
North Attleborough Soldiers’ Monument (Bristol County). Also see photo gallery below.

North AttleboroughLocation: Baptist Common, 7 Park Street, North Attleborough
Coordinates: 41°59’22.8″N 71°19’51.3″W
Date dedicated: November 11, 1911
Architect/sculptor/manufacturer: Theo Alice Ruggles Kitson, sculptor; Smith Granite Company, manufacturer

North Attleborough’s Civil War monument is one of several copies of a splendid sculpture known as “The Volunteer” by Theo Alice Ruggles Kitson. The first version of “The Volunteer” was sculpted in 1902 for Newburyport’s Civil War memorial. It was reproduced for the Massachusetts Civil War monument at the Vicksburg National Military Park and later for several Massachusetts towns including Ashburnham, Sharon and Townsend. For a more detailed description of Kitson’s life and work, see the Newburyport page. A brief summary will be offered here.

Kitson was the most prolific American female sculptor of the early 20th century. Her sculptures are featured in almost every state in the country. A native of Brookline, she showed great skill in sculpting from a young age. She encountered great prejudice in the artistic world being a young woman but found that doors opened when she applied to art schools and sought commissions under the name “Theo” rather than Theodora.[1] She married an up-and-coming young sculptor named Henry Hudson Kitson and trained in Paris where she earned an honorable mention at the Salon in 1890 (the first woman to do so). She and her husband returned to Massachusetts in 1893 and set up a studio in Boston. She was the first woman admitted to the National Sculpture Society in 1895.[2]

IMG_1144 (2)“The Volunteer” is remarkable for its detail and its lifelike sense of movement. Kitson deliberately wanted to break away from the rigid parade-rest soldiers of prior decades and to depict the youthful volunteer as he truly was. He is in light marching order (any excess baggage discarded), coat unbuttoned, trousers bloused into his woolen socks, blanket roll across his chest, and his musket thrown over his shoulder in a loose version of right-shoulder-shift. The sculpture is genuine and accurate.

The monument was dedicated on November 11, 1911 during the 50th anniversary year of the start of the war. The town appropriated $5,000 and the local Women’s Relief Committee raised additional funds. The land was donated by the Baptist Church. Plaques on the various sides of the monument do not contain names of those who served but rather various patriotic dictums written by Rev. George Osgood, a long-time pastor of the Episcopal Church in North Attleborough.[3] One plaque tells us, “On this common was drilled the first company of men in this town who answered the call to arms in defense of the Republic in the days of 1861. On Sunday June 2nd they attended services in the church here situated. On the next day marched from here to join their regiment.”

This refers to Company I of the 7th Massachusetts Infantry. During the war, North Attleborough was still part of Attleborough (it split off in 1887). The town’s company of militia, after their assembly on the Baptist Common, joined up with the 7th Massachusetts in Taunton and were mustered into service on June 15, 1861. They served three years in the Army of the Potomac and fought in some of the largest battles of the war.

North Attleborough before and after
Photo comparison from Royalston Arts Foundry

North Attleborough’s monument received a dramatic restoration several years ago, conducted by the Royalston Arts Foundry. There had been so much corrosion and build up of minerals on the bronze surfaces that some of the plaques were illegible and the features of the statue distorted. The results after the cleaning and repairs are remarkable.

Click to enlarge images:

[1] Ethel Mickey, “Memorial artist honored nearly a century later,” Salem News, July 27, 2010.
[2] Jules Heller and Nancy G. Heller eds., North American Women Artists of the Twentieth Century: A Biographical Dictionary, (Routledge Press, 2013), 305.
[3] MACRIS, “North Attleborough Civil War Memorial”

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