IMG_1523 (2)
Marblehead Soldiers’ Monument (Essex County). See gallery below for additional images.

MarbleheadLocation: Memorial Park, Pleasant and Essex Streets, Marblehead
Coordinates: 42°30’08.5″N 70°51’20.7″W
Date dedicated: July 4, 1876
Architect/sculptor/manufacturer: Unknown
Number of names: 138 who died in the Civil War

The monument was placed in memory of those from Marblehead who died in the Revolution, War of 1812 and the Civil War. However, it records only the names of those from the Civil War. It was dedicated on the centennial Fourth of July in 1876. This was the second monument that Marblehead dedicated that year. In May, the “Mugford Monument,” honoring Marblehead native and Revolutionary War naval hero Captain James Mugford, was dedicated with one of the largest celebrations in the town’s history. The dedication of the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument, as local historian Samuel Roads wrote in 1880, “was not so successfully conducted as that of the Mugford Centennial.” This fact was, he states, “owing to a controversy” concerning the monument.[1] He did not elaborate, however it seems likely that the two monument projects some competitive rivalry on the part of their respective backers.

Originally located at the junction of Green, Mugford and Elm Streets, the monument was moved in May 1913 to a location then known as “Mugford Park” but now known as Memorial Park. The process took eight days.[2] This move brought the soldiers’ monument within a stone’s throw of the Mugford monument. The latter was soon moved out to Burial Hill where it stands today. Again, there seems to have been disagreement as to which war, and which heroes, should be honored most prominently in the heart of town.

A total of 1,048 men from Marblehead served during the war. Of these, 110 died due to wounds or disease.[3] The most famed Marblehead units (at least in the years following the war) were the three Marblehead companies of militia which belonged to the 8th Massachusetts Militia Regiment. Given the broader context of Civil War studies today which rightly focus on a wide range of social, economic and cultural matters, the old-school lauding of “firsts” and other somewhat trivial claims-to-fame have become…well, trivial. But there was a time when such things meant a great deal to a community and so it is with Marblehead’s “Minutemen of ’61.”

Three days after the attack of Fort Sumter, and immediately following Lincoln’s call of April 15, 1861 for 75,000 volunteers, the three Marblehead companies mobilized overnight. The “Lafayette Guards,” organized in 1825, became Company B of the 8th Massachusetts. The “Sutton Light Infantry” (having nothing to do with the town of that name) was originally known as the “Marblehead Light Infantry” and organized in 1801, became Company C. The “Glover Light Guards,” organized in 1852, became Company H. Together, theses three companies were the first in Massachusetts to report to Boston in response to the call. Many more arrived later that day, but the Marblehead men were first. Early on the morning of April 16, the Marblehead companies disembarked from their trains and marched through fierce rain and sleet to Faneuil Hall where they were temporarily quartered.[4] The 8th Massachusetts had a generally uneventful 90 day term of service. They did, however, serve as armed guards aboard the U.S.S. Constitution, during her trip from Annapolis to a safer location in New York City–a task to which the seafaring Marblehead men were suited.

Click images to enlarge:

[1] Samuel Roads, The History and Traditions of Marblehead, Boston: Houghton, Osgood, 1880), 323.
[2] “Marblehead Moves Soldiers Monument,” Boston Herald, May 12, 1913, 8.
[3] Roads, 302.
[4] George Nason, History and Complete Roster of the Massachusetts Regiments: Minute Men of ’61 who Responded to the First Call of President Abraham Lincoln, April 15, 1861, (Boston: Smith and McCance, 1910), 231-239.

Leave a Reply