Wilbraham Soldiers’ Monument

Location: Crane Park, 464 Main Street, Wilbraham
Coordinates: 42°07’20.3″N 72°25’52.1″W
Date dedicated: July 4, 1894
Architect/contractor/sculptor: Unknown
Number of names: 177 men who served

In 1885, the Town of Wilbraham voted to build a Memorial Town Hall on the site on Crane Park where the Soldiers’ Monument now stands. It would honor “the men of Wilbraham who died in the war for the preservation of the Union.” This project proceeded right through the design and bidding process when some disagreement arose about the proposed location. Lawsuits filed by those who opposed the project played out even as the foundation was built. Finally tiring of the bitter controversy, the proponents of the project gave it up.[1]

After the memorial building failed, Dr. Stebbins Foskit, a generous local philanthropist, proposed the idea of erecting a monument on the site. He did not live to see this completed but his widow, Mrs. Lucia S. Foskit, saw that the project was funded according to his wishes.[2] It was dedicated on July 4, 1894. On the day of the dedication, the oration was given by Rev. Martin S. Howard, pastor of Wilbraham’s First Parish Church. Included in the large procession were roughly 140 Civil War veterans.[3] Research at present has not revealed the name of the sculptor or contractor.

The primary inscription reads, “To the Men of Wilbraham Who Served Their Country in the War Which Preserved the Union and Destroyed Slavery. This Monument is Erected to Perpetuate the Memory of Their Patriotic Service.”

Overall, 228 soldiers were credited to Wilbraham during the war. The monument lists only those actually from Wilbraham and notes that there were an 41 not listed who were “not townsmen”. This was not uncommon as towns often recruited outsiders to fill their quotas. Of those actually from Wilbraham 29 died while in service. Wilbraham men enlisted with many different Massachusetts regiments but two large groups served with the 27th Massachusetts Infantry (36 men) and the 37th Massachusetts Infantry (34 men).[4] The actions of those two regiments therefore would have been closely followed by residents of this town.

Both regiments were formed in western Massachusetts and consisted primarily of men from the Springfield area. The 27th Massachusetts served relatively light duty in North Carolina for part of their term but then were transferred to the Army of the Potomac at the close of the Overland Campaign and were heavily engaged during the Battle of Cold Harbor and the Siege of Petersburg. The 37th Massachusetts served with the Army of the Potomac for their entire term and participated in some of the largest battles of the war, including Fredericksburg and Gettysburg.

[1] Chauncey E. Peck, History of the Town of Wilbraham, (Wilbraham: Town of Wilbraham, 1913), 299-300.
[2] Peck, 257.
[3] “Monument Unveiled at Wilbraham,” Boston Post, July 5, 1894, 7.
[4] Peck, 240-242

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