Medway

Medway Soldiers’ Monument (Norfolk County)

Location: Evergreen Cemetery, 13 Cottage Street, Medway
Coordinates: 42°08’49.3″N 71°25’24.4″W
Date dedicated: May 16, 1896
Sculptor/manufacturer: A. C. Kinney of New York, design

Medway’s Civil War Monument was erected by the local James H. Sargent Post 130 of the Grand Army of the Republic on a lot donated by the Evergreen Cemetery trustees. A. C. Kinney of New York designed it. The manufacturer is presently unknown. It was made of Westerly granite (which might possibly suggest it was constructed by the successful Westerly Granite Company of Rhode Island but this is not confirmed). It was intended that the sides and rear of the monument eventually should be inscribed with the names of the 360 men from Medway who served. For whatever reason, this was never accomplished.[1]

The dedication oration was given by Alfred S. Roe, a veteran,  author of regimental histories of several Massachusetts units, and a state senator. In reflecting on the significance and meaning of this monument, Roe said,

My comrades, this act of yours, in rearing such a tribute to the brave volunteers of Medway, must ever be told in words of loudest praise. It is true there are in Massachusetts and elsewhere grander and more costly memorials, but nowhere shall we find a monument which represents more sacrifice and more devotion than this into which you have built your own zeal and determination. And now that it is done, of what use will this memorial be to the coming generations? The column becomes a constant incentive to the noble living, and, if need be, to noble dying.[1]

Ten years prior to the construction of the monument, the town created a different sort of memorial to those who served in the form of a published work–The Military History of Medway, Mass. 1745-1885 by Ephraim O. Jameson. In the late 19th century, a good number of towns published local histories but very few put together a work specifically honoring those who served. Given the timing, the book naturally focused on those who served in the Civil War with short biographical sketches of each soldier. Often it can be difficult to come up with many details about those who served from a given town but in this book there is an abundance of information. So many could be highlighted here but space will allow for only a few…

Alexander Le Baron Monroe, was the town’s physician before the war. During the Peninsular Campaign in the summer of 1862, he offered his services as a contract physician to the U.S. Army. He became an Assistant Surgeon at the General Hospital at White House Landing, Virginia–the army’s base of operation on the peninsula. In anticipation for a final push towards Richmond, a staff officer ordered Monroe to send all men, whether sick or well, to the front lines. Knowing that dozens of desperately ill men would not survive a day in the Virginia swamps, Surgeon Monroe protested, finally appealing to Frederick Law Olmsted, Secretary General of the Sanitary Commission who prevailed on others to have the order rescinded. Surgeon Monroe saved numerous lives through this action.[2]

Deacon James Mitchell of Medway’s First Church of Christ attempted to enlist early in the war but was turned away due to physical disability. He tried again and was mustered into the 42nd Massachusetts Infantry as a private. The unit served in Louisiana during the Siege of Port Hudson. Mitchell was assigned to duty as a hospital nurse and his services were much needed due to the degree of disease among men serving in the Louisiana bayous. The 42nd Massachusetts completed their term of service at the end of July 1863 and was sent home. Sadly, by that time, Deacon Mitchell had succumbed to dysentery and barely survived the trip home. Arriving home in Medway in dire condition, he survived a few days and succumbed on August 19, 1863 at age 44.

Then there was Lt. Charles H. Daniels who had a remarkable service period of five-and-a-half years. He first signed up as a private with the 16th Massachusetts and completed a three-year term (being involved in some of the largest and most grueling battles of the war, including Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, and Gettysburg). He reenlisted in 1864 and was transferred to the 11th Massachusetts along with what was left of his original unit. Of his reenlistment, he wrote, “This thing must be put down and it is the duty of those who believe the Rebellion to be wrong to help put it down. I can help most here in the army, so I must stay in the army as long as the war lasts, if I live so long.”[4]

In the last weeks of the war, Daniels accepted a second lieutenant’s commission with the relatively new 116th United States Colored Troops. Unlike many of the white units which were mustered out at the end of the war, the USCT regiments were held to their three-year terms, serving in the West or to enforce Reconstruction policies in the South. The 116th took part in the Appomattox Campaign and, after Lee’s surrender, was sent to the Rio Grande as part of Sheridan’s army of occupation (posted there to deter a possible incursion by Mexican troops loyal to Emperor Maximilian I). In September 1866, they were transferred to New Orleans. Here, in January 1867, just three weeks before they were mustered out, Daniels was bitten by a rabid dog. He made it back to Medway after completing his service but soon fell ill. As local historian Jameson wrote, “we are left to wonder at that mysterious Providence which preserved him unharmed through a score of battles, and all the exposures of five and a half years of camp life to fall so soon a victim to that terrible disease, hydrophobia.”[5]

[1] “Honor Heroes,” Boston Post, May 17, 1896, 5. [2] Ephraim O. Jameson, The Military History of Medway, Mass. 1745-1885, (Providence: J. A. & R. A. Reid, Printers, 1886), 87. [3] Jameson, 86. [4] Jameson, 56-57. [5] Jameson, 57.

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