Southborough Soldiers’ Monument (Worcester County)

Location: Town Common, 19 Common Street, Southborough
Coordinates: 42°18’20.9″N 71°31’53.8″W
Date dedicated: January 1, 1867
Sculptor/manufacturer: Alexander Rice Esty, architect; E. F. Meany of Boston, contractor and manufacturer

Henry H. Peters of Southborough got the effort underway in 1866 by offering a generous gift provided the citizens of the town could match it. The public contributed more than double the sum.[1] The obelisk was designed by Alexander Rice Esty, an highly accomplished architect from Framingham. He is best known for his many gothic church designs, including Emmanuel Episcopal Church on Newbury Street in Boston. His crowning work was the massive Boston & Albany Railroad Station which once stood at Kneeland and Lincoln Streets. The Southborough monument was completed in late 1866 and bears that date on its base. The primary inscription simply reads, “Erected by the Citizens of Southborough,” and on another face, “In Memoriam,” and on another, “Our Country’s Defenders.”

The dedication took place on January 1, 1867 (an unusually wintry time to schedule such a ceremony). Given the time of year and a snow storm on the planned date, the exercises took place indoors at the nearby Congregational Church, the interior of which was decorated with flags and evergreens for the occasion. Samuel A. Appleton, Esq., a Southborough resident, grandson of Daniel Webster, attorney, and former captain in the 12th Massachusetts Infantry offered the oration of the day.

He struck a surprisingly reconciliationist tone given that the war had ended just over a year and a half earlier. Most early dedication address in Massachusetts reflected the still raw emotions of the recent war and powerfully condemned the Confederacy and slavery. With tempered language, Appleton did describe the horror of the battlefield and prison and spoke with bitter condemnation of Lincoln’s assassination. His overall theme, however, emphasized unity as he asserted, “We raise this monument with no desire to keep alive the smouldering ashes of sectional animosity but rather, by example, to renew the flames of liberty and union.” Of course, he was echoing his grandfather with the words “liberty and union” and, like his grandfather, subordinating antislavery and civil rights efforts to national reconciliation. Later in his address he conjured the sentiments of the Christmas season during which he spoke, hoping that the day would soon come when North and South could “forget the past, and looking forward to a happy future, join hands…and re-echo that jubilant chorus…peace on earth and goodwill to men.”[2]

Southborough sent 206 men to serve in the war. Of these, 17 did not survive. An unusually high number of them died of battlefield wounds (typically a larger number died of disease). In all nine were killed in action or died from wounds (three during Gettysburg, two each during Antietam and the assault on Petersburg, and one each during the Battle of North Anna and the Battle of Chancellorsville). Eight died of disease (including Private Charles F. Fisher who died in the prisoner of war camp at Salisbury, North Carolina). [3]

Of these lost comrades, Appleton said, “Seventeen men! They were of us, they had grown up among us…but their memories are enshrined in the hearts of each one of us today…They died for us. Let us strive to be worthy of their example and their suffering.”[4]

[1] Alfred S. Roe, Monuments, tablets and other memorials erected in Massachusetts to commemorate the service of her sons in the war of the rebellion, 1861-1865, (Boston: Wright and Potter Printers, 1910), 107.
[2] Samuel Appleton, Address by Samuel Appleton, esq., at the dedication of the soldiers’ monument, Southborough, Mass., Jan. 1, 1867, (Boston: Alfred Mudge & Son, 1867), 6, 11-12.
[3] Massachusetts Soldiers, Sailors and Marines during the Civil War
[4] Appleton, 16.

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