Groveland Soldiers’ Monument (Essex County). See gallery below for additional photos.

Location: In front of Congregational Church, 4 King Street, Groveland
Coordinates: 42°45’52.7″N 71°01’39.3″W
Date dedicated: 1866
Sculptor/designer/manufacturer: Unknown

Groveland is credited with supplying 185 soldiers to serve in the Civil War. A total of 158 were residents of the town and the remainder were recruited from other towns to fill their quota (a practice common to virtually every Massachusetts town).[1] Twenty-seven of these men died while in service and their names are inscribed on the monument. The primary inscription reads, “Erected by the citizens of Groveland in honor of those who went from the town at the call of the country during the war of the rebellion in 1861 – 1865 and gave their lives in her defence.” A secondary inscription was later added which reads, “May 30, 1929, rededicated to the men of Groveland who served in the Civil War.” More on this rededication in a moment.

No account is in evidence of the monument’s dedication—neither contemporary newspaper accounts nor later historical descriptions (a perplexing rarity). It was built in 1866 which places it among the oldest Civil War monuments in the Commonwealth. Only three municipal monuments were built in Massachusetts prior to 1866. And in 1866 a total of 10 were constructed. Depending on the precise date of Groveland’s dedication, the monument may be in the top 5 or 10 earliest Civil War monuments in the state. Hopefully some evidence will turn up to more precisely pinpoint its completion.

While nothing on the monument’s dedication is available, an interesting sermon given on the occasion of Groveland’s official “welcome home” to soldiers at the end of the war was published. Written by Rev. Martin S. Howard, it was delivered on June 25, 1865 and provides some fascinating insight on the mindset of citizens of Groveland and the country at large as soldiers came home. He covered a variety of topics, mostly dwelling on the tremendous debt owed to veterans for their service. On a less celebratory note, he spoke of what was expected of soldiers now that they were home. His words echo a common refrain across the country in 1865 as some civilians worried that the experience of war would harden men and that some might fail to be “upstanding” members of society. He said:

…Let me counsel you that in your return we shall have a right to anticipate from you something worthy of your recent history…With the discipline and courage which you have acquired in the service of the republic, we ask you to cooperate with us who have stayed at home, in carrying forward of every true and good work…We would have you collaborators with us in every worthy reform; in every Christian endeavor…Henceforth I pray you, be heroic men…Be true to virtue.[2]

On the one hand, it’s a bit of an admonishment. On the other, it is a hopeful acknowledgement that veterans and civilians together had work to do in carrying on and adjusting to a new, postwar society.

The monument was moved to the soldiers’ plot in Riverview Cemetery in 1875. This is yet another example of a common dilemma in various towns as to how—and where—memorialization should take place. Does a war reminder belong in the center of town affairs, a daily reminder, perhaps to be overshadowed by town square celebrations and other activities? Or does it belong in a more sacred space befitting quiet contemplation? Towns debated this and evidently Groveland was one of them. The monument was moved back to the Common in 1928 and rededicated in 1929.

[1] William T. Davis, “Groveland,” in History of Essex County Massachusetts, vol 2, ed. Duane Hamilton Hurd, (Philadelphia: J. W. Lewis, 1888), 1702.

[2] Martin S. Howard, A sermon preached in the parish meeting house, Groveland, June 25, 1865, on the return of soldiers from the war by Reverend Martin S Howard, (New Bedford: E Anthony and sons printers, 1865), 15.

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