Medfield War Memorial in Baxter Park

Location: Baxter Park, Main and Spring Street, Medfield
Coordinates: 42°11’07.8″N 71°18’30.5″W
Date dedicated: November 11, 1995
Sculptor/designer/manufacturer: Design by Medfield Committee to Study Memorials, chaired by Richard DeSorgher; Morse and Beggs of Attleboro, fabrication of monument; Steve Wallace of Medfield, foundation and brick work

Many smaller towns in Massachusetts did not erect a monument after the Civil War but have since placed tablets or plaques of the “Honor Roll” variety in tribute to those who served in multiple wars. Although these are not, strictly speaking, Civil War monuments, we include them in this project as they do, in part, memorialize those who served and/or died in the Civil War.

Medfield’s War Memorial is one of several in Baxter Park. It was originally conceived as a World War II memorial to be erected in observance of the 50th anniversary of the end of that war. The project was undertaken by a Committee to Study Memorials consisting of Richard DeSorgher (chair), Clifford Doucette, Robert Kinsman, David Temple and Patricia Walsh. The committee produced a design featuring the names of those who served in WWII on the side of the monument facing Main Street and the names of those from Medfield who served in the Revolution, Mexican War, Civil War, Spanish-American War, and World War I on the south side of the monument. It was dedicated on Veterans Day, 1995. The keynote speaker was WWII veteran John Mezzanotte who was, according to the committee’s report, the originator of the petition which led to the monument.[1]

In all, 82 men from Medfield served in the Civil War. Fourteen Medfield men died in the war. The first volunteer was Alexander Cameron who enlisted on April 22, 1861 just a week after Lincoln’s first call for troops. He served with the 4th Massachusetts Militia for a term of 90-days.

Nearly a quarter of Medfield’s soldiers served in the 42nd Massachusetts Infantry.[2] This was one of numerous units formed across the loyal states in response to Lincoln’s call in August 1862 for 300,000 men to serve a term of 9 months. The shorter term was an incentive as the typical regiment recruited prior to this signed up for a three-year term. The 42nd Massachusetts became part of the Army of the Gulf and served in Texas and Louisiana. Three companies were captured, and later paroled, during the Battle of Galveston. One company took part in the Siege of Port Hudson. But aside from this, the unit served fairly uneventful garrison duty in Louisiana.

Joseph Stedman of Medfield was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel and second-in-command of the 42nd Massachusetts. He had first enlisted with the 6th Massachusetts, serving as sergeant. He reenlisted with the 42nd Massachusetts as captain of the Adams Guards, a local militia company which became Company B of that regiment. He was almost immediately elected Lieutenant Colonel based on the fact that he had served as an instructor in military tactics at Norwich Academy.[3] He commanded portions of the regiment during its service and had overall charge of several posts where the 42nd Massachusetts and other regiments served garrison duty in and around New Orleans.

Another noteworthy soldier from Medfield was Allen Kingsbury who enlisted on May 23, 1861 with the 1st Massachusetts Infantry. He was killed during an assault on the Confederate works at Yorktown, Virginia on April 26, 1862. He left a journal and a collection of letters which a friend of his had published during the war under the title, The Hero of Medfield. His descriptions of camp life and battle are interesting and make for a historically valuable source. He was wounded during the Battle of Bull Run and wrote an entry in his journal while in a field hospital:

I am wounded, a spent cannon ball struck me in the leg, and felled me to the ground…I am in the hospital at Centreville, there are twenty here, some are fatally wounded — some are shot through the arms, legs and feet. One man had his ear shot off by a cannon ball, one was shot through the abdomen, he cannot live. One had his leg taken off by a rifled cannon ball; one was struck by a cannon ball in the thigh, he cannot live. Six of our Co. are dead, six wounded and 11 missing…[Later] It is Sunday, but don’t seem much like it to me. I should like to be in Medfield this morning.

The volume can be read here.

[1] “Committee to Study Memorials,” in Medfield Annual Report, 1995, 89-91.

[2] Town of Medfield, Proceedings at the dedication of the town hall, Medfield, September 10, 1872…and a record of the soldiers furnished by the town in the late war of the rebellion, (Medfield: Printed by the town, 1875), 64-65.

[3] Charles P. Bosson, History of the Forty-Second Regiment Infantry: Massachusetts Volunteers, 1862, 1863, 1864, (Boston: Mills, Knight & Co., printers, 1886), 6.

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