Location: In Town Hall, 663 Main Street, Bolton
Coordinates: 42°26’01.1″N 71°36’19.0″W
Date dedicated: December 20, 1866
Architect/design: Unknown

A total of 151 men from Bolton served in the war. Of these, 21 died.[1] The first volunteers to enlist consisted of a group of 12 men who joined the 13th Massachusetts Infantry, a three-year regiment that fought with the Army of the Potomac in many of the largest battles of the war. Later, a larger group of 21 men joined the 5th Massachusetts Militia in September 1862 for a term of nine months.[2] Bolton men belonged to many other regiments in smaller numbers.

Bolton Town Hall

On April 2, 1866, a committee of the town met to discuss plans for a memorial to their fallen fathers and sons. It was soon agreed to place marble tablets in the assembly hall of the town house. This was accomplished the following year and dedication ceremonies were held on December 20, 1866. George B. Loring gave the dedication oration. A state representative, senator, and later a U.S. Congressman, Loring was a popular speaker and delivered many such dedication addresses across the state.

Loring’s oration emphasized two common themes: the nobility of the citizen-soldier who fought in defense of democratic institutions and then willingly returned to civilian life, and the importance of emancipation in transforming the country. “They died for the Union, emancipated, purified,” he said, “which was the dream of our fathers. They died that every American citizen without regard to color should enjoy the highest prerogatives of citizenship—and we must finish the work.”[3]

The main inscription reads, “Erected in grateful remembrance of the brave and patriotic volunteers of Bolton, who gave their lives in defence of their Country, in the war of the Great Rebellion.”

Short biographies of each of the Bolton men who died in the war were read during the dedication. Each one of them is poignant. According to newspaper accounts, the reading deeply affected the audience. These were later reprinted in the 1938 History of Bolton. Just two are provided here as examples of the experiences of Bolton’s soldiers:

Edward Louis Edes, son of Richard and Mary Cushing Edes, was born on Nobember 19, 1845, in Bolton. He joined the 33rd, which had much trying service, first in the Army of the Potomac and afterwards in the Army of Tennessee. He suffered greatly from fatigue and exposure on the famous March through Georgia, and was finally taken ill and died at Chattanooga, July 3, 1864. His body was interred in Section E in the National Cemetery. “When he enlisted, he was only sixteen years old but at the time of his illness he had already received the promotion of Corporal. His officers spoke of him in the highest terms as a soldier, and for the moral character he bore.

Franklin Farnsworth, son of Franklin and Lydia Toombs Farnsworth, was born in Bolton, March 2,1838. The main support of a widowed mother, he might have escaped going to war, but enlisted with the 36th. In the fearful campaign of the Wilderness, he was twice severely wounded. Suffering the pains of an amputated limb, he lingered in the hospital until his death occurred in May, 1864. He was buried at Mary’s Heights in the rear of Fredericksburg.[4]

Today the first floor of the town hall is partitioned into departmental offices and only one of the tablets is in public view. But both are preserved and in excellent condition.

[1] A Committee of the Town of Bolton, Esther K. Whitcomb chairman, History of Bolton, 1738-1938, (Bolton: Published by the Town, 1938), 52.

[2] History of Bolton, 53.

[3] “Dedication of Soldiers’ Memorial Tablets in Bolton,” Boston Traveler, December 21, 1866, 2.

[4] History of Bolton, 55.

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