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

Location: Town Green, 133 Monument Street, Wenham
Coordinates: 42°36’16.6″N 70°53’14.6″W
Date dedicated: May 30, 1879
Architect/Design/Manufacturer: O. M. Wentworth of Boston, design; Charles MacDonald of Cambridge, contractor, stonecutting and assembly

In 1868, Edwin Mudge, a representative in the General Court, donated two years’ worth of his salary to Danvers and to Wenham for the erection of soldiers’ monuments in those towns. State representatives did not make a great deal of money, but the $363 to Wenham provided the nucleus of a fund which attracted other donations.[1]

There was some debate, as was common in many towns, as to the appropriate type of memorial. Some did not want a large column and statue dominating the green in front of the town hall and church and instead proposed tablets in the town hall.[2] The monument proposal, clearly, won out and it was designed by O. M. Wentworth & Co. He was a native of Maine and ran a busy Monumental Works on Haverhill Street in Boston. The monument was constructed in December 1878 and dedicated the following Memorial Day, May 30, 1879.[3] The stone cutting and assembly was conducted by Charles MacDonald of Cambridge.[4]

The primary inscription reads, “In honor of the soldiers and sailors of Wenham who defended the Union in the War of the Rebellion.” It bears the names of 27 men from Wenham who died in the war. According to local historian Jack Hauck, 215 men overall were credited to Wenham.[5]

Rev. Isaac F. Porter of Chicopee, a Wenham native and a veteran of the 48th Massachusetts Infantry, gave the oration of the day. He reflected primarily on the state of Reconstruction efforts. The federal government had by that time largely retreated from Reconstruction and the southern states had returned to self-rule. Porter criticized southerners for resisting “attempts at reconstruction upon the basis of universal political equality” and failing to protect civil rights for freedmen. He warned his listeners that “elements at the South” still threatened to overturn the Constitution and bring about anarchy. Only ruin could come from such efforts, he asserted. Porter concluded on a message of hope, telling his listeners that the youth of the nearby school would look upon the monument and be constantly reminded “of the principles which shall create noble men and citizens.”[6]

Click images to enlarge:

[1] Boston Journal, May 30, 1879, 3.

[2] Jack E. Hauck, “A History of the Civil War Monument,” in Treasures of Wenham, 546, Hamilton-Wenham Public Library website, https://hwlibrary.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/28-Civil-War-Monument.pdf

[3] Boston Post, May 31, 1879, 3.

[4] Boston Journal, May 30, 1879, 3.

[5] Hauck, 549.

[6] Boston Journal, May 30, 1879, 3.

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