City Hall Tablets
Location: City Hall, 274 Front Street, Chicopee
Coordinates: 42°08’55.1″N 72°36’24.7″W
Date dedicated: December 21, 1871
Design/Sculptor/Manufacturer: Melzar Hunt Mosman, bronze tablets

Two tablets memorializing those from Chicopee who died in the war adorn the recessed entryway of Chicopee City Hall. They were dedicated on the same day that the building as a whole was dedicated. A portion of the day’s lengthy program was set aside to recognize the memorials and to honor those listed.

During the ceremony, Emily F. Lombard offered the memorials to the city on behalf of the Chicopee Ladies Aid Society which funded the tablets. According to the Springfield Republican, “Miss Lombard paid a graceful and touching tribute—the tribute of one earnest woman speaking for many—to the dead soldiers and alluding to the work which had been done by the society during the war.”[1]

Col. Nettleton later in life

Colonel Edward Payson Nettleton received the memorial on behalf of the veterans. A native of Chicopee, he was 25 years old and the principal of the Chicopee Falls High School at the start of the war. He enthusiastically raised a company from Chicopee of which he was elected captain. This unit became Company E of the 31st Massachusetts Infantry. The 31st Massachusetts saw combat in Louisiana and Nettleton eventually rose to command the regiment. He was wounded during a skirmish near Alexandria, Louisiana.[2]

In receiving the memorial, he paid tribute to the Ladies Aid Society. He reviewed the service of Chicopee’s veterans and the city’s actions in supporting them. He then proceeded to rail against the party politics dividing the country, proclaiming “I see and loathe with an unutterable loathing the contemptible tricks” practiced by partisan politicians. He urged citizens to caste them out as “lepers.” His tirade was uncharacteristic for such a ceremony but symptomatic of the bitter political conflicts at the time over the ongoing issue of Reconstruction.[3]

The tablets record the names, units, dates and causes of death of 72 men. The primary inscriptions on both read, “Honor the Brave—To Her Fallen Heroes Chicopee Erects this Tablet.” The tablets are bronze, supported by ornate white Italian marble entablatures. The names are recorded in order of enlistment. Fifteen of the dead, the largest group, belonged to the 27th Massachusetts Infantry, a western Massachusetts unit which served on the North Carolina coast and later Virginia. Ten, the second largest number, belonged to the 1st Massachusetts Cavalry which served with the Army of the Potomac in some of the largest battles of the war.

The Chicopee Public Library has made available online a remarkable collection of records, handwritten accounts of many of Chicopee’s soldiers including details of their service.

Veterans’ Memorial Plaza Stone
Location: Front Street and Bonneville Avenue, Chicopee
Coordinates: 42°08’51.3″N 72°35’35.9″W
Date dedicated: c. 2000
Design/Manufacturer: Unknown

A secondary monument dedicated to Chicopee’s soldiers who served in the Civil War was added to the city’s Veterans Memorial Plaza. The city first placed a World War I memorial here in 1919. It has recently been joined by the Civil War memorial and a memorial to the War on Terror. The inscription on the Civil War memorial reads, “1861 Civil War 1865, The War Between the States, A Family Struggle that Reunited the Nation, From Chicopee 930 men served, 72 lost their lives while serving, Their names are recorded on the two tablets at the entrance of City Hall.” Etched into the monument is a depiction of a Confederate soldier and a Union soldier reaching towards one another while a tremendous battle rages in the background. The use of “War Between the States” can only be seen on one other monument in Massachusetts (also a recent addition to an existing memorial). This was not a term that Union veterans of the war used. The reconciliationist tone of the inscription and the etching (evoking notions of a brotherly handshake and a forgetting of the war’s origins) contrast curiously with the lengthy inscription on the back of the memorial which, written with the feelings of the postwar era, was decidedly non-reconciliationist. This latter consists of the words to a hymn written by Chicopee educator William Valentine for the dedication of the original Civil War memorial tablets in 1871. The hymn refers to the “evil” and “grievous” act of secession, calling for “Death to the traitor! To him who rebels!” Just six years after the war, this type of lingering anger was not at all uncommon.

[1] “The Chicopee Town Hall, Dedicatory Services on Thursday,” Springfield Republican, December 22, 1871, 2.

[2]Edward P. Nettleton—Bio,” 31st Massachusetts Volunteers, blog

[3] Springfield Republican, December 22, 1871, 2.

Leave a Reply