Byfield Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument
Location: Adjacent to Byfield Community Arts Center, 7 Central Street, Newbury
Coordinates: 42°45’32.0″N 70°56’48.4″W
Date dedicated: May 24, 1911
Architect/sculptor/manufacturer: Unknown

In 1909 a committee was appointed in Newbury to consider the placement of a Civil War monument. They chose to locate it in the village (or parish) of Byfield in the westernmost part of the town. The site of active mills, Byfield was the busy commercial and industrial heart of the town at the time and a logical spot. The few available sources regarding the creation of this monument do not name the sculptor or manufacturer. The statue is distinctive, not reproduced elsewhere in Massachusetts, and likely from a well-known granite works. The dedication took place on May 24, 1911.[1] The veterans from Grand Army of the Republic posts of six surrounding towns took part in the ceremonies along with the local post.

Major General Adolphus W. Greely, a native of Newburyport, gave the dedication oration. When the war began, he was 18. He signed up and served in Company B of the 19th Massachusetts (a company made up mostly of men from Newburyport and Newbury). He went on to have a distinguished career in the upper echelons of the U.S. Army during the late 19th century and was something of a celebrity among the veterans when he spoke to them that day. He was received with prolonged cheering by the GAR men, according to a reporter from the Boston Globe.

The reporter supplied some interesting excerpts of his speech. They are telling in that Greely used the example of the Civil War and the patriotism of the veterans as a metaphorical bulwark against the “unrest” of the times and the “mighty problem” to be solved “even more critical than those faced in 1861”. He conjured several examples of strife during the changing times—immigration, a “curtailing of individual liberty,” and a “conflict between capital and labor.”[2] It is a typical example, seen in other towns and across the nation in the 20th century, of invoking the memory of the Civil War service in order to suit the circumstances of the times.

Also typical of the 1910s, another speaker, Capt. E. Orcutt, reflected on the fact that monument dedications had once been “criticized as tending to keep alive a feeling of animosity” but that this dedication was not so intended.[3] Reconciliationism, nation-wide, was in full swing by this time. These are very different themes from those emphasized by citizens immediately after the war who instead tended focus on the meaning of emancipation and harshly condemned a war waged to preserve slavery.

According to a 19th century historical sketch of Newbury by William T. Davis, 195 men from Newbury served in the war and 14 died during service. The largest group to sign up initially consisted of 24 men who belonged to the aforementioned 19th Massachusetts Infantry, which had three companies from Newbury, West Newbury, and Rowley. This unit served three-years (and many extended their service by reenlisting) with the Army of the Potomac in some of the war’s largest battles. The largest group overall signed up in 1862 and consisted of 30 men who served nine months with the 48th Massachusetts Infantry. They served in Louisiana and fought in the Siege of Port Hudson.[4]

Click to enlarge images:

Upper Green Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument
Location: Upper Green, High Road and Parker Street, Newbury
Coordinates: 42°47’49.8″N 70°51’41.0″W
Date dedicated: Unknown (probably c. 1911)
Architect/sculptor/manufacturer: Unknown

At the other end of town lies the Upper Green, a village center by the shore. The granite monument placed on the Green features three bronze plaques listing those from Newbury who served. The plaques are exact copies of those on the Byfield monument. It is not presently clear when this monument was placed but it seems to have been in conjunction with the Byfield monument–probably at the same time. As the Byfield monument is geographically removed from the rest of town, it seems that residents planned an auxiliary monument in order to memorialize their soldiers and sailors on the Upper Green as well. Perhaps information will surface to illuminate this.

[1] “In Memory of Newbury Men,” Boston Globe, May 25, 1911, 13.

[2] Boston Globe, May 25, 1911, 13.

[3] Boston Globe, May 25, 1911, 13.

[4] William T. Davis, “Newbury,” in History of Essex County, Massachusetts with Biographical Sketches…, ed. Duane Hamilton Hurd (Philadelphia: J. W. Lewis & Co, 1888), v. 2, 1727-1728.

Leave a Reply