Rehoboth

Rehoboth Veterans’ Memorial

Location: Redway Plain, 7 Pond Street, Rehoboth
Coordinates: 41°50’33.8″N 71°15’43.0″W
Date dedicated: May 25, 2015
Architect/design: Edward Rowse Architects of Providence and Foxborough

The land on which the Rehoboth Veterans’ Memorial sits is known as Redway Plain and was part of the farm of James Redway, one of the early settlers of the town. In addition to its primary use as farmland, the plain was also used as a drill field by local militia. The land was acquired by the Town of Rehoboth in 1992.

The Rehoboth Veterans Memorial Committee was first formed in 1999. After deliberation on various sites, in 2012 the Memorial Committee met with the Rehoboth Parks Commission and proposed the construction of a war memorial on Redway Plain dedicated to all those from the town who served in armed conflicts. The proposal met with unanimous approval from the Parks Commission. The project was conceived in two phases–the construction of the gazebo and the installation of a brick walkway featuring the names of each Rehoboth individual who served.[1] The groundbreaking ceremony took place on October 7, 2013. The gazebo was finished in November 2013. Fundraising continued a bit longer for the walkway and the fully completed memorial was dedicated on Memorial Day 2015. Speakers on the occasion included members of the Board of Selectmen, State Representative Steve Howiit, and Maj. Gen. Kevin McBride, commander of the Rhode Island National Guard and a resident of the Town of Rehoboth. Ken Abrams, the chairman of the Memorial Committee, unveiled a stone inscribed with the names of all the committee members.[2]

The Civil War section of the memorial lists the names of 116 men from Rehoboth who served in the war. The majority of them served in Massachusetts regiments but, given the location of the town, it is not surprising that at least 17 served in Rhode Island regiments. Of the total, at least 15 lost their lives.[3] Six were killed in action or died of wounds received in battle and nine died of disease.

The largest group of Rehoboth men to sign up consisted of 30 men who enlisted with the 3rd Massachusetts Militia for a term of nine months under Lincoln’s call for 300,000 volunteers in August 1862. The towns of Rehoboth, Somerset, Dighton and Swansea coordinated to form a company in response to this call which was rapidly accomplished and they became Company H of the 3rd Massachusetts. As Swansea brought the largest numbers to the company, they were to have the choice of captaincy and the Rehoboth men were to elect the second in command. However, the Swansea nominee deferred to Rehoboth’s Otis A. Baker who became captain of the company. This election took place in Horbine Church in Rehoboth before the volunteers went into camp at Lakeville.[4]

Of Captain Otis Baker of Rehoboth, various historical accounts speak very highly. He had signed up within a day after news was received of the firing on Fort Sumter in April 1861, one of the first of Rehoboth to enlist, and served with the 1st Rhode Island Militia. He was wounded at the First Battle of Bull Run and carried the musket ball in his shoulder for the rest of his life. The historian of Company H wrote that he was, “resolute by nature, kind in heart…a man who did things; always doing his duty regardless of consequences to himself. He exacted from every man of his company a strict and impartial obedience to himself and to all officers with whom they were to render duty.”[5] Though the youngest captain in the regiment at age 20, he was nonetheless widely respected. A sergeant who served under him called him the “noblest” man he knew and that he “asked no man to go where he would not go.”[6]

This 3rd Massachusetts was stationed primarily in New Bern, North Carolina. There they took part in several patrols and expeditions aimed at disrupting Confederate supply lines in the interior and dislodging Confederate forces encroaching on Union positions. The regiment sustained only light casualties during their service and Company H did not lose a single man–a remarkable fact given the prevalence of disease.[7]

[1] Mark Laroque, “Project Tracker: Rehoboth War Memorial,” Wicked Local, November 27, 2013.
[2] Joseph Siegel, “Rehoboth unveils a new memorial to honor its heroes,” Sun Chronicle, May 26, 2015.
[3] Massachusetts Adjutant General’s Office, Massachusetts Soldiers, Sailors and Marines in the Civil War, (Boston: Commonwealth of Massachusetts, 1931-1937).
[4] John G. Gammons, The Third Massachusetts Regiment Volunteer Militia in the War of the Rebellion, 1861-1863, (Providence: Snow & Farnham Co., Printers, 1906), 230-231.
[5] Gammons, 233.
[6] George H. Tilton and Leonard Bliss, A history of Rehoboth, Massachusetts: its history for 275 years, 1643-1918, (Salem, MA: Higginson Book Co., 1918), 309.
[7] Gammons, 238.