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Georgetown

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Georgetown Soldiers’ Monument (Essex County)

GeorgetownLocation: Union Park, Library and Central Streets, Georgetown
Coordinates: 42°43’23.6″N 70°59’33.0″W
Date dedicated: May 30, 1874
Architect/sculptor/manufacturer: Unknown
Number of names: 51 men who died in the war

A total of 285 men from Georgetown served in the war. Of these, 51 died of wounds or disease and their names are recorded on the monument.[1] Information on the construction and dedication of the monument is scarce. The first major donation was given by Lavinia Spofford Weston of Georgetown, a local poet. Rev. Warren H. Cudworth of East Boston gave the oration of the day but no account of his remarks are evident. He served as the chaplain of the 1st Massachusetts Infantry during the war.[2]

Georgetown men served in many different regiments. Perhaps the largest group, 36 in number, served in the 19th Massachusetts Infantry–almost all of these in Company C.[3] The 19th Massachusetts was a North Shore unit led by Colonel Arthur Devereux of Salem. The regiment was part of the Army of the Potomac and fought in some of the largest battles of the war.

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Gettysburg, Cemetery Ridge, view from the position of the 19th Massachusetts over the long expanse traversed by Pickett’s Charge

At Gettysburg, on the morning of July 3, the third day of the battle, the men of the 19th Massachusetts sat just to the left and rear of the now-famous “Copse of Trees” on Cemetery Ridge. The Union position ran behind stone wall along that ridge. Before the day’s fighting, the men of the 19th Massachusetts improvised shelters from the sun out of blankets and scrounged up what food they could. They did not know that the most massive field artillery barrage of the war would be aimed largely at their position and that it would be followed by roughly 13,000 infantry hurled directly towards the Copse of Trees in an assault known as “Pickett’s Charge.”

The Confederate artillery bombardment began with a single gun as a signal. Second Lieutenant Sherman Robinson of the 19th Massachusetts (from West Newbury) had been in the middle of eating his lunch when he heard it and leapt to his feet, knowing something was about to happen. The second gun went off and the solid shot hit Robinson in the left side, killing him instantly, stunning everyone around him. And then every Confederate gun on Seminary Ridge seemed to go off at once. The regimental historian wrote, “Pandemonium broken loose was zephyr to a cyclone in comparison.”[4]

Joseph Hervey of Georgetown, a corporal in the 19th Massachusetts, was among the thousands of soldiers who huddled close to the ground during the long bombardment. He was a 20 year-old clerk when he enlisted in July 1861. At some point during the bombardment, he, too, was struck by a solid shot. His terribly mangled body was found in the Copse of Trees after the battle.[5]

When the bombardment was over, the men looked up and shouts arose, “Here they come!” What was left of the Confederate infantry assault reached the stone wall and threatened to breach the Union lines. When a large gap in the lines opened in front of the regiment, 19th Massachusetts ran forward into hand-to-hand combat. Men in blue crushed in, five or six deep, some of them firing at any opportunity.

Jellison, Benjamin
Sgt. Benjamin Jellison, Medal of Honor recipient from Georgetown

In the fight, the 19th Massachusetts captured four Confederate regimental flags. Seven men from the regiment were awarded the Medal of Honor for their role in repulsing Pickett’s Charge. One of these was Sergeant Benjamin H. Jellison, a 19 year-old farmer from Georgetown, Massachusetts. During the previous day’s fighting, when the color sergeant was shot and dropped the regiment’s flag, Jellison picked it up and carried it for the remainder of engagement and into the third day. During the crush of Pickett’s Charge, he stumbled and the colors went down but he soon retrieved them. Indeed, he took up both the national and state colors and planted them both three yards from the enemy’s front. At this act of bravery, according to the regimental historian, seemingly by one impulse, the entire line of the 19th Massachusetts sprang forward.[6]

Amidst all this, Jellison somehow managed to take the colors of the 57th Virginia and also captured a squad of Confederates, bringing them and the captured colors to the rear after the battle. Jellison (and others) received his Medal of Honor on December 15, 1864 from General George Meade in a ceremony in front of several regiments.[7]

Click to enlarge photos:

[1] Christine Comiskey, “Stories behind the men on the monument,” Wicked Local Georgetown
[2] Angeline M. Cudworth, A Memorial of Rev. Warren H. Cudworth, (Boston, D. Lothrop and Co., 1884), 209.
[3] Massachusetts Soldiers, Sailors and Marines, vol. 2, 425-435.
[4] Ernest Linden Waitt, History of the Nineteenth Regiment Massachusetts Infantry, 1861-1865, (Salem, MA: Salem Press, 1906), 246.
[5] Waitt, 278.
[6] Waitt, 269-272.
[7] Waitt, 382.