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Greenfield

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Greenfield Soldiers’ Monument (Franklin County)

Location: Court Square, Main Street and Bank Row, Greenfield
Coordinates: 42°35’15.5″N 72°36’02.4″W
Date dedicated: October 6, 1870
Architect/sculptor/manufacturer: James G. Batterson, design
Number of names: None

The primary inscription reads, “Greenfield erects this monument in grateful honor to her patriotic sons who offered their lives in suppressing the Great Rebellion and for the preservation of the National Union 1861-1865.” Of the 500 men from Greenfield who served, 50 died in the war.

The monument is unusual for its Egyptian style. Its designer was James G. Batterson of Hartford who at this time ran a monument business known as Batterson & Canfield. The year after Greenfield’s monument was finished he established the New England Granite Works which would become one of the largest monument companies in the nation. Batterson was a renaissance man. He spent several years in Egypt and was recognized as an authority on Egyptology. His studies there certainly influenced this monument.

It is also distinctive for the sculpture atop the column depicting an eagle killing two serpents in its nest. The snakes represent the two threats to the Union–southern secessionists and northern copperheads. The motif, often used in artwork during the war, was employed in other Massachusetts monuments. Carvings of eagles with serpents beneath their talons can be seen in Plymouth and Duxbury. However, Greenfield’s eagle stands out due to its scale and realism. Journalists reporting on the unveiling noted that viewers were struck not only by its architectural style and the dramatic sculpture but also by the rare reddish hue of the granite which came from Aberdeen, Scotland.[1]

General Charles Devens gave the oration on the day of the dedication. Newspapers noted that most of his remarks were largely devoted to a description of the service of Greenfield’s soldiers, many of who had served in the brigade he commanded and some of whom he knew personally.[2] The first and by far the largest group of Greenfield soldiers to enlist was the “Greenfield Guards” which became a company in the 10th Massachusetts Infantry. Their captain, Edwin E. Day, was killed in action on May 31, 1862 during the Battle of Seven Pines. He was wounded early in the engagement and was being carried from the field when a shot killed him and wounded the two men carrying him.[3] The GAR post in Greenfield was named in his honor.

Click photos to enlarge:

[1] “A Soldiers’ Monument,” Hartford Daily Courant, September 7, 1870, 2.
[2] “Greenfield Soldiers’ Monument Dedication,” National Aegis, October 15, 1870, 2.
[3] Alfred S. Roe, The Tenth Regiment, Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, 1861-1864, A Western Massachusetts Regiment, (Springfield, Mass.: The Tenth Regiment Veterans Association, 1909), 92.