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Douglas

Douglas has two monuments relating to the Civil War. Curiously, they were decorated on the same day and sources suggest that there was some friction on this matter. One monument is a traditional Soldiers’ Monument dedicated to all those from the Town of Douglas who served in the War of the Rebellion. This is located in the village of East Douglas. The second is more general, dedicated to the “Unknown Dead” from Douglas in the Revolution, the Civil War and the Spanish-American War. Though the latter is not strictly a Civil War monument, it took the form of a Civil War soldier (like the one in North Andover). Further, given the relative numbers, it primarily memorializes the dead from the Civil War. The two monuments were erected through the efforts of independent–one might even say competing–groups.

Douglas Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument
Location: 1 North Street, Douglas
Coordinates: 42°04’27.4″N 71°42’36.8″W
Date dedicated: September 19, 1908
Architect/design: Love Brothers of Webster, general contractor; Finn Haakon Frolich, sculptor

The primary inscription reads, “In memory of the men from Douglas who enlisted in the Civil War.” A total of 240 men who served are listed in the monument’s tablets. Of these, 35 died or were missing by war’s end. The first large group to enlist from Douglas consisted of 14 men who signed up with the 15th Massachusetts Infantry in July 1861. This unit fought in many of the largest battles with the Army of the Potomac–most significantly the Battle of Antietam, Maryland during which the unit suffered 50% casualties in a very short time. One of the Douglas cohort in the 15th Massachusetts was killed at Antietam and four were wounded.[1] A larger group of 37 from the town served in the 25th Massachusetts and the largest cohort, 52 men, served with the 51st Massachusetts Infantry. The latter served in North Carolina and saw relatively light combat.

The monument was made possible through a bequest to the town of $3,000 by James Smith upon his death in 1905. His instructions were that the monument should be located in East Douglas rather than the center of town. The town accepted the bequest in 1907 and contracted with Love Brothers of neighboring Webster, Massachusetts to build the monument.[2] The previous year, Love Brothers had built a large monument in their home town featuring a remarkable grouping of sculptures by Finn H. Frolich. See Webster‘s page for more information on Frolich’s unusual and interesting career. Three of Frolich’s Webster statues were reproduced for Attleboro in 1908. Love Brothers apparently arranged to have the infantryman from Webster copied for the Douglas monument in the same year.

According to a newspaper article quoted by local historian Anthony Coppola, “Two soldiers’ monuments will be dedicated in Douglas tomorrow. What is regarded as the more important one, the gift of the late James Smith, is in East Douglas. The other, paid for by private subscriptions, with, however a contribution of $200 as a nucleus, is on the Common at Douglas Center…”[3] Another account, offered by the adjutant of the East Douglas Grand Army of the Republic Post, Charles A. Whipple, also suggests some degree competitive spirit was involved. The Douglas Center monument, he wrote, “was done under the auspices of the local Camp of the Sons of Veterans, at a cost of $600. The dedication also was under their direction…At East Douglas…a more pretentious monument, costing in all $3,400, resulting from the bequest of James Smith of Douglas, was uncovered in the presence of a vast throng of people, including Lieut. Gov. Eben F. Draper…”[4] The center monument was evidently backed by the younger generation, the Sons of Union Veterans, while the veterans of the Grand Army of the Republic coordinated a much larger affair in East Douglas.

Douglas Monument to the “Unknown Dead”
Location: Town Common, 2 Common Street, Douglas
Coordinates: 42°03’14.3″N 71°44’21.1″W
Date dedicated: September 19, 1908
Architect/design: Monumental Bronze Company

The primary inscription reads, “In memory of the Unknown Dead Union Soldiers, Sailors and Marines of the Wars of 1776, 1861-65, 1898”. Again, while not strictly a Civil War monument, it is largely so in its stated purpose and certainly in form. The monument was cast of white bronze (zinc) by the Monumental Bronze Company of Bridgeport, Connecticut. The color-bearer figure was one of their popular designs and can be found on monuments across the country, including one in Carver and another in Salem. The company was founded by M.A. Richardson, a former cemetery superintendent of Chautauqua County, New York. He perfected the process of casting white bronze in 1868 and established his company in Bridgeport in 1879. Monumental Bronze also produced a zinc design of an infantryman at rest which can be found in many Massachusetts towns. Zinc was a less expensive alternative to bronze and was believed to more durable than granite. Over time, however, many zinc monuments have slightly buckled under their own weight.

While not strictly related to the monument, an earlier history of Douglas, Massachusetts summed up the coming of the Civil War in remarkably incisive terms, “…From the beginning of our national history, the elements of a most intolerant aristocracy have found constant nutriment in the system of slavery, which, permitted to exist in our midst merely by sufferance at the outset, continually grew by what it fed upon, until it ripened into an open menace of our very existence as a government.”[5]

[1] Massachusetts Adjutant General’s Office, Massachusetts Soldiers, Sailors and Marines in the Civil War, (Boston: Commonwealth of Massachusetts, 1931-1937), vol. 1.
[2] Anthony H. Coppola, They Raced Horses on Main Street: Douglas, Massachusetts, Recalling an Era, 1868-1908, (Published by the Estate of Anthony Coppola, 1990), 51.
[3] Coppola, 51.
[4] Alfred S. Roe, Monuments, tablets and other memorials erected in Massachusetts to commemorate the service of her sons in the war of the rebellion, 1861-1865, (Boston: Wright and Potter Printers, 1910), 46.
[5] William A. Emerson, History of the Town of Douglas (Massachusetts) from the Earliest Period to the Close of 1878, (Boston: F.W. Bird, 1879), 113.