Leominster Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument (Worcester County)

LeominsterLocation: City Common, 1 Pleasant Street, Leominster
Coordinates: 42°31’34.7″N 71°45’36.9″W
Date dedicated: September 12, 1867
Architect/contractor/sculptor: Frederick & Field Granite Co. of Quincy
Number of names: 48 who died in the war

The Leominster monument was originally located a bit to the south in the middle of the intersection of Main and Central Streets known as Monument Square. It was moved to the center of the Common in 1984 when Monument Square was redesigned. The manufacturer was Frederick and Field Granite Co. of Quincy, founded by Eleazar Frederick and William Field. Eleazar Frederick learned the stone cutter’s trade in his native town of Tyngsborough and spent a portion of his time as a journeyman working on the Bunker Hill monument. In 1839 he partnered with William Field to establish one of Quincy’s more successful granite companies. They supplied granite for Boston’s Civil War monument as well many other monuments and buildings in cities across the country. Many of their fine Boston facades were destroyed in the Great Fire of 1872.[1]

The monument features the names of four battles in which many Leominster men fought: Gettysburg, Port Hudson, Ball’s Bluff, and Knoxville. Rev. George Sumner Ball, chaplain of the 21st Massachusetts (in which many Leominster men served), gave the dedication oration. While he included some typical patriotic themes, his address primarily emphasized the importance of remembering, not just those who died but also those veterans still living.[2]

Any number of the names on the monument might be highlighted for their service. The third name on the front tablet is Sergeant Franklin Gardner who was 19 years old when he signed up with the 15th Massachusetts Infantry (one of the first Worcester County units) on July 12, 1861. More than a year later, during the Battle of Antietam, he was a corporal serving as part of the color guard for his regiment as they marched forward towards the East Woods. Their division, consisting of about 5,400 men, made the second assault on the Confederate lines that morning around 7 a.m. after the first assault through the Cornfield failed.[3]

Gardner, Franklin
Sgt. Franklin Gardner

Their division at first succeeded, pushing the Confederates back to the West Woods and advancing further than any Union troops on that part of the field. A bit too far. Confederates flanked their division and soon had them nearly surrounded. To the rear, a Union regiment caught up in the confusion of battle persistently fired into the backs of the 15th Massachusetts, thinking they were Confederates. Taking fire from all sides, in less than 20 minutes more than half of the men of the 15th Massachusetts were killed or wounded. Corporal Gardner saw three national color bearers shot in succession before his turn came and he took up the colors. He was shot three times, in both thighs and the stomach but managed to keep the colors aloft until someone else took them. For three days he lay within Confederate lines. Then when they withdrew, Union troops found him still alive and sent him to the Patent Office Hospital in Washington where he died three weeks after the battle. It is not clear whether his promotion to sergeant was posthumous or given immediately after the battle.[4]

[1] Duane Hamilton Hurd, History of Norfolk County, Massachusetts: With Biographical Sketches of Many of Its Pioneers and Prominent Men, (Philadelphia: J. W. Lewis and Co, 1884), volume 1, 382-383.
[2] “Leominster Soldiers Monument,” Massachusetts Spy, September 20, 1867, 1.
[3] Andrew Elmer Ford, The Story of the Fifteenth Regiment Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry in the Civil War, 1861-1864 (Clinton, MA: W. J. Coulter, 1898), 195-197.
[4] William Andrew Emerson, Leominster, Massachusetts, Historical and Picturesque, (Gardner: Lithotype Publishing Co., 1888), 97.