Grafton Soldiers’ Monument (Worcester County)

GraftonLocation: 24 Grafton Common, Grafton
Coordinates: 42°12’23.9″N 71°41’06.4″W
Date dedicated: October 13, 1867
Architect/contractor/sculptor: Patrick Nugent, stone cutter of Worcester, design and manufacture
Number of names: 59 men who died in the war

The Grafton monument committee voted to erect a memorial near the town hall at a maximum cost of $4,000. Made from Italian marble, it was designed and built by Patrick Nugent of Worcester who spent twice that amount but covered the excess at his own expense.[1] Approximately 360 men from Grafton served in the war. The memorial honors the 59 who died. Men from Grafton made up a company in the 15th Massachusetts Infantry and another in the 51st Massachusetts.

Eleven of those listed on the monument died in the Battle of Antietam. They were members of the 15th Massachusetts which made up part of an assault on the Confederate left flank near the Dunker Church on that September day in 1862. Initially, they pushed the Confederates back to the West Woods but went too far and their division was soon nearly surrounded. To make matters worse, to their rear, a Union regiment in confusion fired into their backs. In less than 20 minutes more than half of the men of the 15th Massachusetts were killed or wounded. To a small mill town like Grafton, a death toll of eleven in a single day must have been a stunning loss to the community.

Rev. George S. Ball gave the dedication oration. He had served as chaplain of the 21st Massachusetts Infantry and was much beloved by the regiment. Later, he was the driving force behind the monument in Upton, his home town. Further biographical information on Rev. Ball can be found on the Upton page. Massachusett Governor Alexander Bullock gave remarks at the dedication as well as Maj. Gen. Charles Devens of Worcester who, as a colonel at the beginning of the war, commanded the 15th Massachusetts in which so many Grafton men served. His remarks were received with special enthusiasm, probably partly due to this fact but also due to their particular eloquence.

Devens, Charles
Gen. Charles Devens

Devens echoed Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address (at that early stage the address was not commonly referenced) saying that while those gathered consecrated the dead, they “must consecrate themselves” to the work the dead had left them to complete:

The American soldier has left to the statesman a task not easily completed; such monuments as this cannot be too frequent, but a nobler one–noble as the heart can design or the hand of man can make, shall rise when through the wide eleven states of the rebellion, manhood and labor shall be equal, when the dark skin of the freedman and the lighter tint of the Anglo-Saxon shall have equal rights, when peace and order shall hold their gentle sway.[2]

Devens was in a unique position to understand that work, having served as military commander of the district of Charleston, South Carolina. From 1865-1866 he worked to further the efforts of the Freedman’s Bureau in his district. He was also in a unique position to understand the unfinished nature of that work.



[1] 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 & Potter Print. Co., State printers, 1910), 56.
[2] “Grafton Soldiers Monument, Dedicatory Services,” Massachusetts Spy, Oct 18, 1867, 1.