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Memorial plaque in Belmont Town Hall entryway (Middlesex County)

BelmontLocation: On Town Hall, 455 Concord Avenue, Belmont
Coordinates: 42°23’47.7″N 71°10’38.7″W
Date dedicated: June 22, 1882
Architect/sculptor/manufacturer: Henry W. Hartwell, building architect
Number of names: 6 men who died in the war

Belmont’s town hall, built in 1881 and dedicated on June 22, 1882, is not itself a Civil War memorial, however it features a memorial plaque in it grand, arched entryway. The plaque is of Carlisle granite and lists the names of six Belmont men who died in the war. As the number is small, it is possible to here provide some details on each one.

IMG_3678 (2)Private William H. Benson was living in Vermont when he enlisted on December 21, 1861 with the 2nd U.S. Sharpshooters. This elite unit of marksmen was typically deployed as skirmishers at a distance from the enemy. But at the Battle of Antietam, for the first time, they were deployed as infantry in line of battle, supporting the advance of the Iron Brigade in the infamous Cornfield. As it turned out, the sharpshooters performed extremely well as infantry, inflicting serious casualties on the Stonewall Brigade. But they took heavy casualties as well. Private Benson was shot and lingered on in a field hospital until his death on October 10, 1861. His exact connection to Belmont is unclear. His inclusion on the plaque indicates he must have lived there at some time.[1]

Private Albert C. Frost was a 17 year-old farmer when he enlisted on August 14, 1862 with the 15th Massachusetts Infantry. He was shot in the knee on July 3, 1863 during the Battle of Gettysburg (likely when the 15th Massachusetts was in the thick of the repulse of Pickett’s Charge). The wound required the amputation of his leg. He held on for about two months in Camp Letterman, the tent-city outside of Gettysburg constructed for the treatment of nearly 30,000 Union and Confederate soldiers. He died there on September 16, 1863.[2]

Locke, JohnLieutenant John Locke, born in Arlington, was 38 years-old and a practicing lawyer when he signed up in as part of a company of men from that vicinity and was elected a lieutenant. The Arlington company was unable to join a Massachusetts regiment due to the fact that the Bay State had, at that time, filled its quota, so they became one of four Massachusetts companies to join the 40th New York Infantry. The company was forced to wait weeks before their fate was ultimately decided upon and during that time the men nearly mutinied. Lieutenant Locke, according to the regimental history, talked them down. “He counseled patience and expressed the opinion that we should emerge from our troubles with honor…He reminded them that they had enlisted to go to the front, and speaking for himself, said that he proposed to adhere to his original design…” to which there were many cheers. Locke was enrolled in Yonkers, New York on June 27, 1861. He was honorably discharged, June 29, 1862, on account of disease contracted while in service. He made it home to Arlington but, sadly, did not recover. He died on September 22, 1862, and was buried in Mt. Pleasant cemetery in Arlington. Due to his association with both towns, Locke is also listed on the Arlington monument.[3]

Private Charles V. Marsh was a farmer living in Belmont when he enlisted at age 27 with the 15th Massachusetts Infantry on August 14, 1862. He was wounded during the Battle of Gettysburg on July 2, 1863 but recovered. The following year he was wounded and taken prison during the Battle of Spotsylvania Court House on May 10, 1864. He died in Andersonville Prison in June 1864.[4]

Private Lewis H. Marsh, brother to Charles, was born in Belmont and living in Boston when he enlisted on July 31, 1861 with the 2nd Massachusetts Battery. He was a 23 year-old clerk at the time. The 2nd Massachusetts Battery was attached to the Department of the Gulf and served in Louisiana. The unit was in New Orleans at the beginning of May but was moved to Carrollton to avoid an outbreak of smallpox in the city. Unfortunately, Private Marsh did not escape the disease and died on May 13 1864 at New Orleans.

Lieutenant James McGinnis was 21 years-old when he enlisted on September 24, 1862 with the 48th Massachusetts Infantry. The unit was shipped down to the Department of the Gulf and took part in the assaults on Port Hudson, the last Confederate stronghold on the Mississippi. He was one of the 92 men from the 48th Massachusetts who volunteered to be part of the “Forlorn Hope”–the group leading the first assault on Port Hudson’s fortifications on May 27, 1863. McGinnis was wounded and taken to a hospital in Union-held Baton Rouge where he died on June 21, 1863.[6]


[1] Gerald L. Earley, The Second United States Sharpshooters in the Civil War: A History and Roster, 78-88.
[2] Massachusetts Soldiers, Sailors and Marines of the Civil War
[3] Frederick Clark Floyd, History of the Fortieth (Mozart) regiment, New York Volunteers, 27, 134, 338.
[4] Massachusetts Soldiers, Sailors and Marines of the Civil War and Belmont Historical Society, “Four Recruits”
[5] Caroline Whitcomb, History of the Second Massachusetts Battery (Nims’ Battery) of Light Artillery, 1861-1865
[6] Massachusetts Soldiers, Sailors and Marines of the Civil War and History of the Forty-eighth Regiment, M.V.M. during the Civil War, p. 36.