Recently, I went into Boston to meet up with an ex-colleague who I hadn’t seen in a while. I was early and so I decided to take a stroll through the common to kill time and get a little exercise. In doing so, I realized that I rarely stopped to appreciate the beautiful monuments we have in the city that celebrate New England’s history and involvement in the Civil War. Below are pictured the Massachusetts State House (left), Robert Gould Shaw Memorial (right) and Soldiers and Sailors Monument (low).
In the autumn of 1865 a meeting was held in the council chamber at the State House, at the call of Governor Andrew, Dr. Samuel G. Howe, Senator Charles Sumner, Colonel Henry Lee, Mr. J. B. Smith, and others, to consider the matter of a suitable memorial to Robert G. Shaw, the late commander of the Massachusetts Fifty-fourth Regiment. The prime mover in this matter was doubtless the late Joshua B. Smith, a fugitive from slavery, who after his escape had been in the service of Colonel Shaw’s family before he took the position of repute as the successful caterer, in which he became so well known in Boston. The purpose of the meeting was declared in the following words:
“The monument is intended not only to mark the public gratitude to the fallen hero, who at a critical moment assumed a perilous responsibility, but also to commemorate that great event, wherein he was a leader, by which the title of colored men as citizen-soldiers was fixed beyond recall. In such a work all who honor youthful dedication to a noble cause and who rejoice in the triumph of freedom should have an opportunity to contribute.”
The Soldiers and Sailors Monument is located on a rise called Flag Staff Hill. The monument is neoclassical in design, taking the form of a victory column carved of Hallowell white granite. The monument rises to a height of 126 feet. The platform is 38 feet square and features four bas-relief bronze tablets. The first tablet is titled The Departure for the War, and depicts a regiment marching by the Massachusetts State House. The second bas-relief tablet depicts the medical care on the battlefield and is titled The Sanitary Commission. The third tablet depicts Union sailors in an engagement between a Federal man-of-war and a Confederate ironclad likely the CSS Virginia. The fourth tablet, entitled The Return from the War shows a regiment of veterans marching by the State House to present their battle flags to Governor John Albion Andrew.