The Civil War Monument

Photograph by George Dexter, circa 1900; story by Harold Bowen, “Tales of Old Ipswich,” 1975

Each Memorial Day for the last 15 years it has been my job to decorate the different monuments in town early in the morning. This year, I couldn’t help but think of the many changes that have taken place at the Civil War Monument. The monument was first erected by the town in 1871 as a memorial to those who died in the Civil War. At first, it had an iron fence all around it and inside the enclosure was a stack of cannon balls in each corner and in front stood an old Civil War cannon. The top ball on each stack had a hole in it where a flag was inserted.

At the top of the main base (not on the tall spire) and around the four sides were electric sockets where the monument could be illuminated. These must have been installed much later because at the time it was erected the town had no electricity. Later, because there is a federal law which prohibits the attachment of lights to a memorial, they were removed. Few people seem to remember these lights. The fence was also removed, leaving only the cannon and cannon balls. Directly behind the monument was the town flagpole, exactly where the present one is today.

Photo courtesy Ipswich Museum

One of the pranks on July 4th or the night before was rolling the balls down Town Hill, which was a very dangerous trick. But as far as I know, no one was ever hurt.Another foolish trick was to place a skyrocket in the barrel of the cannon and light it. I believe a woman was hit in the eye and lost the eye from this.

Finally, World War II came and with it the scrap drive. And to me the most foolish and stupid thing the town did was to give the old cannon and balls to the scrap drive. Of all the scrap available, they had to take these items. Today, all that is left is the monument with its brass plates honoring “the brave and lamented sons who gave their lives to the country in the war for union and liberty.”

Sometime when you are going by, try to guess how many names are on the monument. Then count them and you will be surprised how wrong you were.

–Harold Bowen

Recruits leaving for the war at the Ipswich train station

Ipswich in the Civil War

by Harold Bowen, from Tales of Old Ipswich, 1975

Not too long ago I came across something in my attic that I had put away for safekeeping several years ago.

In spite of the fact it was something I wanted to keep, I had entirely forgotten about it. I am sure you all have had a similar experience.

The same thing has happened in regard to a book which many years ago was placed in the town vault in the town clerk’s office. The parties who had it placed there have all passed on. And today there are very few who have ever heard or ever knew about this book.

And yet, it is most important that it should be preserved forever.

Way back in the early 1880s, Luther Waitt, who was at that time historian of the Grand Army of Ipswich and also was Selectman and later postmaster of Ipswich, was asked to write a history of alI the men who were in the Civil War from Ipswich. He probably was chosen because of his fine penmanship.

This beautifully written book, with gold and brown cover, was copyrighted in 1890 by L. H. Everts of Philadelphia, Pa.

Its cover states: “Personal War Sketches Presented to General James Appleton Post No. 128, Department of Massachusetts, by Joseph Ross, Curtis Damon, John A. Blake, Charles A. Sayward, John A. Johnson, Frank T. Goodhue, Caleb J. Norwood, George A. Lord. Ipswich 1890, Grand Army of the Republic.” It is the record of the war services from 1861-1865 of the living and deceased members of the post.

James Appleton Post, reunion of Civil War Veterans, circa 1900.

The book, property of the Grand Army, was kept among its records until the rest of the group had passed away. At about that time, it was turned over to the town. The Cooperative Bank had quarters in the Conley block on Central Street. It had a safe which it no longer needed and this was given or sold to the town. It was moved to the Legion Room in the Memorial Building, where it stands today and is used by the American Legion.

But when the safe was first installed there, it was to hold this book. however, each new commander of the Legion was given the combination to the safe and it was feared that because so many persons used the safe, the book might get lost. So, it was moved to the town vault for safekeeping, and is never to be taken from the town clerk’s office, where it remains today. Anyone may view it in the office and it is well worth your time to go over and see it. Town Clerk Harold Comeau is always willing to show it to you.

Incidentally, General James Appleton’s children placed on his grave the following inscription: “A patriot, a philanthropist and a Christian. He served his fellow man, his country and his God by laboring for the emancipation of the American slave.” General Appleton died Aug. 25, 1862.

The book is complete with index, histories about the men, and in the back a complete listings in the back are brief, such as: “George Morris, Sailmakers Mate aboard the U. S. Frigate Cumberland in which he went to his death when she was sunk by the Merrimac in Hampton Roads, Va.” Or, “William P. Peatfield who at the age of 18 enlisted in the Company i, Twenty-third Regiment, Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, he was killed at Whitehall, North Carolina on December 16th, 1861.”

The actual histories relate some happy stories of those who returned and lived long and productive lives, and some sad stories about the Civil War. For instance: “Comrade James W. Goss, who was born the thirteenth day of December A. D., 1825 in Rye County of Rockingham, State of New Hampshire, enlisted in Company A, Fourteenth Regiment, Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, later changed to the First Massachusetts Volunteer Heavy Artillery, and was sworn in as Sergeant at Fort Warren, Boston Harbor, July 5th, 1861, he was afterward First Sergeant, and on August 2nd, 1863, he was made First Lieutenant, he was discharged as such May 17th, 1865, by reason of disability from confinement in Rebel Prison Pens, and close of war.

“Comrade Goss saw service with his regiment in fortifications around Washington, District of Columbia, and in the Second Bull Run Campaign, and in May 1864 they were sent to reinforce General Grant in his Virginia campaign, he took part in the battles of Spotsylvania, Tolopotomy, North Anna River, Cold Harbor, and the battles around Petersburg June 16th, 17th and 18th and 22nd, 1864, when with others he was captured by the Confederates, he was confined in Libby Prison in Richmond, Virginia and then he was sent to Charleston, South Carolina and with other officers placed where they would come under the fire of the Union Batteries on Morris Island, from which they were bombarding the city, from there he was sent to the Prison Pen at Salisbury, North Carolina, where for months without shelter he was exposed to all kinds of weather and without sufficient food he remained until the close of the war when a physical wreck he was returned to the Union lines.

Reunion of Civil War veterans, at the Choate Bridge

“Comrade Goss resided in Ipswich after the war. He was sent for one term to represent the town in the General Court and for several years and until the time of his death he was janitor of the Town Hall. He joined General James Appleton, Post Number 128 Department of Massachusetts, Grand Army of the Republic, July 2nd, 1884, he died January 24th, 1888, and is buried at Ipswich, Massachusetts, in Locust Grove Cemetery.”

This book is the most valuable record of the men of the Civil War and will be preserved forever. —HAROLD D. BOWEN

Plaques honoring veterans of the Civil War at the Ipswich Town Hall

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