Sunday, May 24, 2009

Memorial Day and Brookline's Civil War Dead

The statue of the soldier near the main library is more visible and better known, but I've always been moved more by Brookline's other Civil War memorial. Sitting on the small plaza opposite the entrance to Town Hall, this two-sided memorial consists of eight glass encased panels, one with a flag and the others with words chiseled into stone.

Visually, it's far less dramatic than the statue but unlike the anonymous bugler on his horse this memorial bears the names of 72 Brookline men who died at such places as Antietam, Gettysburg, Chancellorsville, Fredricksburg, the Wilderness, and the notorious Confederate prison at Andersonville, Georgia.

These are storied places for anyone who's read about the Civil War. But they carry a different weight here on the memorial.

A century and a half ago, news of these places arrived in Brookline not just as part of the broad story of the war but as terrible news for families living in streets (and maybe, in a few cases, houses) that are familiar to us today. That's always made the names of these places -- and Brookline at the time of the Civil War -- much more real to me.

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