Monday, May 6, 2013

Remembering Brookline's Civil War Dead

Annual Meeting of the Brookline Historical Society
Remembering Brookline's Civil War Dead
Thursday, May 16, 2013 at 7 pm
American Legion / VFW Post, 386 Washington Street

Two years ago, as the town prepared to rededicate its restored 1884 memorial to 72 local men who died in the Civil War, I helped then Building Commissioner Mike Shephard, who was spearheading the effort, by providing some insight into some of the men whose names were chiseled into the marble of the memorial.

Mike chose to tell the story of Lieutenant Colonel Wilder Dwight whose poignant letter to his mother, written while he lay dying on the battlefield at Antietam, is in the collection of the Massachusetts Historical Society.

A month later, I wrote about Dwight and five other Brookline men who lost their lives serving the Union between 1861 and 1865. But it didn't stop there.

A segment of the design for the 1884 Brookline Civil War memorial
A few of the 72 men whose names appear on Brookline's 1884 Civil War Memorial

In the last two years, I've uncovered as much information as I could about all 72 of the soldiers and sailors listed on the memorial. For some, officers and members of prominent families like Wilder Dwight, it was easy. Photographs and correspondence have been preserved; accounts of their lives and deaths were written at the time and later.

But for other men—barely a handful of the 72 were officers and most were tradesman—it was a matter of piecing together details from regimental histories, remembrances of comrades, military and census records, and whatever I could find.

There was the young teamster who came to the U.S. as a toddler in 1832 from County Armagh, a member of the first Irish family to settle in Brookline.

There was the son of a slave-owning family, born in Texas, whose brother died while serving on the other side in the Confederate Army.

There was the 36-year old machinist whose mother received a letter of sympathy from Abraham Lincoln, one of the most famous—and controversial—writings of the 16th president.

There were the three young friends from Kingston, New Hampshire who came to Brookline together to enlist, went into the same artillery unit, were taken prisoner together, and died in the notorious Confederate prison at Andersonville, Georgia.

Please join me and the members of the Brookline Historical Society on May 16th as I share the stories of these men and some twenty more in this special Civil War Sesquicentennial event.  The program is free and open to the public.  Refreshments will be served.

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