Melvin Memorial, Concord, Mass (2)

The Melvin Memorial at Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in Concord, around 1910-1920. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

The scene in 2020:

As explained in the previous post, the Melvin Memorial was created in honor of Concord natives Asa, John, and Samuel Melvin. These three brothers all died during the Civil War, and in 1897 their only surviving brother, James C. Melvin, commissioned prominent sculptor Daniel Chester French to design a memorial for them. It was dedicated here in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in 1909, and it features a relief sculpture titled Mourning Victory. The sculpture shows Victory draped in a flag and carrying a laurel sprig to symbolize the Union victory in the war, but it also shows Victory with downcast eyes, representing the loss of life that was required in order to win the war.

In more than a century since the first photo was taken, remarkably little has changed here in this scene. Sleepy Hollow Cemetery was designed as a natural, park-like cemetery that could be used by both the living and the dead, and it has retained that same appearance over the years. Even the tree in the center of the first photo appears to be the same one that is still standing here in the 2020 photo. As for the memorial itself, it underwent a major restoration from 2018 to 2019, including cleaning, repointing, and repairing the marble, along with replacing the tablets beneath the sculpture of Victory. As a result, the memorial now looks essentially the same as it did the first photo, and it stands as a significant work by one of the nation’s leading sculptors of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Melvin Memorial, Concord, Mass

The Melvin Memorial at Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in Concord, around 1909-1912. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

The scene in 2020:

This monument in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery was dedicated in 1909 in honor of Asa, John, and Samuel Melvin, three brothers who died during the Civil War. All three were Concord natives, and they served in Company K of the First Massachusetts Heavy Artillery. Their deaths represented three of the leading causes of death in the war: disease, combat, and poor conditions prisoner of war camps. John died of dysentery in 1863, Asa was killed in battle during the siege of Petersburg in 1864, and Samuel died of disease and malnutrition in 1864 at the Andersonville prison in Georgia, following his capture after the Battle of Spotsylvania.

A fourth brother, James C. Melvin, was too young to join older siblings at the start of the war, but he enlisted later in the war once he was old enough. He was the only one to survive the war, and he went on to become a businessman in Boston, where he was involved in a cold storage company. One of his goals was to create a memorial in honor of his three older brothers, so in 1897 he commissioned prominent sculptor Daniel Chester French to design one.

Although a native of New Hampshire, French was no stranger to Concord. One of his first major works was The Minute Man, a bronze statue dedicated in 1875 at Old North Bridge, at the site of the Battle of Concord. That iconic symbol of the American Revolution has remained one of his most famous works, perhaps eclipsed only by one of his last works, the 30-foot marble statue of Abraham Lincoln inside the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.

For the Melvin Memorial, French drew little inspiration from existing Civil War monuments, which typically featured some variation of a uniformed soldier holding a rifle. Instead, he took inspiration from classical art, creating a relief sculpture that he titled Mourning Victory. The design features a seven-foot-tall figure of Victory emerging from the marble, draped in an American flag and carrying a laurel sprig. These symbols express patriotism and the triumphant victory of the Union during the war, but French also portrayed Victory with downcast eyes, mourning the human cost of that victory. Directly beneath the sculpture are tablets for each of the three brothers, with inscriptions identifying them and the circumstances of their deaths. The other inscription on the memorial, located below Victory, reads:

In memory of three brothers born in Concord who as private soldiers gave their lives in the war to save the country this memorial is placed here by their surviving brother, himself a private soldier in the same war.

“I with uncovered head
Salute the sacred dead
Who went and who return not”

The memorial was dedicated on June 16, 1909, in a ceremony that was well attended by surviving members of the First Massachusetts Heavy Artillery. The first photo was taken shortly after the dedication, and it shows the monument in its location in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery. However, while it is in a cemetery, none of the brothers are actually buried here beneath the memorial. Only John’s body was returned home during the war, and he is buried elsewhere in the cemetery in the family plot, alongside his brother James, who died in 1915. As for the other two brothers, Samuel is buried in the Andersonville National Cemetery, while Asa lies in a mass grave in Petersburg.

Today, more than a century after the dedication of the Melvin Memorial, it still looks essentially the same as it did in the first photo, thanks to a restoration project that was completed in 2019. It is regarded as one of Daniel Chester French’s finest works, and a replica of it—which was also commissioned by James Melvin—is housed in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Overall, perhaps the only thing that has changed here in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery since the first photo was taken is the number of gravestones, which has obviously increased over the years. Appropriately enough, one of these stones is for Daniel Chester French himself, who died in 1931 and is buried up on the ridge behind the memorial.

Josiah Gilbert Holland Gravestone, Springfield, Mass

The gravestone of author Josiah Gilbert Holland in Springfield Cemetery, around 1892. Image from Picturesque Hampden (1892).

The scene in 2020:

Josiah Gilbert Holland was a prominent author during the second half of the 19th century, writing a variety of works, including novels, poems, history books, and advice books. He was also an assistant editor of the Springfield Republican, and he was one of the founders of the magazine Scribner’s Monthly. Born in Belchertown in 1819, Holland moved to Springfield as an adult, and he spent much of his literary career here, before moving to New York in the early 1870s. He died there in 1881, but his body was returned to Springfield, where he was buried here in Springfield Cemetery.

Holland’s books are rarely read today, in part because of the overly sentimental and moralistic style of his writings. However, these same qualities made his works very popular with the general public during the Victorian era, and after his death he was memorialized here at his gravesite with a bronze bas relief sculpture by prominent sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens. It features a profile image of Holland, with a sprig of lily-of-the-valley behind him, and the inscription “Et Vitam Impendere Vero,” which translates to “To devote one’s life to truth.” Beneath the bas relief, the base of the monument features another inscription that reads “For the great hereafter I trust in the infinite love as it is expressed to me in the life and death of my lord and saviour Jesus Christ.”

The first photo was taken only about a decade after Holland’s burial. Since then, several more gravestones have been added to this scene, but otherwise very little has changed here. Holland himself has been largely forgotten by readers and literary scholars, but his monument has been well-preserved throughout this time, and it remains one of the most artistically-significant gravestones in Springfield.

Civil War Soldier’s Monument, Springfield, Mass

The Civil War monument at the soldiers’ plot in Springfield Cemetery, around 1892. Image from Picturesque Hampden (1892).

The scene in 2020:

Springfield has three major Civil War statues in honor of its veterans. Of these, the one at Court Square is by far the largest and most visible, but the city’s first monument was the one shown here in these two photos. It was dedicated in 1877, and it stands in the soldiers’ plot in Springfield Cemetery, near the main entrance. It features a granite base topped by a bronze soldier, which was designed by noted sculptor Henry J. Ellicott and cast by Maurice J. Power at the National Fine Art Foundry in New York City. The funds for the monument came from the Soldiers’ Rest Association, which had been established during the war to provide assistance to soldiers. At the end of the war, a little over $4,000 remained in this fund, and this money was used to commission this monument.

The first photo shows the monument in the early 1890s, less than 15 years after its dedication. At the time, it was joined by four bronze cannons that had been donated by the United States government, but these have since been removed. Otherwise, the only significant difference between these two photos is the number of headstones here, as there were many Civil War veterans who were still alive when the first photo was taken. There are now about 200 veterans buried here in the soldiers’ plot, with some here in the upper section next to the statue, and others in the lower section on the other side of the trees.

Governor Buckingham Statue, Connecticut State Capitol, Hartford

The statue of Governor William A. Buckingham in the west atrium of the Connecticut State Capitol in Hartford, around 1891. Image from Hartford Illustrated (1891).

The scene in 2019:

William A. Buckingham served as governor of Connecticut from 1858 to 1866, including for the entire duration of the Civil War. During that time, he was instrumental in recruiting soldiers for the state regiments, in addition to raising money to equip them. In several instances, he even took out personal loans in order to ensure that Connecticut soldiers were paid in a timely manner. Because of his actions, he earned the respect of the state’s veterans, and he was subsequently elected to the U.S. Senate, where he served from 1869 until his death in 1875.

The current Connecticut State Capitol was completed in 1878, and the west atrium was designated as the Hall of Flags, to display the battle flags of the state’s various Civil War regiments. These flags were placed here on September 17, 1879—the anniversary of the Battle of Antietam—with a celebration that included a parade of more than ten thousand veterans. Then, five years later, the state installed this statue of Governor Buckingham, which was designed by Olin L. Warner, a prominent sculptor from Suffield, Connecticut. It was unveiled here on June 18, 1884 with similar fanfare, including a large parade of veterans and speeches by state dignitaries.

The first photo was taken around 1891, and very little has changed since then. The atrium is a little more crowded now, because of added security at the entrance, but the statue of Governor Buckingham is still here, as are most of the regimental flags. The capitol building was extensively restored during the 1980s, and during this time many of the flags were also restored. After being on display for well over a century, most were badly deteriorated, with some even falling off of their poles. Of the 110 flags, 73 were restored in the 1980s. Funding has been a challenge since then, but more flags have continued to be conserved over the years, and have been put back on display here in the Hall of Flags.

Nathan Hale State, Connecticut State Capitol, Hartford

The Nathan Hale statue inside the Connecticut State Capitol in Hartford, around 1891. Image from Hartford Illustrated (1891).

The statue in 2019:

Perhaps the most celebrated Revolutionary War figure from Connecticut is Nathan Hale, the young schoolteacher-turned-soldier who was hanged as a spy in 1776. He is memorialized by several statues throughout the state, including here in the east wing of the state capitol building. This statue was designed in 1886 by sculptor Karl Gerhardt, and it is made of bronze atop a marble base, on which is inscribed Hale’s famous, if possibly apocryphal last words: “I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country.”

The statue was formally unveiled here in the capitol on June 14, 1887, in a ceremony attended by dignitaries such as Governor Phineas C. Lounsbury and Mayor Morgan Bulkeley, who would later go on to become governor and U.S. senator. The dedication address was presented by Charles Dudley Warner, a writer whose most famous work was the novel The Gilded Age: A Tale of Today, which he had co-authored with fellow Hartford resident Mark Twain.

The first photo was taken about four years after the statue was installed here, and since then essentially nothing has changed in this scene. The statue is still here in the same spot, and the interior of the capitol itself has remained well-preserved, retaining its original ornate Victorian-era design.