Northfield’s Civil War Monument

northfield monumentIn the center of Northfield’s small triangular green sits the borough’s Civil War monument.  While notable for the beautiful flame finial at its top, what really makes this monument remarkable is the story of its origin.

names 2Looking to memorialize the men from Northfield who died during the war, a committee was chosen from a public meeting held at Northfield’s center schoolhouse on January 16, 1866.

names 3This was only nine months after Lee’s surrender at Appomattox, making this one of the oldest Civil War monuments in the country.

flame finialThe site was chosen because it the Episcopal church had recently moved.  Nelson Bolles of Marbledale executed a design for a brownstone obelisk, and a team of thirteen oxen driven by Northfield resident Joel Thorpe brought the monument to Northfield.  Julius Grover, a sculptor whose niece lived in Northfield, carved the remarkable flame finial, which perhaps serves as an eternal flame, reminding future generations of the sacrifices of Northfield’s men in the Civil War.

lincolnThe names of the dead are carved on three sides of the monument, and are joined by the name “LINCOLN”, whose assassination was still fresh in people’s minds.  Also carved on the monument are the words “That the generations to come might know them,” taken from Psalm 78.

names 1

The men listed on the Northfield monument are:
Morton Castle, died of wounds received at the Battle of Antietam
Charles Castle, died in a Virginia hospital
Horace Hubbard, killed at Winchester
Hiram Cooley, killed at Winchester
David Wooster, killed at Fisher’s Hill
Walter Hale, killed at Chancellorsville
Joseph Camp, killed at Cold Harbor
Henry Miner, died in a Virginia hospital
Apollos Morse, killed at Cold Harbor

flame finialWhile the committee hoped the monument would be in place by July 4th, 1866 (the nation’s 90th birthday), delays postponed the dedication until September.    Still, Northfield’s monument was dedicated eight years before Litchfield’s Civil War monument, and twenty years ahead of the nationwide movement to memorialize its Civil War dead.

(NOTE:  The Civil War monument in Berlin, Connecticut, erected in July 1863, is believed to be the oldest in the country.  See The Hartford Courant, March 24, 2013.)

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Revolutionary War Soldiers’ Tree

Rev war Tree 2

This small marker stands at the southeast corner of the eastern section of the Litchfield Green.

The first Arbor Day was held on April 10, 1872 and became an international event eleven years later when Birdsley Northrup of Kent, Connecticut, introduced the event to Japan.  However, Theodore Roosevelt’s ascendency to the presidency in 1901 and his emphasis on conservation issues sparked a nationwide surge of interest in Arbor Day.

In 1902 the Mary Floyd Tallmadge Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution celebrated the first Arbor Day of Roosevelt’s presidency by planting a tree on the Litchfield Green to commemorate the services of the town’s Revolutionary War soldiers.

Revolutionary War Soldiers

In all, 507 men from Litchfield served the Patriot cause between 1775 and 1783.  The first to serve were the men of the company led by David Welch of Milton, who were called up soon after news of Lexington and Concord arrived.  A second company enlisted in January 1776 to serve for the defense of New York City.  They drafted a contract specifying the terms of their service under Major General Charles Lee, stating that they were convinced of “the Necessity of a body of Forces to defend against certain Wicked Purposes formed by the instruments of Ministerial Tyranny.”  They specified, however, that they would not serve for more than eight weeks, and stated that General Lee had “given his Word and Honor” to uphold these terms.

fort washington

The Battle of Fort Washington

In November 1776 another company of Litchfield men under Captain Bezaleel Beebe set off for New York.  Thirty-six handpicked men of the company under Captain Beebe were sent to reinforce the American garrison at Fort Washington (today the Manhattan end of the George Washington Bridge).  The men marched into a trap, and were forced to surrender with the entire 2,600 man garrison of the fort.  Although the men were exchanged about a month later, only 11 of these men made it home to Litchfield.

In March 1777 a new call for troops went out, and Litchfield was tasked with enlisting 92 of its men.  The town voted to pay 12 pounds per year to each soldier and to supply “necessaries” to each soldier’s family.  A final call for troops reached town in 1781, and a “selective draft” took place, in which the town was divided into three classes and each class was expected to raise a certain number of men.

Interior of the Old Jersey Prison Ship

Interior of a British prison ship

In addition to those men who were killed and wounded in battle, twenty Litchfield men died while on the dreaded British prison ships.

Rev War Tree

Today, a small stone marker stands at the foot of the tree dedicated to these soldiers.  Its faded inscription reads:

Planted in Memory of

Litchfield’s Revolutionary Soldiers

by the

Mary Floyd Tallmadge Chapter

DAR

Arbor Day 1902