I was driving in Holden today on my way to visit a parishioner when I saw a sign in the town center for a Civil War discussion or roundtable at the senior center (or something like that).  I was surprised; the Civil War (War of Southern Independence, Second American Revolution, etc.) doesn’t get much play here in Massachusetts.  In the South, of course, it is a different story – you are never too far from a battlefield or historical place, and the Civil War section of bookstores is usually huge.  There is some natural interest in the Revolutionary War, but nothing like what you see in southern states for the blue and the gray.

As soon as this thought drifted out of my mind, I drove by streets named Vicksburg, Bull Run, and Ft. Sumter.  Clearly, something was going on here!  What possible connection could Holden, Mass. have with the Civil War?  Well, sometimes I forget that this is old town New England.  Most of the people I know in Holden have long names that end in “os” but of course we are not ‘true’ yankees in the classic sense: ).  Holden, as I imagine did most every other New England town, sent its share of boys to the war.  Here is an excerpt from Maj. Isaac Damon’s history of Holden:

When eighty years had passed away, and, with the years, the noble men and women of the Revolutionary times, then was found in their children the same love of liberty and right that characterized them; and we find the following recorded in Schouler’s “History of Massachusetts in the Civil War,” under the name of our town; —

“Population in 1860, 1,945; in 1865, 1,846. Valuation in 1860, $796,813; in 1865, $853,695.

“The first legal town meeting to act upon matters connected with the war was held on the 20th of April, 1861, at which fifteen hundred dollars were appropriated ‘for the benefit of the members of the Holden Rifle Company and their families; the same to be expended under the direction of the selectmen.’ [This was a company in the three months’ service, and left fort the seat of war, April 18th, in the second regiment that went from Massachusetts.] A town meeting was held July 19, which voted ‘to extend the hospitalities of the town to the members of the company on their return from the war.’ One hundred dollars were appropriated for the purpose.”

As the whole town turned out when this company left for the seat of war to bid them farewell and Godspeed, so likewise did they turn out to welcome them home.

“Holden furnished two hundred and four (204) men for the war, which was a surplus of four above the demands. Eleven were commissioned officers. The whole amount of money appropriated and expended by the town on account of the war, exclusive of State aid, was $7,963.38, and a large amount was probably contributed by private subscription. The ladies of Holden on Sunday, April 21, 1861, instead of going to church, met in the town hall, and worked from nine o’clock until sundown for the members of the rifle company which had just started for the seat of war; and, from that time until the close of the Rebellion, they labored faithfully for the benefit of the soldiers, sending their contributions chiefly through the Sanitary and Christian Commission.”

Soon after the close of the war, the Soldiers’ Monument Association was formed, its object being to procure funds to secure some suitable monument to commemorate the fallen soldiers. The funds increased from year to year until 1876, when they amounted to about $1,100. The town hall was extensively remodeled that year, and made into a memorial hall by placing tablets in the interior, bearing the name and date of death of each soldier who gave his life for his country in the late war. The four tablets are of white marble, with which are chiseled several beautiful designs. These tablets are placed at the end of the hall, on either side of the platform, and upon them are the names of thirty soldiers who perished in the war.

Although they are

“Under the sod and the dew Waiting the judgment day,”

Yet the memory of their sacrifice and noble deeds is ever fresh in the hearts of their comrades and fellow-citizens, and from year to year their graves are strewn with garlands of flowers. To narrate the deeds of valor performed, the suffering in rebel prisons, on the march and on the battle-fields, would be only to relate the history of soldiers who went from every town and hamlet in the Old Bay State. The names inscribed upon the tablets are as follows: –

Capt. Ira J. Kelton, George T. Bigelow, Albert Creed, John Fearing, Edward Clark, Charles Gibbs, James W. Goodnow, James W. Haley, Lyman E. Keyes, George W. Newell, Michael Riley, John B. Savage, Amasa A. Howe, George T. Johnson, John K. Houghton, William C. Perry, Levi Chamberlain, Frank Lumazette, Uriah Bassett, Henry M. Fales, George Thurston, Calvin Hubbard, Sergt. Harlan P. Moore, Winslow B. Rogers, Alfred S. Tucker, Henry M. Holt, H. Erskine Black, Elisha C. Davenport, John Handley, Horace L. Truesdell.

The soldiers returning from the war formed Theron E. Hall Post 77, G.A. R. This post holds monthly meetings in the town hall.