The soldierly monument, Part 3

A few months after the Dec. 31, 1862-Jan. 2, 1863 Battle of Murfreesboro (or Stones River) in central Tennessee, survivors of the Union brigade led by Col. William Hazen erected this monument alongside the Nashville & Chattanooga Railroad tracks (now CSX owned) in Murfreesboro. This monument is the oldest such Civil War monument still on its original site. (Brian F. Swartz Photo)

With the body of slain Army Maj. Stephen Decatur Carpenter finally arriving home in Bangor, local officials wondered what could be done to honor their hero.

On Saturday evening, February 7, 1862 the Bangor City Council met in special session to resolve “that the Mayor and Two Aldermen … be a committee to procure a burial lot” for Stephen Decatur Carpenter and “that the City Council will attend his funeral.”

Carpenter’s Episcopalian-themed funeral was held at Norumbega Hall on Wednesday, Feb. 11. Two local militia companies — the Independent Fusileers and the Independent Volunteers — escorted Carpenter to the hall and then to Mount Hope Cemetery, which provided “a burial lot” for the hero.

Attorney Charles P. Roberts delivered the eulogy, and with the Bangor Band playing appropriate music, the flag-draped coffin rolled out State Street to the cemetery. “The funeral car … was preceded by a color guard of returned and wounded soldiers, bearing the ensign of the Union,” the Daily Whig & Courier reported on Feb. 12.

Carpenter’s relatives — including his elderly father, who now lived in Houlton — accompanied the body to a grave site near the intersection of today’s Riverside Avenue and Monument Avenue in Mount Hope.

After he was killed at Murfreesboro in Tennessee, Army Maj. Stephen Decatur Carpenter was honored with a hero’s funeral and grave in Bangor. (Courtesy of Elizabeth Bamford Keepper)

Carpenter’s death had pinched a collective Bangorean nerve. “A very general feeling” existed “in favor of some honorable distinction being manifested” to honor Carpenter, and people discussed “the proper course to be pursued,” lawyer Albert W. Paine noted.

Consensus focused on acquiring a lot at Mount Hope where Carpenter and “such citizens as might, during the war fall in battle,” could be buried, according to Paine. “A suitable monument could be erected to their memory” on the site.

Prominent Bangoreans then formed the Soldiers’ Monument Association to raise funds and build an appropriate memorial. Donations dribbled into the dedicated account; not until 1864 could the SMA proceed with the project.

A local grave-stone carver, Simon P. Bradbury, designed the monument and its enclosure, which measured just under 58 feet per side. Bangor-based S.F. Jones & Son built the enclosure (a square not quite 40 feet per side) upon which the monument was placed. Carved at a granite quarry in downriver Frankfort, a stone wall surrounded the enclosure.

Connecting “nine octagonal posts mitred to a point,” the coping wall measured 9 inches thick, 18 inches high on the outside, and 6 inches high inside, reflecting “the ground within being graded up two feet eight inches,” noted Wlliam H. Wheeler, editor of the Daily Whig & Courier.

Quarried in Concord, New Hampshire and sculpted by “Messrs. A.C. Sanborn and Co., of East Cambridge, Mass.,” the multiple-section granite shaft rose 28½ feet . The fourth section, the die, measured 3 feet, 8 inches per side and 5½ feet tall, and stone masons carved specific information on its four faces, each engraved by “a circular band or molding raised on the surface and terminating on each of the four corners in a richly carved corbel,” Wheeler reported.

He walked around the monument, “set in a square, surrounded by a solid stone wall, with corner posts handsomely worked.” The square-centered gray-granite obelisk was “a very handsome structure” that added “materially to the attractions at Mount Hope,” he decided.

After wondering how to honor slain Army Maj. Stephen Decatur Carpenter, Bangor residents raised funds to build a Soldiers’ Monument, the first such privately funded Civil War monument erected in the United States. (Brian F. Swartz Photo)

The monument stood atop a centered “platform of hammered granite twelve feet square,” he said. A 4-foot-wide “walk of smooth granite” ran to the enclosure’s entrance facing State Street, and four 4-foot granite steps dropped to ground level.

He informed his readers that “the monument is now completed and the grounds prepared,” save for “a very small portion of turfing” slated for a June 14 delivery.

Wheeler described the shaft’s four-side engravings. The “Front (south) panel” displayed the memorial’s purpose: “In Memory of OUR CITIZEN SOLDIERS who died for their country. Consecrated 1864.”

The names of the dead flowed counterclockwise, leading off with Gen. Charles D. Jameson on the “East Panel” and winding around the shaft to end with John A. Farnham on the “West Panel.” The East Panel contained 21 names, the North Panel 12 names, and the West Panel 21 names.

Wheeler listed them all, and some Bangoreans likely reacted quite emotionally upon reading the names.

Before workers eased the granite shaft into place, “a metallic box” (a time capsule) went into “a cavity” set inside the bottom of the shaft, according to Wheeler.

Why was the Soldiers’ Monument placed on this particular site at Mount Hope Cemetery? Because Stephen Decatur Carpenter lay there, within the stone enclosure that now surrounded his grave.

Bangor residents planned a dedication ceremony for the new monument, and Carpenter would be there, one way or another.

Sources: Daily Whig & Courier, Tuesday, June 14, 1864; Daily Whig & Courier, Saturday, June 18, 1864

Next week: The war comes home as Bangoreans dedicate their Soldiers’ Monument

For your further reading enjoyment, check out The Monumental Soldier, Part 1 at

http://maineatwar.bangordailynews.com/2018/03/07/the-monumental-soldier-part-i/

and The Monumental Soldier, Part 2 at

http://maineatwar.bangordailynews.com/2018/03/14/the-monumental-soldier-part-2/

The Soldierly Monument, Part 4 at

http://maineatwar.bangordailynews.com/2018/04/04/the-soldierly-monument-part-4/

Brian Swartz can be reached at visionsofmaine@tds.net. He enjoys hearing from Civil War buffs interested in Maine’s involvement in the war.

Brian Swartz

About Brian Swartz

Welcome to "Maine at War," the blog about the roles played by Maine and her sons and daughters in the Civil War. I am a Civil War buff and a newspaper editor recently retired from the Bangor Daily News. Maine sent hero upon hero — soldiers, nurses, sailors, chaplains, physicians — south to preserve their country in the 1860s. “Maine at War” introduces these heroes and heroines, who, for the most part, upheld the state's honor during that terrible conflict. We tour the battlefields where they fought, and we learn about the Civil War by focusing on Maine’s involvement with it. Be prepared: As I discover to this very day, the facts taught in American classrooms don’t always jibe with Civil War reality. I can be reached at visionsofmaine@tds.net.