After Army Maj. Stephen Decatur Carpenter pitched dead from his horse at Murfreesboro, Tenn. on Wednesday, Dec. 31, 1862, Bangor residents finally realized that many Bangor boys were dying in the Civil War.
Among the Bangor men who had already died to preserve the Union were:
• Sgt. William Deane, a colorbearer for the 2nd Maine Infantry, fell at First Manassas on July 21, 1861;
• Col. Charles Jameson, who commanded the 2nd Maine, died of typhoid fever at home in Old Town on Nov. 6, 1862. Both Bangor and Old Town claim himed among their respective pantheons of Civil War heroes; he lies buried in the Riverside Cemetery in Stillwater.
• Maj. William Pitcher of the 4th Maine Infantry fell at Fredericksburg on Dec. 13, 1862. He was buried at Mount Hope Cemetery in Bangor 13 days later.
• Confederates captured Capt. John Ayer, also of the 4th Maine Infantry, after he fell wounded at Fredericksburg. Ayer survived some weeks in a Richmond prison before dying.
Now Carpenter was dead, and because “he was recognized as a Bangor boy” and his “family had no burial lot” in Bangor, “it became a matter of much interest and discussion among the citizens as to what dispositions should be made of his remains,” Albert Ware Paine wrote in his “History of the Soldiers’ Monument.”
During a special Bangor City Council meeting held Saturday evening, Feb. 7, 1863, councilors resolved “that the Mayor and Two Aldermen … be a committee to procure a burial lot” for Carpenter and “that the City Council will attend his funeral,” the Daily Whig and Courier reported.
From this resolve grew an effort to build and dedicate a monument to Bangor’s dead soldiers.
Probably during the same Feb. 7 city council meeting, “the suggestion was made” to reserve a lot “at Mt Hope Cemetery for the burial of such [men] as should thus be brought home [dead] from the war” and “that a monument should then be erected upon it in memory” of those men, Paine wrote.
This proposal appeared in the Feb. 10 Daily Whig and Courier, and Bangor residents launched an effort to raise funds for the burial site and monument.
Paine was among six men appointed as trustees for the organization responsible for acquiring the burial lot and designing the monument; the other trustees were James Fiske, Moses Giddings, Charles Hayward, Augustus Manson, and Alonzo Weed. The organization “became a legal corporation on the 28th of March 1863” according to the Soldiers’ Monument dedication program published on June 17, 1864.
On April 13, 1863 the trustees appointed Simon Bradbury, Bangor Mayor Samuel Dale, and Bangor businessman Charles Stetson to an executive committee authorized “to obtain, enclose and embellish the lot, and erect the Monument,” according to the dedication program.
Supporters purchased “subscriptions” to fund the project; “including interest, the amount” raised was $3,486. 54, according to Paine.
Selecting a lot at the intersection of today’s Riverside Avenue and Monument Avenue in Mount Hope Cemetery, the executive committee members envisioned a monument made from gray granite. According to its dominant engraving facing the Penobscot River, the monument was erected “In Memory Of Our Citizen Soldiers Who Died For Their Country. Consecrated 1864.”
Supporters “originally [planned] to have the names of all such [men] as should die in the war, inscribed on the monument,” Paine noted. The names of Bangor soldiers who had already died would be “engraved on the stone previous to its being put in place.”
Through 1863 and into 1864, however, more Bangor boys died while in military service, and Stetson and other monument backers realized that even more local men would die after the monument was dedicated. So “the great number of those who afterwards were added to the list of the dead rendered it difficult to have their names carved on the monument,” Paine wrote.
And, by the way, “the great expense” of carving those additional names “prevented the work from being effected,” he admitted.
The site was prepared for the monument in spring 1864, and “after the grounds were suitably arranged … the remains of Col. Carpenter (who had been buried adjacent to the site) were deposited within the enclosure,” Paine wrote. Apparently the body of his 9½-month-old son, John, was also exhumed and placed beside his father.
Backers recommended “that the anniversary of the Battle of Bunker Hill be fixed upon for its (monument’s) consecration,” the dedication program indicated.
So at “7 o’clock” on a hot Friday, June 17, a “procession was formed on Main Street” in Bangor “under the direction of Col. Israel B. Norcross, Chief Marshal,” according to the program. The Bangor Cornet Band, a cornet band, a “company of cavalry,” a “squadron of artillery,” Companies A and B of the Maine State Guards, various Army officers, and the “venerable citizenry” marched along State Street to Mount Hope Cemetery.
People packed the grounds around the Soldiers’ Monument and listened as ministers and politicians spoke; Among the latter was Vice President Hannibal Hamlin.
After the ceremony, people lingered to talk about the Soldiers’ Monument and the men they knew whose names were engraved upon three of its four sides. Fifty-five names were ultimately placed on the monument; Stephen Decatur Carpenter tops the list on the side facing intown Bangor; William L. Pitcher tops the list on the side facing Mount Hope Avenue.
Charles Jameson tops the list on the side facing Veazie. Deane is listed directly below him.
Paine was aware of the monument’s national significance. “The monument … is presumed to be the first of the kind erected in the U.S. to the memory of those who fell in the War of the Rebellion,” he wrote not long after the June 1864 ceremony.
While Bangor’s monument was among the initial civic monuments erected, at least one monument had already appeared on a battlefield. In summer 1863, soldiers from a brigade commanded by Col. William Babcock Hazen volunteered to build a monument memorializing comrades killed during the Battle of Murfreesboro, where Carpenter had been killed. The brigade comprised the 6th Kentucky Infantry, the 110th Illinois Infantry, the 9th Indiana Infantry, and the 41st Ohio Infantry.
The volunteers cut limestone blocks and used them to build the Hazen Brigade Monument, which was later enclosed by the Stones River National Cemetery in Murfreesboro. The monument was essentially completed that summer, less than a year before Bangor residents dedicated their Soldiers’ Monument.
Also among the earliest battlefield monuments to be erected by Union troops were those on Henry House Hill and near the Deep Cut at Manassas, Va. They were consecrated on June 10, 1865. The monument on Henry House Hill was dedicated to the “Memory of the Patriots Who Fell at Bull Run July 21, 1861.”
When the Soldiers’ Monument was dedicated in Bangor, though, “no earlier one (monument) was at the time or since ascertained … to have been undertaken or finished,” Paine stressed in his “History of the Soldiers’ Monument.”
Carpenter and his son remained buried next to the monument until September 1881. During their Aug. 13, 1881 special meeting, the Soldiers’ Cemetery trustees “voted that the Friends and relatives of Maj. S.D. Carpenter, whose remains are deposited in the lot of the Soldiers Monument[,] be permitted to remove said remains and also those of the son which are in said lot.”
So the bodies of Stephen and John Carpenter were placed side by side off Central Avenue in Mount Hope Cemetery. Today, the only identified Civil War graves still located within the Soldiers’ Monument enclosure are those of John Ayer and the Rev. Henry C. Henries.