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The Melvin Memorial

Excerpted from The Melvin Memorial: A Brother's Tribute, Exercises at Dedication, June 16, 1909, published in 1910, James C. Melvin, a copy of which was kindly donated to us by Dr. Mary D. Coyne of Wellesley, MA.
Editor's Note: This book includes all of the post prandial speeches given following the dedication dinner (menu included), as well as the diary of Samuel Melvin, who died at Andersonville Prison, and other information about Andersonville and the First Massachusetts Heavy Artillery. It has a small tag bound inside the front cover "With the compliments of the surviving brother."

from the cover of the book, duplicate of what is on the memorial, once for each brotherThe Memorial which Mr. James C. Melvin has caused to be erected in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, Concord, Mass., to his three brothers -- Asa Heald Melvin, John Heald Melvin, and Samuel Melvin...-- who, enlisting as private soldiers in the United States service in the Civil War, had died either in battle, hospital, or Rebel prison, was dedicated on Wednesday, June 16, 1909, the anniversary of the charge at Petersburg in which one of the three was killed.

Although nearly forty-five years had elapsed since the close of the war, eighty-eight members of the First Massachusetts Heavy Artillery, the regiment of which the three brothers whose services were commemorated had been members, responded to Mr. Melvin's invitation to dedicate the Memorial. They were escorted to and from the cemetery by twenty of the twenty-five surviving members of Old Concord Post, No. 180, G.A.R.

click to enlarge -- Mourning Victory(Preface by Alfred S. Roe, Editor)
Occasionally a dream is realized. That a lad in his teens, his soul filled with love for his brothers, sorrow for their untimely deaths, and admiration for their daring and devotion, should in visions see a fitting monument to their memory is not so strange, but that he, in his later manhood, should be able to see his dream take tangible form is almost marvelous. Then, too, comes another happy feature in that he is able to summon to the dedication of his tribute the old companions of the "early fallen," those who knew his brothers when all were replete with life and energy, and they alone, with unstudied word, devote the memorial to its solemn mission. They are neither great scholars nor writers of note, but their expressions of memory and love come bright from their recollections of more than forty years.

It has been said that no equal area in the world contains so many graves of famous people of letters as does that burial-ground, known as "Sleepy Hollow" of Concord. It is a fact that were all the dwellers there simultaneously to respond to the resurrection-call, Thoreau would be within easy conversing distance form Hawthorne and Emerson, and all could readily talk with the Alcotts, the father and his still more noted daughters, while a minute's walk would carry the entire group to the enclosure where now reposes the mortality of Samuel Hoar and his far wider-known sons, E. Rockwood and George Frisbie. Well worn are the paths leading to the last resting-places of these men and women of world-wide repute, and worthy, indeed, must be the memorial which will in any degree divide with them the interest of visitors. It would seem that an addition has been made to the shrines of the Cemetery, and the pilgrims who resort thither already ask for the "Mourning Victory" [photo at left] who maintains sleepless vigils over her sacred trust.

When the brother sought a sculptor who could embody in marble the thought which had crowded his brain for many a weary year, fortunate was he in finding him in the person of his old associate and friend, Daniel Chester French, himself a Concord boy and man, whose Minute Man of 1775 had, in one brief day, written the name of the artist high on the scroll of fame. Entering into the mind and heart of the loving kinsman, he gives to the clay and marble an embodiment which even the untaught at once recognize as a life-like realization of man's love for man and reverence for his manly virtues. Though the dead do not appear in solid form, yet every beholder is is conscious that Victory ever sees the "Embattled Farmer," whether he stands by the "rude bridge which arched the flood," or at hospital cot, in the battle-front or in starving stockade, almost a century later, he gives his life for country.

While a generation intervenes between the figure by the riverside and that which holds its solemn trust in Sleep Hollow, and though the touch of the great artist is seen in many a labor elsewhere, even he must grant that all other work, however beautiful, lacks the soul which home and heart have imparted to his earliest and his latest. To paint the lily as ever been deemed the severest of tasks, yet even this, our artist, inspired by friendship and appreciation of the true and the beautiful, has accomplished in that his chisel and genius have added new interest to the home of the dead in Concord.

Photos and other images: From the book "The Melvin Memorial" as sited above, including title of article from book cover.
Wreath and rifle image right top: from cover of book, duplicated from the memorial, where it is depicted three times, once for each brother
Left: "Mourning Victory"
Bottom right: Asa, John, and Samuel Melvin (from top to bottom)

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