On Saturday, May 28, bands will play and flags will wave as hundreds of people march by the library in Raynham’s Memorial Day parade. Parades have been a traditional part of Memorial Day since just after the Civil War when veterans remembered their fallen comrades by decorating their graves. This Decoration Day, which gradually came to be called Memorial Day, is an opportunity for us to pause and remember all who have died in the service of our country.
If marchers look to their left as they pass through the intersection of South Main and Orchard, they’ll see the most recent memorial to Raynham’s war dead, the plaque honoring Medal of Honor recipient, Sergeant Jared C. Monti, killed in action in Afghanistan in 2006. If marchers look to their right as they march pass the library a few steps on, they’ll see Raynham’s first memorial to its war dead, the tall elegant statue honoring those who served 1861-1865.
The statue is dedicated to the memory of those who “served, suffered or died in the Civil War,” and was erected by a unanimous vote of the Raynham Library Association in 1899. With a generous gift from Miss Amy Leonard and friends, the association authorized the statue to be erected on land held in trust for the future site of a public library. The statue stood alone for more than 50 years, a silent reminder of the devastating loss wrought by the carnage of the Civil War. It wasn’t until 1949, that a library building was constructed on the site. It is significant – and speaks to their patriotism – that those early library benefactors wanted to ensure that there be a “perpetual memorial for all future times of the patriotic services and lives of the Raynham soldiers,” even before there was a library building.
Tradition has it that the statue depicts Private Frederick C. Anderson (1842-1884), a Raynham resident who served with the 18th Massachusetts Infantry. He was awarded the Medal of Honor for capturing a Confederate battle flag and its bearer at the battle of Weldon Railroad in Virginia in August 1864.
The smaller monument to the right of the Civil War statue was erected by the town in 1928 and commemorates and lists by name the more than 50 from Raynham who “entered the service of their country during the World War.” To the left of the statue is the memorial to those who served in World War II. Of the 250 individuals listed there are eight names marked with an asterisk, indicating those who died in the service of their country. Two other sites in Raynham honor those who served in wars and conflicts. They are ever present reminders of the long line of men and women who, throughout the history of our town, have made the ultimate sacrifice. We honor them this Memorial Day.