The Training Field
Charlestown’s "Outdoor Room" has an important history as a memorial to fallen soldiers.
The Training Field started life in the 1640s as a training ground for colonial militia. On the field, which also was used for farm land, soldiers gathered for military exercises. On their march into Charlestown in 1775, colonials mustered in the field before meeting the British advance at Breed’s Hill. Along with most of the town the field was destroyed.
During the town’s reconstruction in the 1780s, the present site was established. In the early 19th Century there was a firehouse, along with a munitions depot and a schoolhouse. Ultimately the depot was destroyed and the schoolhouse and firehouse were relocated, off the green.
The Soldiers and Sailors Monument, the Training Field’s magnificent centerpiece and one of the first examples of Civil War commemorative statuary, was dedicated in 1872. Martin Milmore, an Irish immigrant, was the sculptor. The towering female figure represents America, crowning a soldier and a sailor with a laurel wreath. Three thousand Charlestown men who fought in the Civil War are commemorated here. It feels like a perfect resting place.
At the Winthrop and Adams Street entrance are the "Fallen Tablets," large bronze tablets erected in 1889 with the names etched of the colonial soldiers who fell in battle. From payroll records of 1775, discovered in the late 19th Century, it was discerned that 140 colonial soldiers died in the Battle of Bunker Hill. On the tablets, regiments and soldiers names are listed.
There are five entrances to the park. At three of the entrances are newly installed information panels that are an excellent addition to the understanding of the history of this small piece of land. One recounts the history of the park and the various changes it has seen. Another discusses the preservation challenges the park has faced and a third speaks to the commemorative, memorial aspect of the Training Field.
Visiting the park, reading the panels, sitting on a bench watching the beautiful trees -- there’s no wonder they call it "Charlestown’s Outdoor Room."
- Where is it?
At Common, Adams and Winthrop Streets
- When was it built?
It first started life as a training ground for colonial militia in the 1640s.
- Who built it?
It was one of the "common lands" of the Charlestown settlement, most likely built by early settlers and farmers.
- What was it built for and who was the first occupant?
As a training area for colonial militia; the local militia.
- Why was it built?
Training fields were an important part of the early New England landscape. Local militia used the parks for annual muster days, when they gathered for roll call, inspection and parade.
- What are the future plans for the structure?
In 2008 the Civil War statue was restored and just in time, as some of the stone was crumbling and it may have collapsed. The statue was always beautiful. Now it’s exalted. In 2009 the Charlestown Preservation Society secured a grant which allowed for the interpretive panels at three of the entrances to be researched and installed. The Doll Carriage Parade still marches here the week-end of the Bunker Hill Day Parade. Sometimes there’s a fair or a flea market. Beautiful, restful life goes on in the field.
Information for this article was compiled with information from various web-sites including www.charlestownpreservation.org/preservationprojects.html and www. friendsofthetrainingfield.org.