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Inside the USS Kearsage Monument


The Goodwin connection

Kearsage_Ichabod_GoodwinBut where to put the monument? When Mayor Eldredge could find no suitable piece of city property for a new park, he bought the land himself from the descendants of the late Gov. Ichabod Goodwin with the stipulation that the park remain open to the public for eternity. Goodwin Field, as it was known, was located across Islington Street from the family mansion. Most people get confused at this point in the story because the stately Goodwin Mansion no longer looks out over Goodwin Park. There's a one-story brick furniture antiques store there now. The governor’s grand home was moved in the mid-1960s to its current location at Strawbery Banke Museum on the south side of town.

In 1888 the location for the new park was ideal. Goodwin (he died in 1882) was renowned as New Hampshire's "Civil War Governor." Born in North Berwick, Maine in 1794, Ichabod Goodwin moved to Portsmouth at age 14 during the city’s hey-day as a seaport. Goodwin wisely became president of the local railroad company as the city’s shipping industry faded. By the Civil War the influential governor was able to privately raise $650,000 for President Abraham Lincoln's early war effort.


The triumphant dedication

The City gained a new memorial at no cost and a park to put it in. The ornate Soldiers and Sailors Memorial was dedicated on July 4, 1888. The local newspaper described the event in glowing detail.

“Never was seen in Portsmouth such a gathering of battle-scarred heroes,” the paper reported, “as composed the Grand Army division of the parade. Several one-armed men were conspicuous, at least one wooden-legged veteran marched over the whole route, while one noble fellow, apparently totally blind, marched bravely on, fingers interlocked with two comrades for guidance. Such sites were more than heroic -- they were sublime."

Marcellus Eldrege made his mark on history with what he believed to be a rock solid monument. The town turned out in full with an estimated 5,000 outsiders coming in by trains that ran hours late due to overcrowding. The visiting NH governor, with a pressing commitment in Amesbury, left before the action even started.

There were the usual military bands, parades and speeches. Crewman from both Kearsage and Alabama were in attendance. Things went swimmingly, except when the drapery covering the monument caught on one of the statues during the unveiling ceremony. A spectator had to climb up the monument to release it so the memorial could be revealed. Police reported few criminal incidents and an uncharacteristic lack of public drunkenness, which often left even very young boys passed out in the streets after local celebrations. The ideal day was marred only by the accidental death of one boy who came in from the Isles of Shoals for the festival and was accidentally killed during the fireworks display.



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Wednesday, January 17, 2018 
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