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Whom to honor? Lines drawn over moving Civil War cannons.

Byline: Karen Nugent

LEOMINSTER - A request to move two of three large Civil War cannons from a monument and burial site in Evergreen Cemetery to a more prominent locale in downtown Carter Park has prompted protest from the graves registration officer of a Civil War organization dedicated to preserving the memories of those who served in that war.

But Thomas K. "Tucker" Hazzard, of the Vietnam Veterans of America and Leominster Historical Society, who submitted a petition to the City Council last week requesting moving two cannons to Carter Park, off Main Street, said they belong in a spot where more people, especially children, can see them.

The three naval "parrott" rifle cannons - a muzzle-loading weapon used extensively during the Civil War - each weigh more than 1,000 pounds. They were originally placed with a fenced-in Civil War monument in the center of town in 1867, but moved to the cemetery in 1984 when downtown traffic was rerouted.

Mr. Hazzard said the intent is to put two cannons beside a statue of Oliver E. Hazard, a soldier who served in the 54th Massachusetts Regiment, an all-black regiment portrayed in the movie "Glory." Mr. Hazzard, who is white, said Friday he is not a descendant of Oliver Hazard.

"It's a more appropriate place to display them, with the Civil War soldier from the 54th Regiment - it's part of history and kids enjoy that," he said.

The statue of Oliver Hazard is the only structure in Carter Park connected to the Civil War. But part of the old Civil War memorial remains in a small common in Monument Square, also downtown, where the cannons - four at the time, one has been missing for years - were first situated. An iron fence around the original monument and cannons was also removed and no longer exists.

Stephen J. Twining of the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War National Graves Registration Committee, said besides the cannons, the Evergreen Cemetery site, called the Grand Army of the Republic plot, is the burial site of at least 374 Civil War soldiers, including a few dozen from Leominster. A total of 48 soldiers from the city died in the war; 404 fought in it.

Mr. Twining contends moving two cannons would diminish the honor of the Civil War veterans buried in the lot to honor a single soldier - Oliver Hazard.

Furthermore, he said moving them will probably require a crane, and the moving of gravestones which likely requires permission from the families of the deceased.

He said the cannons were moved to the cemetery as a group to decorate the section that honors Civil War veterans. The GAR (Grand Army of the Republic), which designated the Sons of Union Veterans of Civil War as its successor, he said, was the first nationwide veterans organization in the U.S.

"The physical location of the GAR plot in military terms happens to be a salient, a piece of land or section of fortification that juts out to form an angle. The remaining three cannon are in a typical position of defense used during the Civil War," he said.

Also, Mr. Twining said the cannons are federal property, and are set in a concrete base which would make it difficult to move them without damage.

He said the original downtown monument erected in 1867 was one of the first in the state.

"This demonstrates the city's recognition of the importance of soldiers' contributions to the war, and to instill that feeling in future generations," he said.

However, Mr. Hazzard said the location of the cannons in an obscure section of a cemetery a few miles from downtown makes it difficult for anyone to see them.

"Things like that tend to get forgotten over the years," he said.

The City Council requested further time on the petition and referred it to the Cemetery Commission, Historical Commission, Public Works Department, Vietnam Veterans of America, Chapter 116, and to the veterans' services director.



CUTLINE: Stephen Twinings of the Sons of Veterans of the Civil War leans against one of the three cannons in the Civil War section of Evergreen Cemetery in Leominster. Mr. Twinings opposes a plan to move the cannons to a memorial downtown.
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Title Annotation:LOCAL NEWS
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Oct 13, 2012
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