Needham, Sumner Henry (1828-1861)

needhamFor several years prior to 1861, Lawrence maintained two companies of state militia.  These companies together with others composing the 6th Regiment M.V.M had already tendered their services to the governor in early January of 1861.  This was the first offer of organized troops for the defense of the national government.  Companies I and F departed Boston on April 17, 1861.  In the march through Baltimore two days later on the 19th they would be attacked by a mob.  A blow from a paving stone wounded Sumner Henry Needham.  Three other members were killed and fifteen wounded.  Corporal Needham would die eight days later on the 27th of April.

Sumner H. Needham was born in Bethel, Maine March 2, 1828.  Before induction in the 6th Regiment of Massachusetts Volunteer Militia, he had resided in the City of Lawrence for 12 years.  At the time of his death he was a corporal in Company I, having been a member for five years.

On May third, Needham’s body was brought to the City of Lawrence and placed in City Hall where thousands of mourners viewed the hero.  The ceremony was led by a number of the clergy of the city.  This was the funeral of the first casualty of the American Civil War.  Corporal Needham was interred in what would become Bellevue Cemetery under a granite monument inscribed:

By the City Government of Lawrence this monument is erected, to endear to posterity the memory of Sumner H. Needham, of company I, Sixth Regiment, M.V.M., who fell a victim to the passions of a Secession mob, during the passage of the regiment through the streets of Baltimore, marching to the defense of the nation’s capital, on the memorable day of 19th of April, A.D., 1861. Aged 33. A loyal North, in common with his widow and only child, mourn his loss.

Two years after the end of hostilities, veterans began to form fraternal organizations called Grand Army of the Republic.  This group was organized into encampments or posts in virtually every community in the north and quite a few in the south.  The first in Lawrence was called the GAR Needham Post #39 in honor of Corporal Needham.  This fraternity raised funds to aid veterans and their families, took care of gravesites, and celebrated their own experiences in local, state, and national encampments.

2 Responses

  1. […] tablets show the names of the 225 men who died in service to the Union with special tribute to Sumner Needham, Laurencian and one of the first to die in the Union army April 19, […]

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