The boulder quietly marks time amidst the everyday buzz of Medford Square, with cars circling the Burying Ground like planes preparing for a landing at nearby Logan Airport. It’s a nice touch, really, a nod to tough New Hampshire granite, honoring the men who left New Hampshire to fight in the Battle of Bunker Hill who never returned. They’re buried in Medford, and the engraved boulder placed here in 1849 honors their sacrifice.
The Salem Street Burying Ground is a time capsule back to the earliest days of American history, surrounded on all sides by a perimeter of brick walls, roads and buildings. Medford is not what it was in 1775, but then, everything changed after Bunker Hill. Everything but the quietly stoic gravestones standing in rows around the boulder, like the soldiers themselves once lined up to battle men not much different from themselves. Enemies by fate and events bigger than themselves.
New Hampshire sent its share of men to fight at Bunker Hill, most famously John Stark. If you look at the roster of soldiers from New Hampshire you see an extensive list from all parts of the state. By my count, 32 were killed on June 17, 1775 and two died from their wounds within a few days. No New Hampshire town paid a bigger price than Hollis, with 25% of the killed in action originating from this small community.
Many of the British soldiers killed that day are entombed in the crypt at Old North Church in Boston. For the Americans killed that day, many are buried in small burial grounds throughout the area. This one in the heart of Medford, a little more than 4 miles from Breed’s and Bunker Hill, offers a small tribute to New Hampshire’s lost soldiers.
I wonder about that final journey for these men. Did all of them make it to marked graves like the ones here, or were some buried in places now covered over by the relentless march of progress? For many, their final resting place, like many of their names, is lost to history.