Boston police are investigating after the sword from the Robert Gould Shaw and Massachusetts 54th Regiment Memorial on Boston Common was found on the ground by a concerned citizen early Tuesday morning.
A police spokeswoman said officials believe the memorial, which is across from the State House, was vandalized.
Sean Hennessey, a spokesman for the National Park Service of Boston, said a park service ranger responded to the memorial around 7:30 a.m., after a pedestrian had flagged down a police officer to report that the sword was broken.
The sword was given to the Friends of the Public Garden, the group that works in partnership with Boston Parks to tend to the Boston Common, Commonwealth Mall, and the Public Garden, to see if the sword can be reused or if it has to be replaced.
Hennessey said “The Friends” work closely with the National Park Service and keep a supply of replica fiberglass swords on hand, because similar acts of vandalism have occurred in the past.
“It’s fair to say that it has happened with some frequency,” he said.
Hennessey said he was unsure if the latest incident was an act of vandalism, but he doubted “very much that it just fell off.”
In 2015, a 40-year-old Charlestown man was charged with vandalizing the memorial after he allegedly broke off the sword.
And in 2012, a woman was arrested after police said she threw yellow paint onto the historic monument.
The memorial is a tribute to the 54th Regiment, the first documented unit of African-Americans to fight in the Civil War. It depicts Colonel Robert Gould Shaw of Boston on horseback, clutching the sword in his hand while marching with soldiers to the battle of Fort Wagner, in South Carolina, on July 18, 1863.
The memorial was unveiled in 1897. It was created by artist Augustus Saint-Gaudens, according the National Park Service’s website.
On Feb. 16, Mayor Martin J. Walsh tweeted about the memorial as part of a series of tweets celebrating black leaders for Black History Month.
“Have you noticed the Robert Gould Shaw and the 54th Regiment memorial outside of the State House?” he wrote, encouraging residents to learn about the site.