Massachusetts Civil War History

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Massachusetts in the American Civil War

Massachusetts Civil War History

Massachusetts and the Civil War
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(Map) Evolution of Massachusetts


Massachusetts was one of the 13 colonies that participated in the American Revolution and it became the sixth U.S. state on February 6, 1788. It was the first state to abolish slavery and according to the 1790 U.S. census, no slaves were recorded in the state. Massachusetts was host to the Mayflower and the Plymouth Colony; the Boston Massacre and Boston Tea Party; and the Battles of Lexington and Concord.

Massachusetts, officially the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, is a state in the New England region of the northeastern United States of America. It is bordered by Rhode Island and Connecticut to the south, New York to the west, and Vermont and New Hampshire to the north; at its east lies the Atlantic Ocean.

Massachusetts was originally inhabited by tribes of the Algonquian language family such as the Wampanoag, Narragansett, Nipmuc, Pocomtuc, Mahican, and Massachusett.

Massachusetts was first colonized by principally English Europeans in the early 17th century, and became the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in the 18th century. Prior to English colonization of the area, it was inhabited by a variety of mainly Algonquian-speaking indigenous tribes. The first permanent English settlement was established in 1620 with the founding of Plymouth Colony by the Pilgrims who sailed on the Mayflower. A second, shorter-lasting colony, was established near Plymouth in 1622 at Wessagusset, now Weymouth. A large Puritan migration begun in 1630 established the Massachusetts Bay Colony and Boston, and spawned the settlement of other New England colonies. Friction with the natives grew with the population, erupting in the Pequot War of the mid-1630s and King Philip's War in the 1670s. The colonies were religiously conservative, and Massachusetts Bay authorities in particular repeatedly deported, cast out, and even executed people with views that did not accord with their strict Puritan views. The Massachusetts Bay Colony frequently clashed with political opponents in England, including several kings, over its religious intolerance and the status of its charter. Businessmen established wide-ranging trade links, sending ships to the West Indies and Europe, and sometimes shipping goods in violation of the Navigation Acts. These political and trade issues led to the revocation of the Massachusetts charter in 1684.

King James II in 1686 established the Dominion of New England to govern all of New England, whose unpopular rule by Sir Edmund Andros came to a sudden end in 1689 with an uprising sparked by the Glorious Revolution. King William III established the Province of Massachusetts Bay in 1691, to govern a territory roughly equivalent to that of the modern Commonwealth and Maine, although border issues with its neighbors would persist into the 19th century. Its governors were appointed by the crown, in contrast to the predecessor colonies, which had elected their own governors. This created friction between the colonists and the crown, which reached its height in the early days of the American Revolution in the 1760s and 1770s. Massachusetts was where the American Revolutionary War began in 1775, an effort many of its people and businesses supported until Britain formally recognized the United States in 1783. The Commonwealth, however, had formally adopted the state constitution in 1780, electing John Hancock its first governor.

In 1820, Maine separated from Massachusetts, of which it had been first a contiguous and then a non-contiguous part, and entered the Union as the 23rd state as a result of the ratification of the Missouri Compromise.

Massachusetts dominated the early anti-slavery movement during the 1830s, motivating activists across the nation. This, in turn, increased sectionalism in the North and South, one of the factors that led to the American Civil War (1861-1865). Politicians from Massachusetts, echoing the views of social activists, further increased national tensions. The state was dominated by the Republican Party and was also home to many Radical Republican leaders who promoted harsh treatment of slave owners and, later, the Confederate States of America.

During the 19th century, Massachusetts became a national leader in the American Industrial Revolution, with factories around Boston producing textiles and shoes, and factories around Springfield producing precision manufacturing tools and paper. The economy transformed from one based primarily on agriculture to an industrial one, initially making use of waterpower and later the steam engine to power factories, and canals and later railroads for transporting goods and materials. Initially, the new industries drew labor from Yankees on nearby subsistence farms, and later relied upon immigrant labor from Europe and Canada.

Massachusetts Civil War Map
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Massachusetts and Slavery Map

In the years leading up to the Civil War, Massachusetts was a center of social progressivism, Transcendentalism, and abolitionist activity. Horace Mann made the state system of schools the national model. Two prominent abolitionists from the Commonwealth were William Lloyd Garrison and Wendell Phillips. Garrison founded the New England Anti-Slavery Society in 1832, and helped change perceptions on slavery. The movement increased antagonism over the issues of slavery, resulting in anti-abolitionist riots in Massachusetts between 1835 and 1837.

Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson made major contributions to American thought. Members of the Transcendentalism movement, they emphasized the importance of the natural world and emotion to humanity. Although significant opposition to abolitionism existed in Massachusetts, resulting in anti-abolitionist riots between 1835 and 1837, opposition to slavery gradually increased in the next few decades. Famed abolitionist John Brown moved to the ideologically progressive town of Springfield in 1846. It was there that Brown first became a militant anti-slavery proponent. In Springfield and in Boston, Brown met the connections that would both influence him (Frederick Douglass and Sojourner Truth in Springfield), and later fund his efforts (Simon Sanborn and Amos Adams Lawrence in Boston). Their influence, in part, led to Bleeding Kansas and John Brown's raid on Harpers Ferry. In 1850, Brown founded his first militant, anti-slavery organization – The League of the Gileadites – in Springfield, to protect escaped slaves from 1850's Fugitive Slave Act. Massachusetts was a hotbed of abolitionism – particularly the progressive cities of Boston and Springfield – and contributed to subsequent actions of the state during the Civil War. Massachusetts was among the first states to respond to President Lincoln's "Call For Troops," and it was the first state to recruit, train and arm a black regiment with white officers: the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry. See also Abolitionists and the American Civil War.

Once hostilities began, Massachusetts supported the Union war effort in several significant ways, sending 159,165 men to serve in the army and navy. Additionally, a number of prominent generals hailed from Massachusetts, including Maj. Gen. Joseph Hooker, who commanded the Army of the Potomac in 1863, as well as Edwin V. Sumner and Darius N. Couch, who both successively commanded the II Corps.

In terms of war material, Massachusetts, as a leading center of industry and manufacturing, was poised to become a major producer of munitions and supplies. The most important source of armaments in Massachusetts, as well as the United States, was the Springfield Armory; during the course of the Civil War, the armory produced nearly 1.5 million muskets.

The state also made important contributions to relief efforts. Many leaders of nursing and soldiers' aid organizations were from Massachusetts, including Dorothea Dix, founder of the Army Nurses Bureau (Dix also created the first generation of American mental asylums), Henry Whitney Bellows, founder of the United States Sanitary Commission, and independent nurse Clara Barton (who founded the American Red Cross in 1881).

United States Sectionalism Map
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Massachusetts Map


Massachusetts played a major role in Civil War causation, particularly with regard to the political ramifications of the anti-slavery movement. Anti-slavery activists in Massachusetts sought to influence public opinion and applied moral and political pressure on Congress to abolish slavery. William Lloyd Garrison of Boston began publishing the anti-slavery newspaper The Liberator and founded the New England Anti-Slavery Society in 1831, becoming one of the nation’s most influential abolitionists. Garrison and his uncompromising rhetoric provoked a backlash both in the North and South and escalated regional tension prior to the war.

The anti-slavery wing of the Republican Party was led by politicians from Massachusetts, such as Senators Charles Sumner and Henry Wilson, who espoused Garrison's views in Congress and further increased sectionalism. In 1856, Sumner delivered a speech on the Senate floor so scathing and insulting to pro-slavery politicians that Representative Preston Brooks of South Carolina severely beat him with a cane. More moderate Massachusetts political leaders adopted the views of the Free Soil Party, seeking to limit the expansion of slavery in the western territories. The Free Soil Party was eventually absorbed into the Republican Party, which became the dominant political party in Massachusetts. By 1860, the Republicans controlled the Governor’s office, the state legislature and the mayoralty of Boston.

During the 1860 presidential election, 63 percent of Massachusetts voters supported Abraham Lincoln and the Republican Party, 20 percent supported Stephen Douglas and the Northern Democratic Party, 13 percent supported John Bell and the Constitutional Union Party, and 4 percent supported John C. Breckinridge (cousin to Mary Todd Lincoln) and the Southern Democratic Party. Support for the Republican Party increased during the war, with 72 percent voting for Lincoln in 1864.

The dominant political figure in Massachusetts during the war was Governor John Albion Andrew (May 31, 1818 – October 30, 1867), a staunch Republican who energetically supported the war effort. Massachusetts annually re-elected him by large margins for the duration of the war—his smallest margin of victory occurred in 1860 with 61 percent of the popular vote and his largest in 1863 with 71 percent.

Civil War

According to the 1860 U.S. census, Massachusetts had a population of 1,231,066. Although Massachusetts did not fight any battles on its soil, its soldiers fought in practically every major battle and campaign during the Civil War.

Massachusetts sent a total of 159,165* men to serve in the war. Of these, 133,002 served in the Union Army and 26,163 (includes nearly 6,000 reenlistments) served in the U.S. Navy. The army units raised in Massachusetts consisted of 68 regiments and 47 companies of infantry, 5 regiments and 4 companies of cavalry, 8 companies and 19 batteries of light artillery, 4 regiments of heavy artillery, 2 companies of sharpshooters, a handful of unattached battalions and 26 unattached companies. According to the official statement from the adjutant-general's office, July 15, 1885, the total number of sailors and marines furnished by the various states to the U.S. Navy was 101,207. Of this large number, Massachusetts, being a seaside state, contributed nearly 20,000, or one-fifth, of the nation's total; second only to New York.

According to The Union Army (1908), the total losses from all causes among Massachusetts troops was 13,498. Schouler (1868), however, states that 12,976 Massachusites died during the war, which equates to approximately eight percent of those who enlisted and about one percent of the state's population (the population of Massachusetts in 1860 was 1,231,066). Lastly, Dyer (1908) states Massachusetts sustained a total of 13,942 servicemen in killed: 6,115 killed & mortally wounded; 5,530 died of disease; 1,483 died as prisoner; 257 died from accidents; 557 died from causes other than battle. Dyer's grand total is 13,942 total deaths. Nevertheless, there are no official statistics available for the number of wounded.

The advanced state of industrialization in the North, as compared with the Confederate states, was a major factor in the victory of Union armies. Massachusetts, and the Springfield Armory in particular, played a pivotal role as a supplier of weapons and equipment for the Union army.

At the start of the war, the Springfield Armory was one of only two Federal armories in the country, the other being the Harpers Ferry Armory. After the attack on Fort Sumter and the commencement of hostilities, Governor Andrew wrote Secretary of War Simon Cameron, urging him to discontinue the Harpers Ferry Armory (which was at that time on Confederate soil) and to channel all available Federal funds towards enhancing production at the Springfield Armory. The armory produced the primary weapon of the Union infantry during the war—the Springfield rifled musket. By the end of the war, nearly 1.5 million had been produced by the armory and its numerous contractors across the country.

Another key source of war materiel was the Watertown Arsenal, which produced ammunition, gun carriages and leather military accouterments. Private companies such as Smith & Wesson enjoyed significant U.S. government contracts. The Ames Manufacturing Company of Chicopee became one of the nation’s leading suppliers of swords, side arms, and cannons, and the third largest supplier of heavy ordnance.

Although Massachusetts was a major center of shipbuilding prior to the war, many of the established shipbuilding firms were slow to adapt to new technology. The few Massachusetts shipbuilders who received government contracts for the construction of iron-clad, steam powered warships were those who had invested in iron and machine technology before the war. These included the City Point Works, managed by Harrison Loring, and the Atlantic Iron Works, managed by Nelson Curtis, two Boston companies that produced Passaic class monitors during the war. The Boston Navy Yard also produced several smaller gunboats.

Secession Map
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Massachusetts and Secession of Southern States Map

Massachusetts and the Civil War
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Governor John Albion Andrew

It is a fact but little commented on, that Massachusetts Gov. John Albion Andrew immediately after his inauguration, January 1861, sent confidential messengers to the governors of the rest of the New England States, impressing on them the necessity of military preparation. The number of enrolled militia in the state in 1860, was 155,389; the number of active or volunteer militia, 5,593. Gov. Andrew was one of the few men in the North who believed that war was rapidly approaching. He made this plain in his inaugural address wherein he advised an inquiry whether the dormant militia, or at least a large part of it, as well as the active militia should not be put on a war footing, thus placing the state ready, "without inconvenient delay, to contribute her share of force in any exigency of public danger."
Governor Andrew took office in January 1861, just two weeks after the secession of South Carolina. Convinced that war was imminent, Andrew took rapid measures to prepare the state militia for active duty. On April 15, 1861, Andrew received a telegraph from Washington calling for 1,500 men from Massachusetts to serve for ninety days. The next day, several companies of the 8th Massachusetts Volunteer Militia from Marblehead, Massachusetts, were the first to report in Boston; by the end of the day, three regiments were ready to start for Washington.

The Baltimore riot of 1861 (also called the Pratt Street Riot and the Pratt Street Massacre) was a conflict that took place on April 19, 1861, in Baltimore, Maryland, between Confederate sympathizers and members of the Massachusetts militia en route to Washington for Federal service. It is regarded by historians as the first bloodshed of the American Civil War.

While passing through Baltimore on April 19, 1861, the 6th Massachusetts was attacked by a pro-secession mob and became the first volunteer troops to suffer casualties in the war. The 6th Massachusetts was also the first volunteer regiment to reach Washington, D.C. in response to Lincoln's call for troops. Lincoln awaited the arrival of additional regiments, but none arrived for several days. Inspecting the 6th Massachusetts on April 24, Lincoln told the soldiers, "I don’t believe there is any North...You are the only Northern realities."

“In passing through Boston, New York and Philadelphia, the regiment was received with enthusiastic ovations, but in Baltimore, Maryland, Cos. C, D, I and L, under Capts. Follansbee, Hart, Pickering and Dike, and numbering about 220 men, were attacked by a mob, April 19, 1861, while marching from the President street station to the Camden street station, a distance of a little more than a mile. The other seven companies, under Col. Jones, covered the distance in safety. These four companies found the track obstructed and were forced to march the distance. In the riot 4 of the Massachusetts soldiers were killed, 36, including Capt. Dike of Stoneham, were wounded, and 12 of the rioters were killed. On their arrival in Washington the regiment was quartered in the senate chamber and constituted the chief defense of Washington until the arrival of the 8th and 5th, together with the 7th New York, by way of Annapolis.”

Given that the 6th Massachusetts reached Washington on April 19 (the anniversary of the Battles of Lexington and Concord, which commenced the American Revolution) and other Massachusetts regiments were en route to Washington and Virginia on that date, the first militia units to leave Massachusetts were dubbed, "The Minutemen of ’61."

As early as April 24, 1861, the governor sent a detachment of the volunteer militia to garrison the forts in Boston harbor. Though every effort was made to induce the United States government to remedy the defenseless condition of the coast as speedily as possible, so great was the pressure of other matters of moment requiring immediate attention, that little or nothing was done. In his message to the legislature in Jan. 1863, the governor reviewed the history of his past efforts, and liberal provision was made by the legislature at this session to effect the desired relief. Fortifications were thereupon erected at Newburyport, Marblehead, Plymouth, Salem, New Bedford and Gloucester, and Boston harbor was at the same time provided with an ingenious system of defenses. The greatest need — large and powerful guns — could only be satisfied by despatching agents to Europe, which was promptly done. In this way a number of powerful guns were contracted for and secured. The famous fight between the Merrimack (aka CSS Virginia) and Monitor had demonstrated the absolute necessity of heavy ordnance in naval attack and coast defense.

As the initial rush of enthusiasm subsided, the state government faced the ongoing task of recruiting tens of thousands of soldiers to fill Federal quotas. The great majority of these troops were required to serve for three years. Recruiting offices were opened in virtually every town and, over the course of 1861, recruits from Massachusetts surpassed the quotas. However, by the summer of 1862, recruiting had slowed considerably. On July 7, 1862, Andrew instituted a system whereby recruitment quotas were issued to every city and town in proportion to their population. This motivated local leaders, increasing enlistment. Massachusetts had at the close of the year 1862 in active service upwards of 60,000 men in the field, composed of fifty-three regiments of infantry, one regiment and three unattached companies of cavalry, twelve companies of light and three of heavy artillery, and two companies of sharpshooters.

Every effort was made by the state authorities to supply the needs of the soldiers at the front and to relieve the sufferings of the sick and wounded. To this end various soldiers' relief associations and agencies were established early in the war.

Massachusetts Civil War History
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Clara Barton

Several instrumental leaders of soldiers' aid and relief organizations were from Massachusetts. These included Dorothea Dix, who had traveled across the nation working to promote proper care for the poor and insane before the war. After the outbreak of the war, she convinced the U.S. Army to establish a Women's Nursing Bureau on April 23, 1861, and became the first woman to head a Federal government bureau. Although army officials were dubious about the use of female nurses, Dix proceeded to recruit many women who had previously been serving as unorganized volunteers. One of her greatest challenges, given the biases of the era, was to demonstrate that women could serve as competently as men in army hospitals. Dix had a reputation for rejecting nurses who were too young or attractive, believing that patients and surgeons alike would not take them seriously. U.S. Army surgeons often resented the nurses of Dix's bureau, claiming that they were obstinate and did not follow military protocol. Despite such obstacles, Dix was successful at placing female nurses in hospitals throughout the North.

Henry Whitney Bellows (June 11, 1814 – January 30, 1882) determined to take a different approach, establishing a civilian organization of nurses separate from the U.S. Army. Bellows was the founder of the United States Sanitary Commission and served as its only president. An influential minister, born and raised in Boston, Bellows went to Washington in May 1861 as head of a delegation of physicians representing the Women's Central Relief Association of New York and other organizations. Bellows's aim was to convince the government to establish a civilian auxiliary branch of the Army Medical Bureau. The Sanitary Commission, established by President Lincoln on June 13, 1861, provided nurses (mostly female) with medical supplies and organized hospital ships and soldiers' homes.

Clara Barton (December 25, 1821 – April 12, 1912) was a pioneer American teacher, patent clerk, nurse, and humanitarian. At a time when relatively few women worked outside the home, Barton built a career helping others. One of her greatest accomplishments was founding the American Red Cross. Clara Barton, a former teacher from Oxford, Massachusetts, and clerk in the U.S. Patent Office, created a one-woman relief effort. In the summer of 1861, in response to a shortage of food and medicine in the growing Union army, she began personally purchasing and distributing supplies to wounded soldiers in Washington. Growing dissatisfied with bringing supplies to hospitals, Barton eventually moved her efforts to the battlefield itself. She was granted access through army lines and helped the wounded in numerous campaigns, soon becoming known as the "Angel of the Battlefield." She achieved national prominence, and high-ranking army surgeons requested her assistance in managing their field hospitals. See also Massachusetts and the Civil War (1861-1865).

One of the best-known regiments formed in Massachusetts was the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment, one of the initial Union Army regiments consisting of African-American soldiers, though it was commanded by white officers. With the Emancipation Proclamation in effect as of January 1, 1863, Andrew saw the opportunity for Massachusetts to lead the way in recruiting "colored soldiers." After securing permission from President Lincoln, Andrew enthusiastically supported the recruitment of two regiments of African-American soldiers, the 54th and the 55th Massachusetts infantry regiments. The 54th, because it was an initial regiment, received tremendous publicity during its formation. To ensure the success of the experiment, Andrew solicited donations and political support from many of Boston's elite families. He further guaranteed the endorsement of Boston's elite by offering the regiment's command to Robert Gould Shaw, son of prominent Bostonians. In February 1863, Frederick Douglass recruited for the 54th Massachusetts, and his sons Lewis and Charles joined the regiment. Another son, Frederick Douglass Jr., also served as a recruiter.

Massachusetts Civil War History
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54th Massachusetts storming Fort Wagner

In the summer of 1863, the 54th Massachusetts won fame in their assault on Battery Wagner on Morris Island in Charleston Harbor, during which Col. Shaw was killed. At Fort Wagner, Sergeant William H. Carney became the first African-American to be awarded the Medal of Honor. Although the unit was decimated at Wagner (272 casualties), it indicated that "colored soldiers would not shirk or coward in any fight at any location." The 54th was widely acclaimed for its valor during the battle, and the event encouraged the further enlistment and mobilization of 180,000 African-American troops for the Union, a key development that President Abraham Lincoln once noted as "turning the tide of the war."

"The Emancipation Proclamation of President Lincoln had gone into effect on Jan. 1, 1863, and Congress had authorized the president by express terms to employ persons of African descent as he might deem best for the suppression of the rebellion." On Jan. 26 Gov. Andrew was authorized by the secretary of war to recruit a colored regiment in Massachusetts, the same to be officered by white men. On account of the strong prejudices involved only five regiments of colored volunteers, the 1st S.C, 1st Kansas, and three regiments of free colored men recruited by Gen. Butler in New Orleans, had been organized up to this date. An effort had, indeed, been made in one eastern state, Rhode Island, to recruit a colored regiment, but it remained for Massachusetts, under the vigorous lead of Gov. Andrew, to take the first effective steps. The first authority to recruit for a colored regiment was issued by Gov. Andrew, Feb. 7, 1863, and in less than 100 days the regiment was filled to the maximum. Such was the enthusiasm among the colored men to enlist the authorities decided to organize another colored regiment, which was also rapidly filled, the two regiments being numbered the 54th and the 55th. The report of the adjutant-general for 1863 thus sets forth the feeling which prevailed: "It required calm foresight, thorough knowledge of our condition, earnest conviction, faith in men, faith in the cause, and undaunted courage, to stem the various currents which set in and flooded the land against employing the black man as a soldier. In the executive of Massachusetts was found a man who possessed the qualifications necessary to stem these currents, and to wisely inaugurate and peacefully carry out to a successful termination the experiment of recruiting regiments of colored men."

Many patriotic men in the North felt that there was imminent danger in this procedure lest the prime object of the war — the restoration of the national authority in the seceded states — give place to an anti-slavery crusade. Many worthy soldiers protested against serving in an abolition crusade, and many desertions at this time may properly be attributed to this cause.

Most men now realize that the employment of the blacks as soldiers by the North was wise, both from a military standpoint and as a means of advancing the colored race. Col. Shaw, who was placed in command of the 54th, had been a captain in the 2nd Mass. infantry, a brilliant officer, a student of Harvard college and belonged to one of the best families in the state. He fell while leading his men, on the parapet of Fort Wagner, S.C, and was buried with his men in a common trench by the Confederates.

Lieut.-Col. Hallowell organized the 55th and became its colonel. Both regiments rendered excellent service. In the winter of 1863-64, a third colored regiment was formed, known as the 5th Mass. cavalry, under the command of Col. Henry S. Russell. The men in these commands came from many different parts of the country. Massachusetts officers were especially prominent in the work of arming the blacks in other parts of the country. The pioneer regiment of the whole series of slave-regiments was the one raised in South Carolina in Aug., 1862, under authority of the war department, by Brig.-Gen. Rufus Saxton, military governor of the Department of the South. Gen. Saxton was a Massachusetts man, as was Col. T. W. Higginson, the commander of the regiment. Capt. R. J. Hinton, who recruited the 1st Kansas colored regiment, Maj.-Gen. B. F. Butler, who recruited the three colored regiments of New Orleans, Maj.-Gen. G. L. Andrews, and Maj. G. L. Stearns, who had principal charge of the work of organizing the blacks in the slave states, Maj.-Gen. N. P. Banks, who organized the Corps d'Afrique at New Orleans, Maj.-Gen. Edward W. Hinks, who commanded a large body of the colored troops in the operations before Petersburg, and Brig.-Gen. Samuel M. Quincy, author of a special system of tactics for the colored troops, were all Massachusetts men. A matter which should also be borne in mind is that the white officers in command of these black men were expressly denied the ordinary rights of war by the Confederate government, and "if captured, were to be put to death as inciting servile insurrection."

On November 11, 1863, the state legislature met, and, among the many subjects discussed during the session, the injustice of colored soldiers’ pay by the Federal Union was addressed. White volunteers in active service were receiving $13 per month in money and $3 in clothing, while black soldiers received only $7 per month and the usual allowance for clothing. Resolutions were passed urging on Congress an increase of the pay of the soldiers; expressing the injustice done the state by Congress in not allowing credits for men in the naval service, and in not allowing the colored troops the same pay as the whites. Massachusetts had supplied for all arms of the service by the close of the year 1863, a total of 101,236 men.

During 1864, the final campaign of the war was now in progress and was soon to bring about the fall of the Confederacy. Every available man was now needed at the front, and an order from the secretary of war on July 1, 1864, relieved veteran troops on garrison duty at various points and sent them into active service, and directed that militia regiments enlisted for 100 days take their places. Massachusetts responded with her usual promptness and furnished five regiments to serve for 100 days. Besides these regiments, nine companies of 100 days' men were recruited for garrison duty in the coast fortifications of the state.

On Feb. 2, 1865, the president signed the resolution abolishing slavery and the constitutional amendment was at once ratified by the legislature. The next day Gov. Andrew wired the president: "Massachusetts has today ratified the constitutional amendment abolishing slavery by a unanimous yea and nay vote of both branches of the legislature, the Democrats voting affirmatively."

African-American Civil War Soldiers
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Company E, 4th US Colored Troops at Fort Lincoln, November 17th, 1865.

On April 3, 1865, Gov. Andrew received a message from the secretary of war, announcing the evacuation of Petersburg and the fall of Richmond. He at once telegraphed in reply: "I give you joy on these triumphant victories. Our people, by a common impulse, abandoned business today, for thanksgiving and rejoicing. The colored man received last got in first, and thus the scripture is fulfilled." The colored division of Weitzel's corps is said to have been the first infantry to enter the Confederate capital. From now on all was excitement and rejoicing, and with the final surrender of Lee on April 9 came the practical ending of the war. The surrender of the other armies of the Confederacy followed in quick succession, the work of disbanding the soldiers was then taken up, and by the close of the summer nearly all the survivors among the Massachusetts troops came home, only a few regiments being detached on special duty until the following year.

A highly interesting ceremony took place after the close of the war, when on Dec. 22, 1865, the 245th anniversary of the landing of the pilgrims at Plymouth, the survivors of the various Massachusetts regiments, batteries and companies bore their respective flags in procession through the streets of Boston. The thoroughfares were crowed with spectators, and when the soldiers finally returned to the state house, the flags were formally turned over to the governor by Gen. Couch, commanding the column, and were received by Gov. Andrew with eloquent words which touched the hearts of all. His address closed with the pledge: "I accept these relics in behalf of the people and the government. They will be preserved and cherished, amid all the vicissitudes of the future, as mementoes of brave men and noble actions."

Only five states, New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Illinois and Indiana, surpassed Massachusetts in the total number of men furnished during the war. The report of the adjutant-general for January, 1866, states that the number of men supplied was 159,165, including 26,163 in the navy. Included in this estimate also, are the reenlisted veterans. Phisterer, an able statistician, estimates that the state supplied a total of 146,730 men, and that 5,318 men paid commutation, making a grand total credited to the state of 152,048*. The final report of the adjutant-general at Washington for the year 1885 credits Massachusetts with 122,781 white troops, 3,966 colored troops, and 19,983 sailors, or 146,781 men in all. It would appear from the successive reports of the adjutant-general of the state that every city and town filled its quota upon every call by the president, and that, with twelve minor exceptions, each furnished a surplus over all demands, amounting in all to 15,178. This number should be further increased by the addition of a large number of sailors now credited to Massachusetts, and also by the men recruited in the state and furnished to the two New York organizations.

Deduct the imported Germans, and the colored troops as well as the men enlisted in the states in rebellion, and there would still remain a large balance in favor of Massachusetts. Mention has been made of the three colored regiments recruited in the state. There were two distinctively Irish regiments, the 9th and 28th infantry, besides Irish companies in several regiments. It has been estimated that there were 1,876 Germans recruited in the state out of a total German population of 9,961.(Higginson, vol. 1, p. 135.) These were scattered through the various regiments, but three companies were distinctively German — B and C, in the 20th, and A in the 25th.

The state expended a total of $27,705,109 in raising and equipping troops and it is estimated that the cities and towns spent as much more, so that the enormous sum of $50,000,000 was spent altogether. Besides the men in the military service, the state furnished many laborers employed at the Charlestown navy-yard and the Springfield armory. Many others were engaged on the fortifications. At the Springfield armory, during the five years beginning on July 1, 1860, a total of 805,636 muskets, with extra parts and repairs equal to 120,845 more, were manufactured. The musket here produced was the standard weapon of the service, and recognized as the best muzzle-loading military arm made. (Bowen, p. 82.)

Massachusetts, as a single state, has been credited by her state historian with certain modest claims, which will hardly be called in question: She was promptly in the field she maintained a certain high standard in her regiments; no regiment ever conspicuously disgraced itself; she provided soldiers and sailors not merely up to, but in excess of her quota; her governor was fully alive to the situation; while she produced no soldier of the very highest rank, she brought out a number of brilliant young men, prominent among whom were Lowell, Bartlett and Miles, who exhibited both splendid courage and a certain marked genius for war. On the larger stage, in the great work of molding public opinion, one of the brilliant speakers of Congress, speaking of the period from 1855 to 1875, said: "Whether it was for weal or woe, whether it was wisely or unwisely done, men may differ and historians may dispute — but as a matter of fact Massachusetts led America and led her with an audacity and an aggressiveness, with a skill and an eloquence, with a power and force that have never been surpassed in all the tide of time in the leadership of a great people." (Speech of Breckenridge of Ky., in the house of representatives, Jan. 19, 1888.) See also Massachusetts and the Civil War (1861-1865).

Massachusetts Civil War Map of Battles
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High Resolution Map of Massachusetts

Notable Massachusites

Generals from Massachusetts commanded several army departments, and included a commander of the Army of the Potomac as well as a number of army corps commanders. 

One of the most prominent generals from Massachusetts was Maj. Gen. Joseph Hooker. Born in Hadley, Massachusetts and a graduate from the United States Military Academy at West Point, he served in the Regular Army during the Mexican–American War. At the outbreak of the Civil War, he was commissioned brigadier general and steadily rose from brigade commander, to division commander, to commander of the I Corps, which he led during the Battle of Antietam. Following that battle, he was placed in command of the V Corps and then the Center Grand Division of the Army of the Potomac, consisting of the III and V Corps. On January 26, 1863, he was promoted to command of the Army of the Potomac. Although he was successful at rejuvenating the esprit de corps of his army by better distributing supplies and food, he was unable to effectively lead the army in the field, and his inaction during the Battle of Chancellorsville led to his resignation of his command. Transferred to the Department of the Cumberland, he commanded the XI and XII Corps during several western campaigns and distinguished himself during the Battle of Lookout Mountain. Hooker resigned his command upon the promotion of Maj. Gen. Oliver O. Howard to the command of the Army of the Tennessee, a post to which Hooker felt entitled. Hooker served the remainder of the war in an administrative role, overseeing the Department of the North (consisting of army fortifications and troops stationed in Michigan, Ohio, Indiana and Illinois) and the Department of the East (which encompassed installations and troops in New England, New York and New Jersey). His namesake, Hooker, is well-known today because, "betwixt battles, the general had quite the reputation for entertaining himself and his troops with scores of women."

Maj. Gen. Nathaniel P. Banks, former governor of Massachusetts, was among the first men appointed major general of volunteers by President Lincoln. In July 1861, Banks came to command the Department of the Shenandoah. In May 1862, he was completely out-generaled by Stonewall Jackson and forced to abandon the Shenandoah Valley. He then commanded the II Corps during the Northern Virginia Campaign and was eventually transferred to command of the Department of the Gulf, coordinating military efforts in Louisiana and Texas. In this capacity, Banks led the successful and strategically important Siege of Port Hudson in the summer of 1863, but also the disastrous Red River Campaign in the spring of 1864, which he commanded under protest. The campaign ended his military career in the field.

Another significant general from Massachusetts, Maj. Gen. Edwin Vose Sumner, born in 1797, was the oldest general officer with a field command on either side of the war. He had served in the Regular Army during the Mexican-American war and numerous campaigns in the West. Sumner commanded the II Corps during the Maryland Campaign and later the Right Grand Division of the Army of the Potomac during the Fredericksburg Campaign. Following the Battle of Fredericksburg, he resigned his command in January 1863 and was to be transferred to command the Department of the Missouri, but died of a heart attack en route on March 21, 1863.

Other notable generals from Massachusetts included Maj. Gen. Darius Couch, who commanded the II Corps and the Department of the Susquehanna, Maj. Gen. John G. Barnard, who organized the defenses of Washington, DC and became Chief Engineer of the Union Armies in the field, and Maj. Gen. Isaac Stevens, who had graduated first in his class at West Point and commanded a division of the IX Corps. See also Massachusetts and the Civil War (1861-1865).

Fort Warren

Fort Warren (also known as Fort Warren Prisoner-of-War Camp), unlike most Union prison camps, was known for its detainment of high profile Confederate prisoners.

Fort Warren Prison, located on Georges Island in Boston Harbor, Massachusetts, was built between 1833 and 1861 and was completed shortly after the beginning of the war. The Army engineer in charge during the bulk of the fort's construction was Colonel Sylvanus Thayer best known for his tenure as Superintendent of the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York. During the Civil War, the island fort served as a Union prison for captured Confederate army and navy personnel, elected civil officials from the state of Maryland, as well as Northern political prisoners.

James M. Mason and John Slidell, the Confederate diplomats seized in the Trent affair, were among those held at the fort. Military officers held at Fort Warren include Richard S. Ewell, Isaac R. Trimble, John Gregg, Adam "Stovepipe" Johnson, Simon Bolivar Buckner, Sr., and Lloyd Tilghman. High ranking civilians held at Fort Warren include Confederate Vice President Alexander H. Stephens, and Confederate Postmaster General John Henninger Reagan. The prison camp had a reputation for humane treatment of its detainees. When the camp commander's son, Lieutenant Justin E. Dimick, left Fort Warren for active duty in the field with the Second U.S. Artillery, he was given a letter from Confederate officers in the camp urging good care should he be captured. (He was later mortally wounded at Chancellorsville in May, 1863.)
The famous Union marching song John Brown was written at the fort using a tune from an old Methodist camp song. The song was carried to the Army of the Potomac by the men of the "Webster Regiment" (12th Massachusetts Infantry) who had mustered in at Fort Warren. Julia Ward Howe heard this song while visiting Washington DC. At the suggestion of her minister, Howe was encouraged to write new words. The Battle Hymn of the Republic, which was initially published as a poem, was later matched with the melody of the "John Brown" song and became one of the best remembered songs of the Civil War era.

Massachusetts in the Civil War
Fort Warren Prison Camp.jpg
Fort Warren Prison Camp on Georges Island, Boston Harbor, Massachusetts


Across the nation, organizations such as the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) were established to provide aid to veterans, widows and orphans. Massachusetts was the first state to organize a state-wide Woman's Relief Corps, a female auxiliary organization of the GAR, in 1879.

Massachusetts was one of the most industrialized states before the war and remained so afterwards, with Boston continuing to act as a magnet for massive European immigration. The agricultural economy that remained revolved around small family farms.

With the war over and his primary goal completed, Governor Andrew declared in September 1865 that he would not seek re-election. Despite this loss, the Republican Party in Massachusetts would became stronger than ever in the post-war years. The Democratic party would be all but non-existent in the Bay State for roughly ten years due to their earlier anti-war platform. The group most affected by this political shift was the growing Boston Irish community, who had backed the Democratic Party and were without significant political voice for decades.

After the war, senators Sumner and Wilson would transform their pre-war anti-slavery views into vehement support for so-called "Radical Reconstruction" of the South. Their agenda called for civil rights for African-Americans and harsh treatment of former Confederates.

While Radical Republicans made progress on their agenda of dramatic reform measures, Massachusetts state legislators passed the first comprehensive integration law in the nation's history in 1865. On the national level, Sumner joined with Representative Thaddeus Stevens from Pennsylvania and others to achieve Congressional approval of the Civil Rights Act of 1866, and the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution, outlawing slavery and granting increased citizenship rights to former slaves.

As early as 1867, however, a national backlash against Radical Republicans and their sweeping civil rights programs made them increasingly unpopular, even in Massachusetts. When Sumner attempted in 1867 to propose dramatic reforms, including integrated schools in the South and re-distribution of land to former slaves, even Wilson refused to support him. By the 1870s, Radical Republicans had diminished in power and Reconstruction proceeded along more moderate lines.

Following the war, thousands of immigrants from Canada and Europe continued to settle in the major cities of Massachusetts, attracted by employment in the State's ever-expanding factories. The State also became a leader in education and innovation through this period, particularly in the Boston area.

Culturally speaking, post-Civil War Massachusetts ceased to be a national center of idealistic reform movements (such as evangelicalism, temperance and anti-slavery) as it had been before the war. Growing industrialism, partly spurred on by the war, created a new culture of competition and materialism.

In 1869, Boston was the site of the National Peace Jubilee, a massive gala to honor veterans and to celebrate the return of peace. Conceived by composer Patrick Gilmore, who had served in an army band, the celebration was held in a colossal arena in Boston's Back Bay neighborhood designed to hold 100,000 attendees and specifically built for the occasion. A new hymn was commissioned for the occasion, written by Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr. and set to American Hymn by Matthais Keller. Spanning five days, the event featured a chorus of nearly 11,000 and an orchestra of more than 500 musicians. It was the largest musical gathering on the continent up to that time.

On April 19, 1975, in Concord, as a crowd estimated at 110,000 gathered to commemorate the Bicentennial of the battles of Lexington and Concord, President Gerald Ford delivered a major speech near the North Bridge, which was televised to the nation.

“Freedom was nourished in American soil because the principles of the Declaration of Independence flourished in our land. These principles, when enunciated 200 years ago, were a dream, not a reality. Today, they are real. Equality has matured in America. Our inalienable rights have become even more sacred. There is no government in our land without consent of the governed. Many other lands have freely accepted the principles of liberty and freedom in the Declaration of Independence and fashioned their own independent republics. It is these principles, freely taken and freely shared, that have revolutionized the world. The volley fired here at Concord two centuries ago, 'the shot heard round the world', still echoes today on this anniversary.” — President Gerald R. Ford

*Depending on the source, numbers vary. The disparity, furthermore, is due largely to a portion of the re-enlistees being counted twice.

Sources: Library of Congress; National Park Service; National Archives; Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies; US Census Bureau; The Union Army (1908); Fox, William F. Regimental Losses in the American Civil War (1889); Dyer, Frederick H. A Compendium of the War of the Rebellion (1908); Phisterer, Frederick. Statistical record of the armies of the United States (1883); Hardesty, Jesse. Killed and died of wounds in the Union army during the Civil War (1915). Wright-Eley Co.; Brebner, John Bartlet (1927). New England's outpost: Acadia before the conquest of Canada. New York, NY: Columbia University Press. ISBN 0-7812-6367-0; Brettell, Caroline (2003). Anthropology and Migration:Essays on Transnational Ethnicity and Identity. Walnut Creek, CA: AltaMira Press. ISBN 0-7591-0320-8; Brown, Richard D.; Tager, Jack (2000). Massachusetts: A Concise History. Amherst, MA: University of Massachusetts Press. ISBN 1-55849-248-8; Dejnozka, Edward L.; Gifford, Charles S.; Kapel, David E.; Kapel, Marilyn B.; (1982). American Educators' Encyclopedia. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press. ISBN 0-313-20954-5; Goldfield, David; Abbott, Carl; Anderson, Virginia DeJohn; Argersinger, Jo Ann E.; Argersinger, Peter H; Barney, William L.; & Weir, Robert M. (1998). The American Journey – A History of the United States. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall. ISBN 0-13-656562-X;  Koplow, David A. (2004). Smallpox:The Fight to Eradicate a Global Scurge. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press. ISBN 0-520-24220-3; Sokolow, Alvin D. (1997). "Town and Township Government: Serving Rural and Suburban Communities". Handbook of Local Government Administration. New York, NY: Marcel Dekker Inc. ISBN 0-8247-9782-5; Howard, Frank Key, "Fourteen Months in American Bastiles," Baltimore: Kelly, Hedian & Piet, 1863;  Schmidt, Jay, Fort Warren: New England's Most Historic Civil War Site, Amherst, N.H.: Unified Business Technologies Press, 2003. ISBN 0-9721489-4-9; Hesseltine, William B. (ed) "Civil War Prisons," Kent State University Press, 1962; Stephens, Alexander H. "Recollections," His Diary Kept While a Prisoner at Fort Warren.(A reprint edition is available from Louisiana State University Press.); Marshall, John A., "The History of the Illegal Arrests and Imprisonment of American Citizens." (1874);


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