Skip to main content

Unit 10 Plan: New Hampshire and the Civil War

Unit Summary

The Civil War is generally considered a great turning point in U.S. history, the dividing line between early and modern American history. There is no doubt that the war had an enormous impact on nearly every aspect of society. The sectional crisis that led to the war dominated national politics for decades before the war itself, but events in New Hampshire during these years foreshadowed the political realignment that would eventually occur in other northern states as well. The argument over slavery and southern political power played out here before it did elsewhere in the North. Once the war broke out in 1861, New Hampshire mobilized along with the rest of the country. When the war ended, the Granite State readjusted to a postwar world, as industrialization and immigration reshaped the state. New Hampshire also wrestled with how to commemorate the war, an effort that continues today in reconciling the role of former President Franklin Pierce with more modern sensibilities.

You're on page

The Big Picture

As you learn about this national crisis and its impact on New Hampshire, keep in mind the following ideas:

  • In the 1840s and 1850s, New Hampshire’s political parties split and shifted over the issue of slavery, upending state politics. The disagreements between Franklin Pierce and John Parker Hale—the first abolitionist senator in the United States—led to the formation of the Republican Party in 1853, foretelling a political realignment that would eventually occur throughout the North.
  • The presidency of Franklin Pierce brought the United States closer to civil war, as sectional tensions increased over the Kansas-Nebraska Act and the enforcement of the Fugitive Slave Act. Pierce’s one term in office damaged his reputation and attached a level of controversy to his name that would last even after his death.
  • New Hampshire was ill-prepared for war, as was the rest of the country, but the state quickly mobilized across all levels of society. For the four years between 1861 and 1865, the war would dominate nearly every aspect of life in the Granite State, with more than 10% of the population serving in the military, industries producing wartime goods, communities providing care and support for those affected by the war, and state and local governments falling deeply into debt to cover the enormous costs of the conflict.
  • The Granite State produced 18 infantry regiments for the U.S. Army, as well as men for specialized army units and for the navy and marines. Some New Hampshire women served as well, filling a crucial need for nurses. Other Granite Staters played more unusual roles in the conflict that earned them national attention.
  • Although many of the New Hampshire regiments made important contributions to the war effort, none were as revered as the Fifth New Hampshire Regiment—the so-called “Fighting Fifth.” The regiment served in nearly every major conflict in the Virginia theater of the war, most notably the Battle of Gettysburg where it dealt the Confederates a devastating setback and helped turn the tide of the battle.
  • After the war, the veterans’ campground at Weirs Beach became the most organized veterans’ retreat in the country and hosted annual reunions for Civil War soldiers from New Hampshire and beyond. Meanwhile, the Grand Army of the Republic emerged as a major force in state politics, as it did in almost every other northern state.
  • Monuments to the Civil War can be found in towns and cities throughout New Hampshire, as well as in the New Hampshire State House and on the state house grounds. For example, the battle flags of the state’s regiments are enshrined in the state house’s Doric Hall, also known as the Hall of Flags. There are statues on the state house lawn to commemorate New Hampshire politicians who played important national roles in the pre-war, antebellum years like Daniel Webster and John Parker Hale. There is also a statue of Franklin Pierce, but its addition was decades in the making and brought with it a storm of controversy over his role in the lead-up to the war. The debate over Pierce’s culpability continues to this day and provides a Granite State example of the national debate over how the Civil War should be remembered and who is worthy of commemoration.

The Politics of Slavery

The decades before the Civil War were a period of growing sectional divide, marked by many events of national significance that are beyond the scope of this unit plan. Educators would be best served by reading one of the scores of narrative overviews of the Civil War—the years leading up to it, the war itself, and its aftermath. Among the best are David Potter’s The Impending Crisis, James McPherson’s Battle Cry of Freedom, and Eric Foner’s A Short History of Reconstruction. A college-level textbook on American history, such as Foner’s Give Me Liberty, also covers this ground well and in a concise fashion. For more suggestions on the best sources on the Civil War, see the “Additional Resources” section, which includes a reference to “The Civil War Book List,” published by the New York Times.

New Hampshire’s experiences in the years leading up to the outbreak of war in 1861 anticipated the national situation, something that many scholars have overlooked. Not only did New Hampshire reflect larger trends during this period, but at times it led the nation, with events in the Granite State foreshadowing what was to come in the rest of the country. New Hampshire’s role in the developing conflict between North and South provides an excellent opportunity to link national and state history, perhaps more so than at any other point in our past. Those intersections, where state history made substantial impacts on national history, will be highlighted in this unit plan as New Hampshire’s story during these years unfolds.

How did New Hampshire both reflect the growing sectional divide between North and South and, at times, become a bellwether of that divide?

By 1830, New Hampshire was essentially a one-party state. It was firmly under the control of the Democratic Party, which had established an iron grip on federal, state, and even local government in the Granite State. It is important to note that in the 19th century, the Democratic Party stood for almost the exact opposite of what the party stands for today. Then, it championed states’ rights, agrarianism, and a small federal government. The other existing political party was the Whigs, which had already become weak and ineffectual in New Hampshire by 1830, although it still had a stronger presence nationally. But the national Whig Party would soon come to share the fate of the party in New Hampshire, as it disintegrated on the national stage in the 1840s, with the northern and southern wings of the party diverging over slavery.

In the 1830s, New Hampshire boasted several nationally known political figures. The state claimed Daniel Webster as its own even though he was serving as a senator from Massachusetts by this time. He had been born in New Hampshire and had once served as its representative in the U.S. Congress. Webster often visited the family farm in what was then Salisbury (now Franklin), New Hampshire, and he frequently spoke of his fondness for the state, even founding a club in Boston known as the Sons of New Hampshire. The group regularly met to reminisce about the Granite State, share news from home, and occasionally fund philanthropic projects.

The other major political figure from New Hampshire during this period was Levi Woodbury, who was at various times governor of New Hampshire, U.S. secretary of the treasury, U.S. secretary of the navy, a U.S. senator, and, eventually, an associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.

Within New Hampshire itself, the rising political star in the 1830s was Franklin Pierce. He was an attorney who came from a well-respected and well-known family, and he was groomed in both politics and law by Levi Woodbury himself. Pierce was handsome, charming, and had a knack for remembering people’s names. Shortly after graduating from Bowdoin College, he joined the N.H. House of Representatives, where he served as the youngest Speaker of the House ever elected. In 1836, he was elected to the U.S. Congress and became known for his vehement hatred of abolitionism. Although Pierce disliked slavery, he believed that the South had a constitutional right to protect the so-called “peculiar institution” and that the federal government had no business interfering with each state’s right to determine the issue of slavery for itself. Abolitionists, he believed, were troublemakers who threatened the peace and stability of the nation. It was no surprise then that Pierce refused to lay before Congress the petitions that had been presented to him by his abolitionist constituents calling for an end to slavery. His views on slavery, states’ rights, and abolitionists were widely shared at this time, both in New Hampshire and throughout the North. (For more on this topic, see Unit 9: Reforming New Hampshire.)

One of Pierce’s closest friends at Bowdoin College had been John Parker Hale from Dover. Also interested in politics, Hale held similar views and even went so far as to help run an abolitionist speaker out of town in 1835. As Pierce’s star rose in New Hampshire politics, so did Hale’s By the mid-1840s, Pierce had become the leader of the Democratic Party in New Hampshire after serving two terms as New Hampshire’s congressman and one as a U.S. senator. He valued above all else party loyalty, and he ran the state’s Democratic organization with an iron fist.

Around the same time, Hale became a U.S. congressman, but somewhere between that 1835 riot in Dover and his bid for congressional re-election in early 1845, Hale’s views on abolitionism changed for reasons that remain unknown. Hale had come to abhor slavery and believe that abolitionism was the only moral choice. He fiercely opposed the annexation of Texas, which would bring more slave territory into the Union. In January 1845, Hale notified his constituents that in defiance of the position taken by the New Hampshire legislature (and the New Hampshire Democratic Party), he would vote against Texas annexation if he was returned to Congress. This position brought him into conflict with Pierce, who resented Hale’s lack of party loyalty as well as his antislavery stance. Pierce successfully organized a campaign to remove Hale from the Democratic ticket, but Hale’s name appeared on the ballot anyway. In the ensuing election in March 1845, with multiple candidates on the ballot, no one received a majority of the vote, so the congressional seat was temporarily vacant.

By then, any friendship between Pierce and Hale had disintegrated, and in the run-up to another election to fill the vacant seat in the summer of 1845, they held a public debate in Concord that drew 2,000 listeners. The New Hampshire state legislature even adjourned early that day so that its members could attend. The topic was the role of slavery in the political process—a subject that would be revisited 13 years later in the Lincoln-Douglas debates. (Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas covered ground that had already been argued by Hale and Pierce.) Pierce was convinced that electing Hale would offend the South, and he urged his fellow citizens to avoid any action that contributed to sectional disharmony. Hale took the moral high ground, arguing that slavery was too horrible to tolerate and southern slaveholders were committed to maintaining their political power more than they were to democracy. During the course of the debate, Hale famously said that he hoped his tombstone would one day read, “He who lies beneath surrendered office, place, and power, rather than bow down and worship slavery.” In response, Pierce accused him of grandstanding. The debate was well-covered in the national media at the time. In fact, it was later said that the debate made Hale a senator and Pierce a president.

That summer, Hale barnstormed across the state speaking in towns throughout New Hampshire. The tour would later become known as the Hale Storm of 1845. He was done with the Democratic Party and instead represented a new and unusual coalition who called themselves Independent Democrats. The organizing personality behind this coalition was Amos Tuck, a politically astute lawyer with deep connections to Dartmouth College (the college’s business school was later named after him). Tuck, like Hale, could no longer tolerate the Democratic Party’s proslavery stance. He gathered together the few remaining Whigs in the state, rallied other antislavery Democrats, and brought on board others from a variety of fledgling political parties, like the Free Soil Party and the Liberty Party. Remarkably, this coalition did well in the next elections, seizing control of the state government. Hale was elected to the U.S. Senate, and Tuck was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. Although the coalition fell apart a year later, it was an important precursor to a national political realignment that would soon redefine America’s political parties.

When Hale took office, America was on the brink of war with Mexico after the United States annexed Texas. Hale, like many other northern senators, voted against the war but to no avail. With Democrats in control of the federal government, the Mexican-American War began in April 1846, deepening the political divide in the United States. Hale took his opposition to the war one step further than his colleagues, though, by openly announcing his support for abolitionism and the need for the federal government to end slavery throughout the United States. By doing so, Hale became the first abolitionist senator in the country.

While Hale was representing New Hampshire in the U.S. Senate, Pierce was serving as a brigadier general in the U.S. Army. Pierce had always been fascinated with the military, but his war record proved spotty. Although he served with U.S. Commanding General Winfield Scott, Pierce was injured in an early action when his horse fell on him, and then he got sick, both of which kept him from front-line duty and brought criticism from fellow officers. Nevertheless, he returned to Concord in 1848 to a hero’s welcome, further burnishing his reputation.

What role did Franklin Pierce's presidency play in the coming of the war?

In the run-up to the presidential election of 1852, Pierce had no idea that his reputation would soon help him become the Democratic nominee for president. The frontrunner for the nomination was actually Pierce’s mentor Levi Woodbury, but Woodbury died suddenly in 1851. As delegates gathered in Baltimore to choose the nominee in July 1852, no one was considering Pierce for the job. (Presidential primaries are a 20th-century development. In the 19th century, party leaders decided at their national conventions who to nominate for president.) There were several more likely candidates for the Democrats. Pierce was not even among the possible contenders until the 35th round of voting. It was not until the 49th ballot that he secured the nomination, making him a true dark-horse candidate. He was chosen in part because of his loyalty to the party, but also because southern interests believed he would be sympathetic to them, despite his northern background.

Although Pierce was well-known among the Democratic leadership, he was hardly a household name among the American public. To introduce him to the broader electorate, the Democrats enlisted author Nathaniel Hawthorne to write a biography of Pierce. The two men had been the best of friends when they attended Bowdoin College together, along with John Parker Hale. Hawthorne had an international reputation as a writer by this point, having published Twice-Told Tales (1837), the Scarlet Letter (1850), and the House of the Seven Gables (1851). Party leaders correctly predicted that Hawthorne’s name would draw readers to the book, which had the further distinction of being the first-ever campaign biography.

There were three candidates for president in 1852: Pierce representing the Democrats, his former commander Winfield Scott representing the Whigs, and his old friend and nemesis John Parker Hale, who was standing for the Free Soil Party. Remarkably, two of three candidates in the election of 1852 came from New Hampshire, and as historian Duane Shaffer wrote in his book Men of Granite, “Pierce and Hale, once the best of friends, were now playing out their political feud on the national stage.” Pierce won with 51 percent of the popular vote, and thus began one of the worst presidencies in American history.

Controversy continues to this day about whether Pierce’s failed presidency was due to his own inability to lead or to the worsening sectional crisis. Regardless, the country moved demonstrably closer to civil war during the four years he was in office, from 1853 to 1857. Pierce was unable to negotiate a middle ground in a time of great polarization, especially as his administration did indeed prove sympathetic to southern interests, a stance that infuriated northerners. Although he was not quite as beholden to the South as his critics claimed, he nevertheless supported southern policies throughout his tenure.

Among the various initiatives Pierce’s government promoted was the failed Ostend Manifesto, which called for the expansion of U.S. territory into Cuba—a long-held dream of southerners looking to extend the geographical reach of slavery. Pierce was also charged with enforcing the provisions of the Compromise of 1850, specifically the controversial Fugitive Slave Act, which required authorities in northern states to actively assist in the capture of runaway slaves. Anyone caught helping runaways, even if a private citizen, was subject to harsh penalties. The law also stripped Black people of various legal protections, blurring the line between enslaved and free. When violence erupted in Boston over the return of the runaway Anthony Burns to slavery, Pierce ordered the U.S. Marines to the city to maintain order and ensure Burns was shipped south again. But Pierce also extended a pardon to a free Black man who had been convicted of working for the Underground Railroad; few took note of Pierce’s clemency, though.

By far the most notorious action of Pierce’s presidency was the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act, which allowed the two U.S. territories to decide for themselves, by popular vote, whether they would allow slavery or not. Nebraska declared itself a free state without much controversy, but the situation in Kansas proved much more complicated as proslavery and antislavery partisans poured into the territory to influence the vote. As each side challenged the integrity of the election, rival governments formed in Kansas, and violence broke out between various bands of partisans, whose ranks included the abolitionist John Brown and his sons. The territory became known as “Bleeding Kansas.”

Increasingly unpopular as president, Pierce was nonetheless shocked when the Democrats did not nominate him for a second term. He is the only sitting president in American history to be passed over by his party when he sought renomination. Pierce’s return to Concord went unremarked. The city even decided not to hold a dinner to welcome him back to the state. His star had indeed fallen.

Pierce’s opponents in New Hampshire had been busy in his absence, particularly Amos Tuck. In October 1853, Tuck convened a meeting in Exeter of 14 political leaders who were unhappy with the Democratic Party. The group was essentially another version of the coalition Tuck had so successfully pulled together in 1845 and 1846. They vowed to form a new political party, one based firmly on antislavery principles and opposed to the political stranglehold exercised by the slaveholding South. They called themselves Republicans. In the years since, other states have claimed to be the birthplace of the Republican Party, most notably Wisconsin, but although similar coalitions were beginning to come together throughout the North, it was Amos Tuck’s coalition in New Hampshire that led the way, including the first use of the new party’s name.

As the 1850s drew to a close, the Republicans were making astonishing political gains, both in New Hampshire and nationally. Pierce and the Democrats seemed helpless to slow or stem the Republican tide, as the country slipped closer and closer toward an irreparable break.

The Secession Crisis

What were Granite Staters’ attitudes toward the secession of the South?

In early March 1860, Abraham Lincoln visited New Hampshire and gave four speeches to enthusiastic audiences in support of Republican policies. He had just come from New York, where he had delivered a similar speech at the famed Cooper Union College, voicing his concerns about a divided Union but also arguing that slavery was the source of all the conflict and must eventually be eradicated if the Union were to survive. He concluded his remarks by saying, “Let us have faith that right makes might, and in that faith, let us, to the end, dare to do our duty as we understand it.” Riding on the success of that speech, Lincoln came to New Hampshire, ostensibly to visit his son, Robert Todd Lincoln. The year before, Robert had failed his Harvard entrance exam and been sent instead to Phillips Exeter for a course of preparatory study before he tried again. Lincoln also wanted to visit his old friend, Amos Tuck. The two men had been junior congressmen together back in 1847, sitting just a few seats apart in the House chamber.

At this point in his career, Lincoln hoped to be considered for vice president on the Republican ticket, figuring that the nomination would go to William Seward of New York. The former congressman from Illinois had been gaining a national reputation, especially after debating Stephen Douglas two years earlier. He planned to speak throughout New England after his stop in New York City. Tuck organized four speeches for him in late February and early March 1860—in Concord, Manchester, Dover, and Exeter—to introduce him to Granite State Republicans. The Cooper Union speech had been a great success, which was duplicated everywhere he went in New Hampshire and the rest of New England. Concord newspaper the New Hampshire Statesman wrote, “We are not extravagant in the remark that a political speech of greater power has rarely, if ever, been uttered in the capital of New Hampshire.” Speaking to more than 6,000 people while in the state, Lincoln reportedly enraptured the crowds with an hour-long speech, although he later recounted how startled he was to be introduced as the next president of the United States when he spoke in Manchester. By the end of his east coast trip, he was considering for the first time a serious run for the presidency, even if it was a long shot.

Going into the Republican national convention in Chicago in May 1860, most people thought Seward would emerge as the party’s nominee. During the roll call of the states, Maine voted first and cast its ballots for Seward, as expected. New Hampshire voted next and surprised everyone when 7 of its 10 delegates voted for Lincoln. Granite Staters had been growing more and more enthusiastic for Lincoln in the spring of 1860, and New Hampshire’s vote, orchestrated by Amos Tuck, gave Lincoln an unexpected, early show of support that began a more general shift toward his candidacy. Indeed, Lincoln secured the nomination on just the third ballot, by which point all 10 of New Hampshire’s delegates supported him.

In the presidential election in November, Lincoln easily claimed New Hampshire’s five electoral votes, winning 56 percent of the vote over the Democratic candidate Stephen Douglas, who had also campaigned in the Granite State but with less satisfying results. Lincoln’s “common man” persona resonated more with practical-minded Granite Staters. Neither of the other two candidates that year—John C. Breckinridge of the Southern Democratic Party or John Bell of the Constitutional Union Party—received a substantial number of votes in New Hampshire, although Breckinridge, the southern candidate, oddly received 3 percent of the popular vote in the state. The Republicans also took control of the state government in New Hampshire, ushering in a period of Republican rule that would stretch unbroken well into the 20th century.

Lincoln’s election was followed by the secession of the southern states, starting with South Carolina on December 20. Shortly after Mississippi seceded on January 9, Franklin Pierce received a letter from one of his closest friends, Jefferson Davis. Davis had served as Pierce’s secretary of war, providing Pierce with loyal emotional and political support throughout Pierce’s presidency. In this January 1861 letter, Davis wrote Pierce about his decision to leave the Union, stating, “I have often and sadly turned my thoughts to you during the troublous times through which we have been passing and now I come to the hard task of announcing to you that the hour is at hand which closes my connection with the United States. . . . Civil war has only horror for me, but whatever circumstances demand shall be met as a duty and I trust be so discharged that you will not be ashamed of our former connection or cease to be my friend.” Davis became the president of the Confederate States of America a month later.

Both Pierce and Tuck worked to find a compromise to keep the southern states from seceding, although they worked on separate efforts. Tuck even traveled to Washington, D.C., to attend a hastily convened peace conference. But all of these last-ditch efforts were in vain. When South Carolina opened fire on Fort Sumter on April 12, 1861, the country—and New Hampshire—was at war.

New Hampshire Fights

How did Granite Staters participate in the Civil War?

Like the rest of the nation, New Hampshire was ill-prepared for war. It had been nearly a century since the country had been involved in a conflict of this scale. New Hampshire had even disbanded the state militia in the 1850s. Instead, many communities had private militia companies, like the Mechanics Phalanx of Pittsfield, the Winnacunnet Guards of Hampton, the Gilmanton Artillery, and the Amoskeag Light Infantry. These groups were not serious military forces, however. They were really more like men’s social clubs.

Granite State Soldiers. Lincoln’s initial call to arms asked the states to produce 75,000 men. New Hampshire’s allotment was one regiment, to be composed of 780 men. Within days of the announcement, more than 2,000 men had volunteered. They traveled to Concord where they mustered at the city’s fairgrounds, which was renamed Camp Union. The first 780 of them were organized into the First New Hampshire Volunteer Regiment. Although some men went home when they weren’t enlisted into the First Regiment, roughly 500 of them continued onto Portsmouth, where they were organized into the Second New Hampshire Volunteer Regiment.

More men joined up in the months that followed. In total, about 34,000 men from New Hampshire served in the war, representing more than 10% of the state’s population. Before the war ended in 1865, the state of New Hampshire would field 18 infantry regiments.

All of these men had to be provisioned with food, weapons, ammunition, uniforms, and medical supplies. The state government provided some of this material, but most towns contributed as well. Claremont, for example, equipped its soldiers with a revolver, a knife, a Bible, 2 pairs of pants, 2 shirts, socks, towels, and handkerchiefs. Likewise, Dover supplied a gun sling, haversack, cap, shoes, blanket, and assorted clothing. Further supplies were organized by the hastily formed New Hampshire Soldiers’ Aid Society, which offered clothing, food, and medical supplies.

In late May 1861, the First New Hampshire left Concord amidst much fanfare. Traveling by train to Washington, D.C., it camped outside of the city, but the men’s enlistments ran out before the regiment saw any action. Many of them reenlisted and served in other regiments, but the First was disbanded without firing a shot in battle.

The experiences of the Second New Hampshire were very different. Although the regiment joined the First New Hampshire outside of Washington, D.C., the Second participated in the Battle of Bull Run in July. It proved to be just the first of many actions, as the regiment was active for the entire length of the war. They fought in some of the biggest battles of the conflict, including Gettysburg and Cold Harbor. Attached to the Second Regiment was nurse Harriet Patience Dame of Barnstead and Concord. Dame acted in an unofficial role, but the regiment came to depend on her throughout the war. Although many women became nurses during the war, Dame was unique in that she traveled with the soldiers and tended to them in the field, cared for them when sick or injured, repaired clothing, located supplies, and maintained connections with friends, families, and supporters back home in New Hampshire. Dame was twice captured by the Confederates, and the second time she was threatened with execution as a spy. After Confederate General Stonewall Jackson intervened on her behalf, she was released. Dame became known as the “Angel of the Battlefield.”

Each of the other regiments that were formed had their own characters and experiences. The Tenth, for example, was composed mostly of Irish recruits from Manchester. The Sixth Regiment was drawn entirely from the western part of the state. The Seventeenth Regiment was disbanded even before it had fully formed, and its men reshuffled to other regiments.

Of all the New Hampshire regiments, none became as revered as the Fifth, which is sometimes known as the “Fighting Fifth.” It was commanded by a journalist named Edward Cross, who originally hailed from Lancaster but had only recently returned to New Hampshire from Arizona, where he ran the first printing press in the territory. Cross was, by all accounts, a larger-than-life personality, with red hair and beard and an impressive physical stature. Notoriously cantankerous, he had fought in three duels and was known as an “Indian fighter” during his time in the West. Once placed in charge of the Fifth New Hampshire he quickly earned a reputation as a strict disciplinarian, who relentlessly drilled his men until they became a skilled military force. Civil War historian Bruce Catton dubbed the Fifth one of the “most effective and courageous combat units in the Union Army.”

The Fifth participated in nearly every major battle in the Virginia theater of the war between the summer of 1862 and the spring of 1865, including Antietam, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, Cold Harbor, Petersburg, and Appomattox. With such a list of engagements, it is hardly surprising that it suffered the highest number of combat fatalities of any regiment in the Union Army.

Among the Fifth’s distinctions was the construction of the Grapevine Bridge in late May 1862. Although the unit had been formed seven months earlier, it had not yet seen any action at the time, and some had taken to calling it the “Bloodless Fifth,” an ironic nickname given the regiment’s eventual service record. In May 1862, the Union Army had become bogged down in southeastern Virginia when the Chickahominy River flooded. Although the federal forces had constructed 11 bridges over the river, none of them held in the face of rising waters. Cross convinced his superiors to allow the Fifth New Hampshire to construct one more bridge, which would span more than a quarter of a mile across swampy ground. The Fifth contained several experienced bridge builders, and the entire unit had become adept at constructing corduroy roads, which were widely used in remote areas of New Hampshire before the Civil War. (Corduroy roads are made from logs laid across muddy or wet ground, allowing travel over otherwise impassable areas.) The bridge constructed by the Fifth, dubbed the Grapevine Bridge, held when all other Union bridges failed, allowing the Union army to cross the river and reinforce units that were under attack by the Confederates during the Battle of Fair Oaks. The Fifth was one of the units to cross the bridge and engage in that fight—their first taste of battle.

The Battle of Gettysburg proved a defining moment for the Fifth New Hampshire. The regiment played the key role in repulsing a major Confederate attack on the second day of the battle. By many accounts, Cross’ brigade, which included not just the Fifth but three other regiments as well, turned the tide of the battle in favor of the Union Army. But the cost was high, with the Fifth sustaining enormous casualties, including Cross himself. Despite these losses, the regiment would continue to serve valiantly throughout the war, adding to its reputation as a hardened fighting force.

In addition to the state’s 18 infantry regiments, New Hampshire men also served in the navy and marines during the war, as well as a variety of special units, like the New Hampshire Light Battery, the First New Hampshire Cavalry, and the First New Hampshire Heavy Artillery. New Hampshire also supplied two companies of men for a unit known as the U.S. Sharpshooters.

In addition, the Granite State provided other men and women who served in military or in related capacities. For example, Thaddeus Lowe of Jefferson pioneered the use of hot air balloons as a means of gathering military intelligence from the air. He formed a balloon corps for the Union Army during the war. Walter Kittredge of Merrimack penned a popular Civil War song called “Tenting in the Old Campground,” which recounted the homesickness of soldiers at the front. New Hampshire women like Sarah Low traveled to Washington, D.C., to become nurses during the war, often enduring stress and hardship themselves as they cared for the men. These women provided a connection between the battlefield and the home front, as they worked with aid societies in New Hampshire to coordinate medical supplies and often found places in the Granite State for soldiers to recuperate.

The artist John Badger Bachelder of Gilmanton was instrumental in shaping how Americans viewed the Battle of Gettysburg and worked to get the battlefield preserved as a national park. In early July 1863, Bachelder was in New Hampshire when he received word that the battle was going on. He jumped on a train and rushed to Pennsylvania but was too late to witness the battle himself. Instead, he surveyed the aftermath and interviewed hundreds of soldiers, which allowed him to create a detailed sketch with dozens of individual soldiers identified by name. He also created a highly detailed map of the battle, tracing the movements of every unit that fought. He then designed a panoramic view of the battlefield that he published in the winter of 1863–64. He eventually commissioned the artist James Walker, renowned for his work during the Mexican-American War, to paint a specific moment from the battle—the famous Pickett’s Charge—based on the materials he had collected, most notably the sketch. The “grand history” painting that resulted, The Repulse of Longstreet’s Assault at the Battle of Gettysburg, was enormous, standing at 7½ feet tall and 20 feet wide. It has been hailed as the most accurate depiction of the engagement. Bachelder wrote a pamphlet to accompany the painting and toured the country with the massive work of art in the 1870s. He also wrote the first visitors’ guidebook to the battlefield, called Gettysburg: What To See and How To See It and compiled the official report on the battle for the U.S. government. Bachelder was eventually named the official Gettysburg historian by the U.S. Congress, and in his role organized the placement of dozens of monuments, markers, and memorials on the battlefield. Through these efforts, he educated Americans about the battle, emphasizing its importance in the course of the Civil War and to our conception of American identity. Bachelder ensured that Gettysburg would be revered for generations to come as a seminal moment in American history.

Life on the Home Front

How did the Civil War impact New Hampshire for those who weren’t fighting?

Even for those who remained in New Hampshire, the Civil War dominated their lives. Communities adjusted to large numbers of men being absent, a change that hit farm families particularly hard. Towns and cities reallocated their resources and engaged in an unprecedented level of spending. Industries and businesses shifted their focus to war-time needs. And politicians reorganized their party structure and rethought their traditional stances.

Providing Care. Communities across New Hampshire mobilized to support the soldiers, outfitting them for military service and supplying them with care packages from home throughout the course of the war. Many of these efforts were coordinated by the N.H. Soldiers’ Aid Society and the dozens of local chapters that sprang up all over the state. Church groups and women’s clubs supplemented these efforts, knitting socks and mittens, rolling bandages, and organizing care packages. Towns not only contributed supplies for the soldiers in the field but also were required by state law to financially support soldiers’ families. At the same time, for those who remained at home, there were greater demands for agricultural goods, as farmers needed to produce enough to feed themselves and their families, but also the families of those who were serving in the military while contributing food to the Union Army as well.

For soldiers who returned home sick or injured, local communities often gave assistance to families to provide care for disabled veterans. The state set up just one hospital during the war for soldiers—Webster Hospital in Manchester, which dealt with some of the more severe cases—but Granite Staters stepped up across New Hampshire to offer housing and medical aid to those who had served. It was a largely informal effort, though. Nurses like Harriet Dame spent hours writing to people she knew in New Hampshire, seeking support for soldiers who were returning to the state requiring assistance. In most cases, the towns determined for themselves what support was needed for disabled soldiers, and the level of care offered varied accordingly.

Industrial Output. New Hampshire industry mobilized for the war effort as well. The North outproduced the South in every way over the course of the war, and New Hampshire made a substantial contribution to that output. The state’s textile mills produced thousands of uniforms for the Union Army, as well as boots, socks, and rifles, although some mills, suffering from the lack of southern cotton, went out of business during these years. Mills in Troy, New Hampshire, produced blankets for Union horses that quickly gained a reputation for durability, becoming known universally as “New Hampshire blankets.” The Abbott-Downing Company, which was known internationally for the famous Concord coach, built wagons, carts, and ambulances for the Union Army. The Amoskeag Mills, which had already been in the process of diversifying their output when the war began, built steam engines to support the Union war effort, helping to move men, weapons, and supplies to the various theaters of fighting.

The Portsmouth Naval Shipyard also made a substantial contribution to the Union war effort, producing many of the U.S. Navy’s ships during this period. The most famous one was the USS Kearsarge. Named after Mount Kearsarge, it launched from the Portsmouth Naval Yard in early 1862 and was sent to European waters to intercept Confederate ships that were bringing supplies back to the South. All of the European countries had maintained neutrality during the war, and they all traded with both the North and the South, but these ships were fair game on the open seas. Both the Union and the Confederacy used commerce raiders, which were warships charged with sinking the other side’s merchant ships. The Confederacy’s most successful commerce raider was the CSS Alabama—in fact, the Alabama was one of the most successful commerce raiders in naval history, sinking more than 65 Union merchant ships. The Alabama was thus a significant danger to northern shipping during the war.

In total, 20 Union warships had been charged with locating the Alabama, which seemed to have enormous luck evading the Union patrols set up in the Atlantic throughout 1862, 1863, and early 1864. The Kearsarge was the ship that finally found the Alabama, although it took more than a year and a half of searching the Atlantic. During that time the Kearsarge traveled as far south as the Canary Islands off the coast of West Africa and as far north as the Outer Hebrides Islands, which lie off the north coast of Scotland. In June 1864, the Kearsarge spotted the Alabama in port at Cherbourg, France. The Kearsarge waited for the Alabama to leave port and sail out of French waters before going on the attack. The battle was over quickly, although spectators said it was spectacular, with the two ships circling each other while firing almost continuously. After just an hour, the Alabama was sunk, in part because the Kearsarge had been secretly armored with iron chains in its hull, making it less vulnerable to the Alabama’s cannon fire. The battle captured the public’s attention in both Europe and America, and was later depicted in several works of art.

Dealing with Dissent. Despite the state’s expansive support for the war effort, not everyone in New Hampshire joined the Republican Party or enthusiastically endorsed the Union cause. One source of disaffection was the never-ending need to supply more men to serve in the military. Even in the early days of the war, many towns offered bounties to men who would enlist, although these bounties strained town budgets. The state also offered bounties in an effort to meet federal quotas for soldiers. Although thousands of men did enlist and fight for the Union throughout the North, the federal government instituted a draft in March 1863, which the states were required to implement.

The draft was very unpopular in New Hampshire—and elsewhere in the North—and state officials delayed instituting it for several months. It was organized as a lottery, although the unlucky men whose names were pulled could hire a substitute to take their place for $300, a system that was even more unpopular than the draft because it favored the wealthy. (The sum of $300 was a substantial amount for that time, equaling more than $6,000 today.) Violence erupted in some locations when officials tried to conduct the lottery, most seriously in Portsmouth in July 1863. Nevertheless, the draft started in New Hampshire the following month, although Granite Staters continued to resent both it and the bounty system. Bounty jumpers—those who collected the money to serve as substitutes and then promptly deserted—became common. The soldiers generated by the draft or serving as substitutes were unenthusiastic, to say the least.

The draft also became a political grievance, as the Democrats in the state played up public disaffection with the draft and, by extension, the war. Although the Republican Party remained firmly in control of New Hampshire politics throughout the war and beyond, the Democratic Party was not as diminished in New Hampshire as it was in most other northern states. It was a formidable minority party, ready to capitalize on any Republican missteps. Most of the state’s Democrats were moderates; they believed in the Union, but their support for the war effort waxed and waned.

However, New Hampshire did have a contingent of Democrats who vigorously defended the South, most notably the publisher and editor of a Concord newspaper called the Democratic Standard. The newspaper routinely printed vehement denouncements of the Republicans, the federal government, and the war. It even disparaged Union soldiers, accusing them of cowardice, ineptitude, and stupidity. At the same time, the Standard ascribed every virtue to the Confederates and continuously praised them as the real American patriots. In the midst of a blistering heatwave in August 1861, a mob attacked the offices of the newspaper in downtown Concord, destroying the printing press and causing bodily harm to the printer and his brothers. News of the attack on the Standard traveled far and wide, even appearing in Confederate newspapers in the South. It was the first of what became a string of attacks on northern publications that objected to the war and tested the limits of free speech.

Former President Franklin Pierce once again emerged as the leader of the state’s Democratic Party during the war years. He had kept a fairly low profile after leaving the White House in early 1857, other than a brief—and failed—attempt to broker a compromise during the secession crisis. In the early months of the war, Pierce supported the federal government, believing that there was no other way to preserve the Union. But as the war dragged on, he grew increasingly disenchanted, as did other northern Democrats. On July 4, 1863, Pierce publicly denounced the war in a speech in Concord, calling it “a fearful, fruitless, fatal civil war” and arguing that the North could not win. But Pierce’s timing was poor. Union forces had dealt the South a decisive blow at the Battle of Gettysburg the day before, and the next day, Confederates surrendered Vicksburg, a vital southern stronghold on the Mississippi River. These two great victories turned the tide of the war in the North’s favor.

The Democrats may not have been able to seize power at the state level, but they were still a force to be reckoned with at the local level in many places in New Hampshire. The tension between Democrats and Republicans made for some difficult town meetings in communities all over the state. At the Goffstown town meeting in March 1864, for example, local Democrats and Republicans came to blows over voting procedures, each side convinced that their constitutional rights were at stake. The state militia had to be called out to restore order. Newspapers ran the story of the disrupted town meeting under the headline, “War in Goffstown,” highlighting the political discord that likely simmered in many towns in New Hampshire during these years.

When news reached the Granite State of the surrender of Robert E. Lee in early 1865, people flooded into the streets of cities and towns all over New Hampshire in celebration. Just five days later, though, Lincoln’s assassination plunged the North into mourning. A crowd showed up at Franklin Pierce’s home shortly after word of Lincoln’s death reached Concord, although it is unclear whether the crowd was an angry one or just seeking some consolation from one of the state’s most prominent native sons. Pierce apparently gave a speech that praised the Union and reminded the crowd of his years of service to the nation and the state. Not everyone who heard him believed him to be sincere, but his words were apparently enough to dispel the crowd. In the months after the war, Pierce exerted his influence with the federal government to argue for leniency with his old friend Jefferson Davis, although he did so quietly.

Surprisingly, Lincoln’s death had some connections to individual Granite Staters. New Hampshire’s former Senator John Parker Hale saw Lincoln in the White House on the very afternoon of Lincoln’s death. Hale had recently been appointed minister to Spain and was meeting with the president to receive some last-minute instructions. That night at Ford’s Theater, Dr. William Child of the Fifth New Hampshire was in attendance when the president was shot. Child almost immediately wrote to his wife of what he had witnessed: “This night I have seen the murder of the President of the United States. . . . It seems all a dream—a wild dream. I cannot realize it although I know I saw it only an hour ago.”

As the nation reeled from Lincoln’s death, New Hampshire native Benjamin Brown French, of Chester, was put in charge of organizing his funeral in Washington, D.C. French hailed from a well-known Granite State family and had already distinguished himself in organizing Lincoln’s inauguration parade in 1861. He held a number of offices in the federal government and seemed to have a knack for being on hand for important events, such as Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address in November 1863. While Lincoln delivered his second inaugural address on the steps of the U.S. Capitol building in March 1864, French argued with an angry spectator, who turned out to be John Wilkes Booth; French succeeded in keeping him away from the president that day but was not in attendance at Ford’s Theater when Booth shot Lincoln. For the fallen president’s funeral, French coordinated the mourning decorations for all federal buildings and designed the catafalque on which Lincoln’s coffin rested in the U.S. Capitol. He even personally prepared Lincoln’s body for burial.

Within days of Lincoln’s death, the Confederacy collapsed, and the war ended. New Hampshire regiments participated in the Grand Review parade, held in Washington, D.C., on May 23 and 24, 1865. Gradually, the soldiers were mustered out and returned to their homes in the Granite State, but for many—particularly those who lived on farms—it was only a temporary return. Having struggled for years with New Hampshire’s inhospitable soil and short growing season, hundreds of returning soldiers packed up their families and moved west after the war. Their military service had shown them other parts of the country, and they believed better opportunities awaited them elsewhere.

New Hampshire faced other problems in the postwar world as well, namely a crippling amount of debt at both the local and state levels. In an effort to raise $13 million, the state government even instituted a temporary income tax to pay off part of it. Farming communities would continue to struggle and decline, but New Hampshire was on the cusp of an economic boom by the time war ended, one that was fueled by a massive expansion of the state’s industrial capacity. Factories would emerge across the state in the second half of the 19th century, bringing in their wake the rise of cities and the arrival of tens of thousands of immigrants.


How did the Civil War continue to resonate for the people of New Hampshire, even decades after it ended?

Given the scale on which the war was fought and the impact it had on New Hampshire—and American—society, it is hardly surprising that the effects of the Civil War were long felt by Granite Staters. In addition to dealing with the financial fallout of four years of war, the state also had to provide care for its veterans. Many of those who returned home suffered from physical and mental disabilities. The state government funded the adjutant general’s office for decades so that it could oversee veterans’ affairs. The state also established and supported the Old Soldiers’ Home in Tilton beginning in 1890. Nevertheless, much of the care for veterans fell on families and communities rather than the state government.

And there were many veterans in New Hampshire to whom the state and the people owed a debt. Of the roughly 34,000 men who served in the war, nearly 5,000 died, with another 400 missing in action. Close to 250 men were held in Confederate prison camps, where they endured almost unimaginable conditions. Some of them were imprisoned in the notorious Andersonville prison in Georgia. (The only Confederate officer or government official executed by the U.S. government after the war was the commander of Andersonville, an indication of just how terrible conditions were in the prison.)

On the whole, the thousands of soldiers who returned to New Hampshire re-entered civilian life, whether in the factory or on the farm. Many of them entered politics, usually as members of the Republican Party, which maintained its grip on state politics. Thousands of former soldiers also joined together in a new organization called the Grand Army of the Republic (G.A.R.), which lobbied for veterans’ issues for decades to come. G.A.R. chapters formed all over the North, becoming the most powerful lobbying group in the country in the second half of the 19th century.

N.H. Veterans’ Association Campground. The other organization concerned with those who had served in the war was the New Hampshire Veterans’ Association, formed in 1875. Other states created similar organizations. The New Hampshire Veterans’ Association developed from the reunions soldiers began holding in the early 1870s, events that usually consisted of a banquet and speakers. The group was not political, leaving that aspect to the G.A.R. Instead, the Veterans’ Association focused on maintaining the bonds among former soldiers by hosting social gatherings, including a statewide soldiers’ reunion held over three days in October 1875 at the Manchester fairgrounds. The second statewide reunion was held in 1878 at Weirs Beach, which was on the cusp of becoming a tourist destination. About 1,500 people attended that reunion—veterans and their families, who camped in tents on the shores of Lake Winnipesaukee. It was such a success that Weirs Beach became the permanent location of these reunions.

The summer retreats at Weirs Beach proved increasingly popular, and in the early 1880s, the Veterans’ Association started building permanent structures at the site, such as dining and dancing pavilions, a grandstand and amphitheater, and a speaker’s platform. The state government paid to construct some barracks, and the various New Hampshire regiments built their own regimental houses. Unsurprisingly, the first of these regimental houses was organized by the Fifth New Hampshire. The nurse Harriet Dame gifted a house to the Second New Hampshire Regiment, the outfit for whom she cared throughout the war. Even the National Veterans’ Association built a house on the site. The Boston & Maine Railroad, which was in the process of consolidating its hold on all train service in the state, helped fund many of these buildings and ran special trains to make it easier for veterans and their families to reach the site.

There was much to do at the campground, especially during the annual four-day reunion in the last week of August. There were bonfires, parades, concerts, dances, sporting events, and even mock battles. No other state in the country had such an extensive veterans’ campground. Many of the leading generals of the Civil War visited the camp and gave speeches, including George B. McClellan, William Tecumseh Sherman, Joseph Hooker, Ambrose Burnside, and Philip Sheridan. Even politicians like Teddy Roosevelt began visiting the campground, anxious to win the veterans’ votes. Although many of the buildings are gone now, the campground is listed on the National Register of Historic Places as a historic district.

Commemorating the War. Even before the fighting ended, Granite Staters were beginning to consider how to commemorate those who fought in it. In August 1863, the Fifth New Hampshire returned to the Granite State to reorganize after sustaining devastating losses at the Battle of Gettysburg a month earlier. Those losses included the regiment’s revered commander, Colonel Edward Cross. While more men were recruited to fill the regiment’s depleted ranks, two issues arose regarding the commemoration of the Fifth’s service. First, several state officials began discussing the possibility of erecting a statue to Cross in the state house yard. The effort never moved forward, but it started a broader discussion about how the state’s Civil War heroes and veterans should be remembered and, more generally, who should have a statue at the state capitol. Second, with all the action the Fifth had seen, the regiment’s battle flags were in tatters and needed replacing. What should become of the old flags, which many felt deserved a more noble end than simply being discarded? Unsure what to do with the flags, the new regimental commander turned them over to the state’s adjutant general, who was in charge of organizing New Hampshire’s military commitment to the war effort.

In the months and years that followed, other regiments followed the same course with their flags, particularly after the war ended and each regiment came to Concord before disbanding. The state organized a dinner for each regiment and ceremoniously retired its flags. By 1866, the adjutant general’s office had placed the flags on display in stands distributed around Doric Hall in the state house. Some were in beautiful condition, while others were filled with bullet holes and tears. A few were hardly more than scraps of fabric. Eventually, cases were built around the walls of the room to preserve the flags and better display them. The flags have remained there ever since, although their care has been the source of controversy, even as recently as the 2010s. Doric Hall did not become known as the Hall of Flags until the middle of the 20th century.

In the decades after the war, memorials were erected in towns throughout New Hampshire, honoring those who had fought and died in the Civil War. Similar efforts at commemoration were occurring across the North. but in the South—which was in economic disarray after the Confederacy’s defeat—those commemorations would not come until the early 20th century, when groups like the United Daughters of the Confederacy promoted the Lost Cause myth. In the North, a variety of veterans’ associations, G.A.R. chapters, women’s clubs, and civic groups erected statues and monuments, mostly to the soldiers who had served or to Abraham Lincoln. More of these commemorations could be found in New England than anywhere else. In New Hampshire, dozens of towns put up statues in the late 19th century to honor their Civil War soldiers. Most of them were made of granite, and many of the statues depicted a figure of a soldier standing with his rifle.

At the New Hampshire State House, the discussion about how to commemorate the war proved particularly contentious. The first statue to go up on the state house grounds was of Daniel Webster in 1886, followed by a statue of New Hampshire’s abolitionist senator John Parker Hale in 1892. Both were paid for by donations from family and friends, not the state government. Neither statue was particularly controversial, but the same could not be said for a proposed statue of Franklin Pierce, which was discussed at the same time as these other statues.

As the only president to hail from New Hampshire, it would not be unusual for the state house grounds to feature a prominent memorial to Pierce, but the G.A.R. and the Republicans would not countenance it. “Wait till the men who wear the G.A.R. button are dead,” railed one state legislator, “and then put up monuments to traitors.” Many shared this view, and the issue remained a political football until the Democrats gained control of the state government in 1912. Oddly, Franklin Pierce’s statue, erected in 1914, is curiously placed on the very edge of the state house grounds, at a noticeable distance from the other statues (of Webster, Hale, and John Stark) that stand before the capitol steps. Historian Michael Connolly described the speakers at the statue dedication ceremony as “agonized in speaking of Pierce, alternatively praising and condemning him, but succeed[ing] at the very least in honoring the fact that he was the President and he did try his very best. Beyond that,” Connolly concluded, “no one could agree.” Pierce’s legacy remains controversial, despite the efforts of the Pierce Brigade—a group of supporters formed in the early 1970s to preserve Pierce’s Concord home and protect his memory. His story and the debate over how to remember him provide an interesting example of the complexities of Civil War reconciliation, even in a northern state.

Focus Questions for This Unit

Lessons in this unit are geared towards students answering the unit focus questions comprehensively through a variety of methods. This unit’s focus questions are:
  • 1
    How did sectionalism threaten the United States?
  • 2
    How did the presidential election of 1860 divide the country?
  • 3
    What did New Hampshire soldiers experience during the Civil War?
  • 4
    How should we remember the Civil War today in New Hampshire?

Essential Questions for This Unit

Essential questions are designed to be answered repeatedly throughout the entire curriculum. This unit particularly addresses all four of the curriculum’s essential questions:
  • 1
    How has New Hampshire come to be the way it is?
  • 2
    How has New Hampshire been shaped by many voices?
  • 3
    How have New Hampshire’s people shaped its government?
  • 4
    How has New Hampshire impacted the nation?

The four lesson plans in this unit focus on sectionalism, the presidential election of 1860, life as a Civil War soldier, and the challenges of commemorating such a divisive episode of American history.

Lesson Plan 1: A House Divided Cannot Stand

Students watch a video and examine primary sources to learn about sectionalism, then create a visual reflection about how it divided the United States prior to the Civil War.

Lesson Plan 2: The Presidential Election of 1860

Students use primary and secondary sources to “meet” the candidates, analyze election data, and explain how Lincoln’s win was the final straw for the southern states.

Lesson Plan 3: Life of a Civil War Soldier

After analyzing objects and photographs, students create a gallery of collaborative drawings depicting the experiences of New Hampshire’s Civil War soldiers.

Lesson Plan 4: How Much Do Civil War Statues Really Tell Us?

Students build on their understanding of monuments and memorials by investigating multiple perspectives about the Franklin Pierce monument at the New Hampshire State House.

Please note that a printable vocabulary list with definitions is accessible to students in the Learn It! section of this unit.

Vocabulary in This Unit

abolition (noun) The action of getting rid of something, specifically ending slavery during the 19th century
abolitionist (noun) A person who works to get rid of something, especially slavery during the 19th century
campaign (noun) A connected series of events or actions to make something happen; for example, a political campaign is waged to win elections
candidate (noun) Someone who is applying for a job. In a presidential primary, a candidate is a person who is trying to get the job of president of the United States.
canteen (noun) A container that holds drinking water
civil war (noun) Violent armed conflict between the citizens of the same region, territory, or country
Civil War (noun) A war that lasted from 1861 to 1865 between the northern states and the southern states. The northern states were fighting to preserve the United States as one country, while the southern states wanted to create their own country called the Confederate States of America.
compromise (verb) The process of coming to a solution that works for everyone
Confederacy (noun) Another term for the Confederate States of America, which seceded from the United States of America in 1861
Confederate Army (noun) The armed forces of the southern states during the Civil War; this army was the military force of the Confederate States
Constitution (noun) The document that lays out the framework for how the federal government works; written in 1787 and ratified in 1789
dissenter (noun) Someone who disagrees with a commonly held opinion or belief
election (noun) When people vote for a person for office or other position
Emancipation Proclamation (noun) A document signed by President Abraham Lincoln that took effect on January 1, 1863, and freed all enslaved people who lived in Confederate states and territories
federal (adjective) The central government of a group of states; the U.S. federal government is in Washington, D.C.
fortification (noun) A defensive structure built to strengthen a position against attack
haversack (noun) A small backpack
home front (noun) People and areas of a country at war who are not involved in the military but whose activities support the war effort
memorial (noun) Something, often a structure, established to remind people of a person or event
Mexican-American War (noun) A war between the United States and Mexico that lasted between 1846 and 1848. The United States won the war and gained millions of acres of land in the West. The question of whether these new territories would allow slavery or not  made sectional tensions much worse between the North and the South in the years before the Civil War.
monument (noun) A structure built to honor a notable person or event
musket (noun) A gun with a long barrel
party divide (noun) When political groups disagree on many issues and have trouble working together
plaque (noun) A sign put up to honor a person or event
platform (noun) The main beliefs and policies of a political party
political party (noun) An organized group of people with similar goals and opinions about how a nation should function. The United States has two major political parties: the Democratic Party and the Republican Party.
popular vote (noun) The votes cast by all eligible voters
regiment (noun) A organized group of soldiers, usually 1,000 men serving under a colonel
secede (verb) To separate from a political organization, like from a state or country
secession (noun) The act of separating from a political organization, like a state or country
sectionalism (noun) Loyalty to the interests of a specific region or section of a country
sharpshooter (noun) Someone who is very good at shooting things from far away
slaveholder (noun) A person who was recognized by law as owning enslaved people
slavery (noun) When human beings are treated as property and made to work for nothing
statue (noun) A figure of a person or animal made out of stone or bronze
territory (noun) An area of the United States that had not yet been been organized as a state
transcontinental railroad (noun) A railroad that crosses a whole continent
Union (noun) During the Civil War, the part of the country that remained loyal to the federal government of the United States of America
Union Army (noun) The armed forces for the northern states during the Civil War; this army was the military force of the United States
veteran (noun) A person who has served in the armed forces

The New Hampshire Historical Society’s journal, Historical New Hampshire, has published nearly two dozen articles about the Granite State in the sectional crisis leading up to the Civil War and war itself—too many to list individually here. Members of the New Hampshire Historical Society may access these articles online at the Society’s website ( Nonmembers can access these articles through online subscription databases like America: History and Life or in printed form at the Society’s headquarters in Concord or in many local libraries around the state.

Online Article
“The Battle of Gettysburg”
By National Geographic Kids
For Students. An explanation of the battle geared toward elementary-age kids, with images
Online Article
“Civil War Book List”
By New York Times
For Educators. This online article provides a curated list and brief description of some of the best books about the American Civil War, although the list only goes up to 2010
Civil War Curriculum Lesson Plans: Elementary School
By American Battlefield Trust
For Educators. A collection of eight standards-based lesson plans that align with Common Core and the National Council for the Social Studies
The Civil War: A Dear America Activity
By Scholastic
For Educators. An article about the course of the war, lesson plans, and activities
The Civil War Diary of Freeman Colby, vols. 1 & 2
By Marek Bennett
For Students and Educators. A graphic novel that tells the story of a young recruit from Henniker in a sometimes humorous but always entertaining way
The Civil War for Kids: A History with 21 Activities
By Janis Herbert
For Students and Educators. A narrative history with biographies, quotes, and images, it includes a timeline and an activity guide, like making ink or creating a stretcher
Crash Course #20: The Civil War, Part 1
By John Green
For Students and Educators. Fast-paced and irreverent video about the Civil War, with animations and other gimmicks to keep advanced students interested. Note that Crash Course has multiple videos on this topic and on slavery and the growing sectionalism that led to the war, but all videos were created for older student audiences
Crash Course #21: The Civil War, Part 2
By John Green
For Students and Educators. A continuation of the fast-paced and irreverent video about the Civil War, with animations and other gimmicks to keep advanced students interested. Note that Crash Course has multiple videos on this topic and on slavery and the growing sectionalism that led to the war, but all videos were created for older student audiences
“Devoted to Patriotic Reminiscences”
By Sally Svenson
For Educators. Published in Historical New Hampshire (vol. 54, Summer 1999), this article discusses the development and history of the N.H. Veterans’ Association’s campground at Weirs Beach
Franklin Pierce: New Hampshire’s Favorite Son
By Peter A. Wallner
For Educators. The definitive biography of the early life of Franklin Pierce, covering his birth to his election to the presidency
Franklin Pierce: A Martyr for the Union
By Peter A. Wallner
For Educators. The second volume of the definitive biography of Franklin Pierce, covering his years in the White House and after his term ended
The History of the Civil War: A History Book for New Readers
By Susan B. Katz
For Students. An introduction written for elementary children; includes illustrations, a visual timeline, and a test-your-knowledge quiz to reinforce learning
Men of Granite: New Hampshire’s Soldiers in the Civil War
By Duane E. Shaffer
For Educators. Covers the daily lives of the soldiers who served from New Hampshire
My Brave Boys: To War with Colonel Cross and the Fighting Fifth
By Mike Pride and Mark Travis
For Educators. A narrative history of the Fifth New Hampshire when it was under the command of its famed leader, Colonel Edward Cross
New Hampshire and the Civil War: Voices from the Granite State
By Bruce D. Heald and William Hallett
For Educators. Overview of the various regiments from New Hampshire that served during the war
The People’s State House
By Elizabeth Dubrulle and Wesley G. Balla
For Educators. Published as a special issue of Historical New Hampshire (vol. 72.1, Spring 2019) in honor of the anniversary of the New Hampshire State House, this well-illustrated journal covers how the people of New Hampshire have used the state house, the portraits displayed throughout the building on its walls, and the five statues that stand on its grounds