In 1860, New Jersey was evolving from a rural, parochial past into an industrial, cosmopolitan future. Immigrants flowed into the state’s northeast through the nation’s greatest port of entry, New York, filling a growing need for labor in an expanding economy, yet giving rise to social and political tensions with the established order. New Jerseyans had begun to address the greatest of America’s economic and social dilemmas, race-based slavery, as early as the eighteenth century, when Quakers condemned the “peculiar institution” and Revolutionary patriots perceived the inherent contradiction between it and their cause. Although there was opposition from the state’s slaveholders, a gradual- abolition act passed in 1804 was reinforced by stronger legislation in 1846. Still, the 1860 census for New Jersey listed eighteen elderly slaves, redesignated “apprentices for life.” While a significant minority of New Jerseyans was somewhat sympathetic to Southern interpretations o f state and property rights, there were few, however, who believed in the right of secession, or the extension of slavery into the territories. Although most of New Jersey’s people were content to leave slavery alone where it already existed, there was an active abolitionist community in the state by the 1850s. In the years leading up to the Civil War, New Jersey boasted a significant number of “Underground Railroad” stations. Stretching from Cape May to Jersey City, these havens harbored slaves escaping to freedom. Important “conductors” included Harriet Tubman, then a Cape May hotel cook, and William Still, New Jersey born administrator and chronicler of the “Railroad.” The state also provided a refuge for the Grimke sisters, prominent white Southern abolitionists, and produced home-grown anti-slavery activists like Doctor John Grimes of Boonton. In the 1860 election, the ambivalent majority of New Jersey voters split their electoral vote between Abraham Lincoln and Stephen A. Douglas. There was no great enthusiasm for war in the state, but the Confederate attack on Fort Sumter ignited a patriotic firestorm, and New Jersey sent the first full militia brigade to defend Washington. By the end of the conflict, the state had raised thirty-three regiments of infantry, four of militia, three of cavalry and five batteries of artillery. The New Jersey adjutant general recorded 88,305 men who served during the war, including New Jerseyans who fought in other states’ units and more than 2,900 black Jerseymen who served in the United States Colored Troops and navy. More than 6,200 of these men died in service from combat and non-combat causes, including as inmates of prison camps. Twenty-six soldiers from New Jersey regiments were awarded the Medal of Honor, as were six sailors and two Marines credited to New Jersey and several men born in the state but serving from other states. New Jersey’s soldiers were a diverse lot, representing the ethnic and religious mosaic that became the state’s twentieth-century trademark. Among them were native-born Protestant descendants of the original Dutch and English settlers, like Colonel Gilliam Van Houten of the Twenty-first New Jersey Infantry and Surgeon Gabriel Grant of the Second New Jersey Infantry, and Jews like the capable Captain Myer Asch of the First New Jersey Cavalry. And then there were Catholic Irishmen, like Captain Michael Gallagher of the Second New Jersey Cavalry, a leader in the greatest POW escape in American military history. There were Italians, like musician Alexander Vandoni of the Twenty-seventh New Jersey Infantry, Poles, like dashing Colonel Joseph Karge of the Second New Jersey Cavalry and Germans, like Captain William Hexamer of the First New Jersey Artillery’s Battery A. Two-thirds of the men in the Fifth New Jersey Infantry’s Company C, recruited in Hudson City (part of today’s Jersey City), including Mexican Corporal Calisto Castro, were foreign born. Beginning in 1863, New Jersey’s African Americans flocked to the colors as well, including Sergeant William Robinson of the Twenty-second United States Colored Infantry, who was commended by his captain as “especially distinguished for gallant conduct,” and Sergeant George Ashby of the Forty-fifth US Colored Infantry, who died in 1946, the last surviving New Jersey Civil War soldier. New Jersey’s women made their presence known on and off the battlefields, and included nurses like Cornelia Hancock, who was known as “America’s Florence Nightingale,” and Somerville native Arabella Wharton Griffith Barlow, who nursed her husband, a general, back to health and later died of typhus while tending sick soldiers. Nationally known Trenton poet Ellen C. Howarth supported the troops in writing, with works like “My Jersey Blue,” and famed artist Lilly Martin Spencer of Newark painted the story of the home front, while noted abolitionist Rebecca Buffum Spring turned her Perth Amboy Eagleswood School into a military academy, putting her natural pacifism on hold for the greater good. Despite a strong pro-southern “Copperhead” element in the state and the fact that New Jersey’s electoral vote went against President Lincoln in the election of 1864, governors Charles Olden and Joel Parker strongly supported a Union victory and future governor Marcus Ward provided so much aid and comfort to military men and their families that they dubbed him “the soldier’s friend." Abroad, New Jersey diplomats like William L. Dayton and Thomas H. Dudley contributed materially to the Union cause by blocking Confederate attempts to secure foreign assistance. In 1840, 27,000 New Jerseyans were involved in industrial production. By 1860, that number had more than doubled. New Jersey’s industrial might soon went to work to help win the war, as the state’s civilian manufacturing base rapidly converted to military production in a preview of the nation’s World War II experience. Garment makers like John Boylan of Newark and Nathan Barnert of Paterson manufactured hundreds of thousands of uniforms, while cutlery manufacturers, including James Emerson of Trenton and Henry Sauerbier of Newark, turned out thousands of swords and bayonets. Skilled workmen at Charles Hewitt’s Trenton Iron Works made 1,000 musket barrels a week at the height of the war and Paterson’s Rogers, Ketchum and Grosvenor Locomotive Works built many of the railroad engines that contributed to the significant Union technological advantage that tipped the scales to victory. New Jerseyans fought in all the war’s major campaigns, distinguishing themselves in numerous battles. The state’s citizens supported their soldiers in the field and produced the sinews of war that made victory possible. All of their sacrifices assured the survival of a united and free country. It was not a country without problems, but one with infinite possibilities that have carried us into the twenty-first century. For this we owe a deep debt of gratitude to those long dead men and women of the nineteenth century. And for this we will remember them. - Joseph G. Bilby
A Newark Leather factory in the Civil War era.     (Industrial Interests) Rogers, Ketchum and Grovener locomotive The General built in Paterson, NJ as seen circa 1907 at Union Station, Chattanooga Tennessee Lincoln's NJ 1860 County Percentage of the Popular Vote Preserve, Protect and Educate about New Jersey;s Civil War Heritage
New Jersey Civil War Heritage Assn PO Box 442, Wood-Ridge, NJ 07075
New Jersey
New Jersey in the Civil War
Civil War Heritage Assn