Discussion What was your home town like at the start of the Civil War?

major bill

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Forum Host
Joined
Aug 25, 2012
What was your home town, city, village, or rural area like at the start of the Civil War? I will go first.

In 1847 the Michigan legislature want to more the State Capital out of Detroit and away from the Canadian border. They selected an area in the dense forest near where the Red Cedar River flowed into the Grand River. The local swamps caused cases of malaria and the area was generally avoided so there were only about 20 people living in three small villages. The new capital caused a population expulsion with about 3,079 people living in the City Lansing at the start of the Civil War. Neither the Grand River or Red Cedar River were not navigable. The swamps kept the city without rail transportation until after the Civil War and the only all weather road was a 20 mile plank toll road to the railhead in Williamston. In the summer a couple of rude trails lead south through the dense forest. However, these could only be used in dry weather.

Being almost cut off by swamp and forest, from Michaign's areas of major population, Lansing was still in many ways a frontier city. The state legislators and favor seekers left the area as soon as the legislation season was over. The city did have two small militia companies and a weekly newspaper.

So in summery, my home town of Lansing was a small city in 1861. At the start of the Civil War my dad's family and half my mother's family lived in a rural area south of Lansing. How does my home town compare with your home town in 1861?
 

JimmyCSA

Cadet
Joined
Dec 12, 2020
Location
CT
Portland Connecticut is known for the brownstone used across the country. The brownstone houses in New York are from the Portland quarry. Situated along the Connecticut river, it was a perfect place for shipbuilding. Plenty of ships in the Revolutionary War, War of 1812 and the Civil War were constructed in our dock yards. The steamship USS National Gaurd and the store ship USS J. C. Kuhn were built by S. Gildersleeve & Sons shipyard and both were used blockading the Confederacy. One of the very few Chinese-Americans to serve in the Union was Corporal Joseph Peirce, he lived in Portland Connecticut and served in the 14th Connecticut Infantry "Nutmeg" Regiment. In Portland their is also a Soldiers Statue, erected in 1871 and designed by German veteran of a New York regiment Charles Conrads. I was also lucky enough to have a number of friends who lived in houses built before the war and I lived in a house built in 1839.

1607979029239.png

“Our rifles did terrible execution – the gray backs lay thick in the hollow and on the hillside. The rebels turned the batteries upon us and the shot and shell whistled over our heads. We had to lie close behind our breastworks but their fire was too deadly for us to stand and we were obliged to retire under a fire of musketry and artillery. At this time the rebels had nearly surrounded us…It is a wonder how we got away without all being killed. The fight raged terrible all day and the number of killed and wounded was enormous. Such a sight as that battlefield I hope never to see again. The thunder of cannon, roar of musketry, shouts and yells of the soldiers and shrieks an groans of the wounded and dying were terrible to hear…Such scenes and hardships I never wish to pass through again.” Henry Cornwall of Portland, CT on the Battle of Chancellorsville. Written inside the Testament & Psalm is “If I am killed send this book to Andrew Cornwall Portland Conn.”
 

DaveBrt

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Mar 6, 2010
Location
Charlotte, NC
I grew up in Waco, Texas, a town that was founded in the 1830's on the site of an Indian village. Town and village were situated on the Brazos River at a point that became the major up river crossing of the Brazos. When the war began, the population was about 4,000 and several companies were raised, including some for what became Hood's Brigade. The town was the support town for a cotton and corn producing area and became the headquarters of a quartermaster buying supplies and collecting tax-in-kind.
 

Kurt G

Sergeant Major
Joined
May 23, 2018
Flint , Michigan was an important lumbering area and had a population of around 3,000 . The Flint Union Grays was the local militia unit. It was formed in 1855 and marched to Detroit to become company F of the 2nd Michigan Infantry . Company F included Sarah Edmonds who disguised herself as a man to join. Also in 1861 the 10th Michigan was formed and started training at Camp Thomson in what is now downtown Flint.
 

Quaama

Sergeant
Joined
Sep 13, 2020
Location
Port Macquarie, Australia
Previously a penal settlement, the last convicts were relocated in 1847. Following a depression in 1840 the settlement was in decline but the town began to recover in the early 1860's upon the arrival of pastoralists.
In 1861 Port Macquarie had a population of 4794 and it seemed to be a 'boring' place [see below].
In 2020 Port Macquarie has a population of about 50,000 but double that in holidays as it is a popular tourist town.


From a newspaper article May 27 1861:
"Since the 6th instant, the date of my last report, the weather has been very trying, rain almost every day until the 17th. on which day we had sunshine; but there was a bleak wind from the westward, which, about seven p.m., increased to a perfect gale, and at 11 p.m. we had a heavy shower. On the 18th, about four p.m., there was every appearance of more rain; but towards eight p.m. the wind again set in from the west, but not so strongly as on the day previous. On Sunday, the 18th, there were indications of rain throughout the day, a cold bleak wind prevailing, and the fleecy clouds betokening more rain. The weather for the last three months has been most trying, and the rains most extraordinary. On the whole the public health has not suffered as much as one would anticipate; only one death has been registered (that of an infant of six days) since 17th March.
At the Police-office the cases, with one exception, have all been of an uninteresting nature, consequently not worth space in your columns."
[The rain mentioned above caused problems later as seen below.]

And from 29 June 1861:
"We are remarkably dull here just now. Business is verily at a low ebb-literally nothing doing ... There is a report that the schooner William, is to be taken off the trade. I trust such is not the case, as the visit of a steamer only once a month to Port Macquarie would barely be sufficient for our wants. Maize, now, is quoted at 4s. 6d. The late floods have damaged grain considerably. Potatoes are very scarce just now. Beef is 4d per lb., and at times scarce. Mutton is unknown here, beyond the name. Butter is 1s. 3d. Bacon, none.
The unfortunate aborigines have nob yet received their blankets They are very importunate on the matter." [s = shillings; d = pence.]
 

jackt62

Captain
Joined
Jul 28, 2015
Location
New York City
My "home town" of East New York is a neighborhood in the borough of Brooklyn, in the City of New York. In 1861, East New York was a newly found independent community that was annexed to the City of Brooklyn in 1886; Brooklyn itself was merged in 1898 to become part of the City of Greater New York. The population of Brooklyn in 1860 was 266,661; in 2020 it is 2,600,750.
 

DixieRifles

Captain
Member of the Year
Regtl. Staff Shiloh 2020
Joined
Mar 22, 2009
Location
Collierville, TN
Collierville, Tennessee, was a small village. The town was granted a permit to incorporate in February 1850 with 320 acres. The Memphis & Charleston RR had completed its connection between Charleston and Memphis only 3 or so years earlier{i.e., before the War began}. There was a train stop on the line and a stag stop less than a mile away. There were scattered homes and a few industries---mainly lumber mill and cotton press.


This map was drawn up by Lt. James H. Wilson sometime in 1862. The M&C RR dips down and bends back up as it parallels the main road. Some of the houses are labeled by name and a few buildings.
Cville--map.JPG


During the Anniversary, the town erected walking trail markers. There was even one for the town.
Cville--Sign.JPG


After the War ended, the town had lost all but 3 buildings and most of the people were scattered so the town was no longer incorporated. Finally in 1870, the town was reincorporated.
 
Last edited:

John Hartwell

Major
Forum Host
Joined
Aug 27, 2011
Location
Central Massachusetts
With an 1860 population of just 914, Auburn, Mass. was the smallest of the 56 cities and towns in Worcester County. About 70% were of old Yankee stock, about 30% immigrant (Irish predominantly, arriving since c.1840). Mostly agricultural (with a focus on market gardening), with two small textile mills (about half of whose employees lived out of town), & a few shops. Just starting to develop as a bedroom town for workers in the neighboring city or Worcester (commuting by 2 rairoads) -- relatively few in 1860, the numbers would soon grow.

The town had been incorporated in 1778, under the name of Ward. The name was changed to Auburn in 1838. It had been a strongly Whig town through the '40s (Andy Jackson never attracted a single vote in his 3 presidential campaigns), toyed briefly with the FreeSoil and Knownothing fads, but was strongly Republican by 1860, and remained so until the 1940s. Still, during the 1850s&'60s the Democrats frequently pulled in some 30% of the vote.

The town would provide 120 volunteers and 0 draftees, far over its quota (note that's from a total population of under 1k).
 
Last edited:

NedBaldwin

Major
Joined
Feb 19, 2011
Location
California
In 1860 Hingham Mass (population at that time of 4,351) celebrated its 225 birthday, was proud that it was the place Lincoln’s ancestors arrived from England and that John Andrew, who would be inaugurated as Governor of the State in January 1861, had married a local girl he met at an anti-slavery fair and settled in the town in the 1850s. Its a coastal town of farmers and fishermen, a bucket factory and a rope walk. It was also known as a "hotbed" of abolitionism.

The town militia formed company I of the 4th Massachusetts Militia and was known as the Lincoln Light Infantry (named after town resident Benjamin Lincoln, general of the revolution and first secretary of war of the United States). On April 17 1861 they assembled in the town square and boarded the train to Boston to join the other companies of the regiment, which after a speech from Governor Andrew boarded a ship for Fort Monroe in Virginia, arriving on the 20th to hold that spot for the US.

.
 
Last edited:

Lubliner

1st Lieutenant
Forum Host
Joined
Nov 27, 2018
Location
Chattanooga, Tennessee
My hometown was MacClellan's site for the Peninsula Campaign. From the tip of the Peninsula where Fort Monroe exists, up the James River toward Mulberry Island is maybe 12 miles of waterfront. The James River was very wide near my home, Smithfield being opposite. We lived about a mile from the river and even as a youth it was almost all wooded, with one plantation assessable by a single dirt road. The main house looked over the river, which had high clay banks and small strips of sand. Blount Point was very near to my house, and numerous depressions filled with marshes reached inland from small openings such as Deep Creek.
Lubliner.
 

mofederal

Major
Joined
Jun 27, 2017
Location
Southeast Missouri
My hometown, the nearest village to where I lived was Jacksonville, Mo., a Post Office has existed there since 1837. In the 1880 Census reported that 162 people lived there. It is a town divided by the North Missouri RR, when it was constructed. The other town where I actually went to school was located in Cairo, Mo. It was founded as Fairview in 1858. I have read some accounts of a warehouse used by the NMRR was located alongside of a depot in the village. By 1860 the village was being called Cairo after the city in Egypt. In the 1880 Census reported that the village had 100 people living there. Cairo was divided by the construction of the North Missouri RR. Both villages reside in Randolph County, Missouri. Either town might have had a small Army garrison during the war to protect the railroad. The nearest town of any size was Macon, Mo.
 
Last edited:

Lampasas Bill

Corporal
Joined
Sep 24, 2018
In 1861 my hometown of San Antonio, founded in 1718, was one of the larger towns in Texas. It's population was primarily Hispanic, Anglo American and German. Most of the buildings were built in the Spanish tradition: flat-roofed, single-story and of stone or adobe. Comanches still occasionally raided the surrounding ranches. After the Mexican war the Alamo (formerly Mission San Antonio de Valero) was leased by the Catholic Church to the U.S. Army, which restored the buildings damaged in the 1836 siege for use as a quartermaster depot to supply the frontier forts; a U.S. arsenal was also built. On Feb. 18, 1861, some 800 armed and mounted secessionists under Maj. Ben McCulloch entered the town and confronted Gen. David E. Twiggs, commander of the Department of Texas. Twiggs, a Southern sympathizer, promptly surrendered all U.S. forces and facilities to the State of Texas. During the war, San Antonio remained an important staging place for caravans transporting Confederate cotton to the Mexican border. Three of my ancestors from Atascosa County enlisted in Col. Tom Green's 5th Texas Mounted Volunteers in San Antonio.
 
Joined
Oct 24, 2019
Location
Texas

NedBaldwin

Major
Joined
Feb 19, 2011
Location
California
Portland Connecticut is known for the brownstone used across the country. The brownstone houses in New York are from the Portland quarry. Situated along the Connecticut river, it was a perfect place for shipbuilding. Plenty of ships in the Revolutionary War, War of 1812 and the Civil War were constructed in our dock yards. The steamship USS National Gaurd and the store ship USS J. C. Kuhn were built by S. Gildersleeve & Sons shipyard and both were used blockading the Confederacy. One of the very few Chinese-Americans to serve in the Union was Corporal Joseph Peirce, he lived in Portland Connecticut and served in the 14th Connecticut Infantry "Nutmeg" Regiment. In Portland their is also a Soldiers Statue, erected in 1871 and designed by German veteran of a New York regiment Charles Conrads. I was also lucky enough to have a number of friends who lived in houses built before the war and I lived in a house built in 1839.

View attachment 384574
“Our rifles did terrible execution – the gray backs lay thick in the hollow and on the hillside. The rebels turned the batteries upon us and the shot and shell whistled over our heads. We had to lie close behind our breastworks but their fire was too deadly for us to stand and we were obliged to retire under a fire of musketry and artillery. At this time the rebels had nearly surrounded us…It is a wonder how we got away without all being killed. The fight raged terrible all day and the number of killed and wounded was enormous. Such a sight as that battlefield I hope never to see again. The thunder of cannon, roar of musketry, shouts and yells of the soldiers and shrieks an groans of the wounded and dying were terrible to hear…Such scenes and hardships I never wish to pass through again.” Henry Cornwall of Portland, CT on the Battle of Chancellorsville. Written inside the Testament & Psalm is “If I am killed send this book to Andrew Cornwall Portland Conn.”
I went to college in Middletown, across the river
 
Joined
Oct 24, 2019
Location
Texas
Map of my home town in 1857. Population of 1500.

oakland.jpg
 
Top