The Civl War was a defining moment for the United States. As a nation at war against his own countrymen, the Civil War was not just another conflict – it was a fight for the nation of our nation’s very soul. As the Union rejected the evils of slavery and fought to see it abolished on a national level, the northern states banded together as one to assure that these travesties would no longer be tolerated within our nation. As a member of the Union Army, countless residents of New Jersey would go on to make the ultimate sacrifice for the betterment of our nation. As American fought to uphold the very values it was founded upon, both here in Trenton and all through New Jersey, our citizens showed up to do their part and fight for what is right.
From the very start of the United States, New Jersey has been solidly aligned with the north. As a matter of fact, when Trenton was in consideration to become the nation’s capital, it was ultimately snubbed as the southern states asserted that the capital needed to be beneath the Mason-Dixon Line. So when the Civil War rolled around, it should be no surprise that New Jersey would align itself with northern states and values. The Civil War officially began on April 12th, 1861, when the Confederate troops opened fire on South Carolina’s Fort Sumter. New Jersey officially entered the fray on May 4th, 1861, when President Abraham Lincoln called upon the nation to take up their arms, marking the beginning of a four-year war.
While no physical battles of the Civil War took place in the Garden State, New Jersey still experienced its fair share of sacrifice throughout the course of the war. In total, New Jersey is estimated to have sent more than 88,000 soldiers to battle throughout the course of the war. Of those sent from the Garden State, the majority served in the Army of the Potomac. The remaining soldiers would be scattered throughout 52 different regiments, making their mark all throughout the nation. In total, more that 6,000 New Jerseyans lost their lives in pursuit of the Union’s eventual victory.
Regarding Trenton’s role in the Civil War, the majority of the city’s troops would go on to serve in the Army of the Potomac. While the war raged on in the southern states, residents of the Capital City and surrounding areas relied on local journalism to keep the region up to date on the state of affairs. Crowds were known to gather in front of publications like the State Gazette and Republican, where the latest news of the boys in Virginia would be posted for all to see. Much like today, local and regional journalism was a treasured resource throughout the duration of the war, offering our community much-needed intel regarding Trenton’s soldiers who were bravely fighting in battle.
In the wake of the Civil War, history owes a great debt of appreciation to those New Jersey residents who served on behalf of the United States. While the Civil War certainly did not undo the evils of slavery and racism in this country, the Union’s victory did mark a turning point in the fight for justice and equality in our nation. As we examine this defining moment in the nation’s history, may we always remember our own state’s contributions to the Union’s eventual victory.