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Home Front: Boston and the Civil War


For Americans on both sides of the Mason-Dixon Line, Boston during the mid-1800s represented the very cradle of the “Yankee” North. The city served as a vibrant epicenter of industrialization and Bostonians spearheaded some of the most important social reform movements of the period including abolition, temperance, and women’s rights.

When war broke out in 1861, Boston played an essential dual role: as provider of vast numbers of men to the front lines and as a vital support network on the home front, where its citizens banded together to make enormous contributions and sacrifices on behalf of the Union.

This original exhibition focused on a group of notable Bostonians to tell the story of the Civil War through the eyes of those who lived it. Through original manuscripts, prints, artifacts, and other material from the Boston Public Library’s special collections, Home Front provided a deeply personal look at this extraordinary period in American history and the war’s enormous and lasting impact on Boston and its citizens.

Charles Lenox Remond

William Lloyd Garrison

Abolitionist Advocates

From the 1830s through the end of the Civil War, Boston served as the influential nexus of the country’s anti-slavery movement. This city and its environs produced an extraordinary concentration of activists, orators, and writers dedicated to eradicating slavery in America.

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Oliver Wendell
Holmes, Jr.

Thomas Wentworth Higginson

Military Men

Between 1861 and 1865, Massachusetts supplied almost 150,000 troops to the Union Army during the Civil War.

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Edward Everett

Eliza Boardman Otis

Local Leaders

The Civil War was fought not only on the battlefield.  Bostonians made extraordinary financial contributions and provided vital supplies to the soldiers on the front lines.

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Julia Ward Howe

Maria Weston Chapman

Activist Authors

Massachusetts women wielded the power of their pens to influence public opinion and champion social reforms during the Civil War.

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Dorothea Dix

Louisa May Alcott

Sisters of Mercy

Bostonians made many important contributions to relief efforts during the war, including nursing care and support of soldiers’ aid organizations.

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