The Civil War in the North

Sojourner Truth statue in Florence, Mass.

Almost all the Civil War battlefields are in the South, but the conflict happened in the North, too, even if it was not on the scale that it was in the Confederate states. Roughly two million men served in the United States army during the war; and monuments to Yankee regiments and individual sacrifice have been erected in even the smallest of towns. Hundreds of thousands of families lost loved ones to battle or disease or saw their brothers, fathers, or sons return home with serious wounds or mental scars. Although very few northern civilians ever heard a shot fired in anger, they were part of the struggle to free the slaves and preserve the Union (though not always in that order).

In the village of Florence, which is part of the town of Northampton, Mass., you can find a monument to African American civil rights activist and abolitionist Sojourner Truth that the town dedicated in 2002. The plaque reads:

Sojourner Truth was born a slave named Isabella in upstate New York in 1797. She worked for a series of five masters while raising five children. When slavery ended in New York state in 1827, she settled in New York City. A deeply religious woman, Isabella took the name Sojourner Truth after God spoke to her. She was 46 years old when she set out walking and preaching through Long Island and Connecticut. Eventually she reached Massachusetts and joined the Northampton Association of Education and Industry.

From her home in what now is Florence, Truth broadened her mission and began speaking out for the abolition of slavery and for women’s rights.

Once when giving a speech, Sojourner Truth was accused by a male heckler of not being a woman. To prove it, she proceeded to take out one of her breasts to shut the man up. It’s no wonder that she decided to settle in Northampton, which has earned a reputation as a place for women activists to live, speak, and write.

In Virginia, the history of the Civil War is easy to find. In New England, it’s not so palpable, but there are many reminders of how northerners contributed to the Union war effort.

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