Jamaica Plain’s Gaggle of Civil War Streets

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The Civil War Monument with its marble block inscribed with names, places and dates of the fallen, forms a solid outline of that war's events. The city of Boston reinforced the memory of the Civil War further when it lay out and named the streets in Jamaica Plain.

Pictured: Civil War cadets from Roxbury. Photograph from Jamaica Plain Historical Society archives.

Names focus on heroes of the war: the naval officer Porter, the general Sheridan, post-war president Andrew Johnson, Massachusetts war governor John Albion Andrew (also seen above an arch on the Monument), and perhaps, in a magnificent gesture, Southern commander-in-chief Robert E. Lee.

The focus of our street names then shifts to battle areas of the Civil War that took place in The Carolina's including the city of Newbern, North Carolina. Of the 146,730 Black and White troops from Massachusetts (with 13,942 casualties) sent to the war under the zeal of governor John A. Andrew, 23 of those dead are memorialized on our Monument, three died in the Carolina campaigns.

Bostonian Rev. Thomas Higginson's classic Army Life in a Black Regiment (the First South Carolina) tells the story of the southern front, which produced immortality for Higginson himself and Bostonian Robert Gould Shaw with his Black 54th Massachusetts Regiment, commemorated before the State House and in the academy-award winning movie Glory.

Newbern's tale is nicely preserved in a 1909 account by J. B. Gardner, written when our Commonwealth erected a statue to its fallen sons in the National Cemetery. A 13-foot bronze statue in classic drapery representing Peace, by M. H. Mosman of the 46th Massachusetts Regiment, surmounts a granite base with side tablets identifying the 17 regiments who served there.

Newbern (also seen as two words with or without a final E on Civil War memorials) was named for the ancient Swiss city by its founders in 1710 (as they were born there).

It was strategically located at the tidewater mark of the Neuss River at a stop on a branch of the Charleston-Richmond railroad, the "jugular vein" of the Confederacy.

The Carolina theaters may have been sideshows in the war, but they were vital ones. The Outer Banks off the North Carolina coast (now a National Seashore) cried out to become a repair base for Federal ships blockading the Southern coast and a headquarters for troops that could raid the many rivers emptying the coast. Such action could raise havoc for the confederate economy, pin down rebel forces from diversion to the major theaters, and possibly allow cutting railroad service -- that all-important Civil War transportation channel. Finally, blockade-runners would no longer be able to be in these inlets.

By January 1862, a corps of ten regiments was recruited from New England -- presumably better qualified for coastal service -- to act under General Burnside as an auxiliary force of the Army of the Potomac as a coastal division. Roanoke Island in the middle of an island chain was captured by Massachusetts regiments in early February amid hard fighting. Proceeding through Pamlico Sound and up the Neuse River, Burnside concentrated on Newbern so as to gain control of the railhead. After heavy fighting the regiments reached the city on March 14, 1862, to find all bridges destroyed but repairable. This emporium of produce, lumber, and cotton became the headquarters of the Department of North Carolina for the war's duration.

Burnside proceeded with the general plan of bringing all the Outer Banks under Union control and reduced Beaufort and Ft. Macon on the Banks' southern end on April 25, 1862, to open the port of Morehead City, the maritime terminus of the branch railroad. Thus the northern half of North Carolina was used as the springboard for Union incursions to inner parts of the state along the mainline of the Charleston-Richmond railroad. Inland Kinston and Gainsborough were under Federal control by the end of December.

However, the Confederacy kept up the fight to protect its rail lifeline, and a tug of war ensued until 1865. Taking the offensive in February 1864, the rebels sent ironclads up and down the Carolina rivers, after building them up river. Sherman's March to the Sea, ending in Savannah, Georgia in December 1864, doomed further resistance. His forces met up with the Union troops in North Carolina in March 1865, and war ended when Johnston surrendered to Sherman on April 26. So the Carolina sideshow had proved its ultimate value and saved a vast cleanup operation, for under Union occupation for so long the area had already returned to civilian life.

By the war's end, 17 Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry companies had seen service in the Department of North Carolina, and many were buried in its soil thus the push in 1907 for the statue at Newbern, dedicated on November 11, 1908. A great number of Bay Staters went down for the occasion and were so impressed by Southern hospitality in spite of "the late unpleasantness" that upon returning to Boston the group sent the Newbern chapter of the Daughters of the Confederacy an inscribed punchbowl of solid silver "in grateful appreciation of the hospitality, kindness, and sympathy show at the dedication of the Soldiers' Monument." The Union was beginning to mend in the best possible way.

This article originally appeared on Jamaica Plain Historical Society's website, and has been republished on Jamaica Plain News with permission from JPHS.