“On the Altar of Our Common Country”: Contested Commemorations of the Civil War

Earl F. Mulderink III

in New Bedford's Civil War

Published by Fordham University Press

Published in print May 2012 | ISBN: 9780823243341
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780823243389 | DOI:

Series: The North's Civil War (FUP)

“On the Altar of Our Common Country”: Contested Commemorations of the Civil War

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This chapter examines efforts by New Bedford's white and black communities to shape local and national memories of the Civil War. Americans' “memory work” through the late nineteenth century struggled against broader changes in New Bedford and the nation that undercut their claims. New Bedford's postbellum patriots claimed to organize the state's first substantial “Memorial Day” in 1866, and their celebrations upheld community pride, notions of equality, and depictions of civil religion. The city's black community joined their one-time neighbor, Frederick Douglass, to use the memory of the war and of African Americans' participation in it to push for full equality through the nineteenth century. Through their impoverished all-black Grand Army of the Republic post, and with the stirring example of local war hero Sergeant William Carney, New Bedford's black community sought to sustain wartime sacrifices amid growing indifference by whites. The chapter also discusses the Fourth of July celebrations, black heroes and commemorations of the war, and dedication of the “Shaw Monument” during Memorial Day 1897.

Keywords: New Bedford; Civil War; memory work; Memorial Day; equality; African Americans; Army of Republic; Fourth of July; commemorations; Shaw Monument

Chapter.  7799 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Military History

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