Needham History Center & Museum

Free Soil – Free Men: Needham and the Civil War, 1861-1865

tintype unknown CW soldier

n 1861, Needham was a country town, very different than it is today. Just over 2500 people lived in Needham. There were only 50 streets in the entire town – dusty dirt roads, many that were just grass-covered paths leading to a single residence. There was no High School and no Library, and the only public building was the meeting hall in West Needham. There were three churches – the First Parish (Unitarian), and the new Baptist and Congregational churches. Nevertheless, public and church records show that the town had been committed to abolition for many years – and when the time came, sent more than 400 men to fight in the Civil War.

In September 1862, fifteen young men from Needham enlisted together the 44th Regiment of the MA Volunteer Infantry, and shipped out to New Bern, NC for nine months’ service. Using letters, photos and memorabilia, Free Soil – Free Men looks at life in Needham at the start of the Civil War, how the town responded, and the experiences of some of its young soldiers.

Selection from Free Soil – Free Men: Needham and the Civil War, 1861-1865

Click on slideshow images below for detail and descriptions.