Posts Tagged ‘Civil War’


Camp Cameron/Camp Day Diorama:  An Exhibition
Exhibition Location: 2nd Floor of the Main Library

In 1861 North Cambridge and West Somerville was a very thinly settled area. Camp Cameron (Later named Camp Day) was a Civil War camp of Rendezvous and Instruction located on the North Cambridge / West Somerville town line. The Massachusetts First Regiment occupied the camp on June 1, 1861 and the last troops left in January 1863. The camp sat between what is now Mass. Ave. and Broadway. Cameron Ave. runs through the center of it.

For twenty months thousands of troops were both recruited and trained at Camp Cameron. The camp consisted of thirty permanent buildings and several smaller temporary buildings and tents.

Here are two firsthand descriptions of the camp:

“This was a Farm extending from the Old Lexington Pike, (now Broadway) which crosses Winter Hill and thence over the ridge in Somerville to Arlington, south to North Avenue (now Massachusetts Ave) in Cambridge, or to the old Pike that leads from Harvard Square in Old Cambridge to Arlington, and there unites with the road from Somerville, the southern half of the farm in Cambridge was a plateau of perhaps ten acres, extending back from the Cambridge road, and falling off quite abruptly to a meadow through which ran a little brook, a branch of the Alewife. (Tannery Brook) On the Northern border of this plateau, extending with intervals between them, clean across the plain, were barracks. About midway in the range of buildings, and between the two middle barracks in the range a road passed from the Cambridge road, north dividing the plain in two, and crossing the little brook and the sloping field beyond,  which was in Somerville, the barracks at the east of this bridle-road were occupied by the boys of the First Light Battery, and those on the west were early during our stay in this camp, used by men of the Twenty-Sixth, of which the old Sixth, that went through Baltimore on the 19th of April, was the nucleus. Between the barracks and the Cambridge road was the drill ground, and a fine one it was.”

“Near the south bank of the little brook, and to the east of the bridle-road, was the Commissary and Quarter Masters Department building, and to its left and rear, if you were looking south, were our stables. North of the brook and well up the slope to the west of the bridle-road, were the headquarters of the battery.”  [Story of the First Massachusetts Light Battery, Attached to the 6th Army Corp., Andrew J. Bennett, 1886, Press of De Land & Barta, Boston, Ma, pg. 18-19.]

It was described as: “truly it was a heterogeneous compound representing nearly every race of people in Europe, and plentifully sprinkled among them was a leaven of the whole smart, shrewd, intelligent, quick-eyed and quick-witted Americans and such a confusing babble as prevailed I have never heard before. Wrangling and swearing, drinking and eating, talking and laughing, —-all combined to give me no very agreeable foretaste of what I had to expect in my new vocation. I noticed others, new, like myself, to such scenes, who seemed mentally dumb founded, or unconsciously comparing the quiet routine of the life they led at home to the new one they had assumed, and, no doubt, to the great advantage of the former and the dislike of the latter.  [Soldiering in North Carolina…, Thomas Kirwan, 1864, Thomas Kirwan, Boston, pg. 6.]

The camp was often at odds with its neighbors because of noise and crime. For the first year of its existence Camp Cameron trained new regiments for the seat of war. In its second year its primary purpose was to recruit replacement men for the “old regiments, already at the front.” After January 1863 its function was moved to Fort Independence on Boston Harbor. Its biggest drawback was it had no fence and like most camps in the union at this time it was subject to bounty jumping. As recruiting became harder, lucrative signing bounties were added to entice recruits to sign up. Some people made a career out of this. They enlisted, collected the bounty, deserted, moved on to another town, and did it again. Ft. Independence was considered more secure.

If you look at today’s map you will see streets named not only Camp & Cameron but also Seven Pines, Yorktown, Glendale and Fair Oaks, all named for Civil War battles.

Diorama and Text by Dan Sullivan
Facebook:  Camp Cameron, Cambridge, MA

Read Full Post »

Image from the Medford Historical Society.

Discover Your Civil War Ancestors in Federal Documents and Publications

Who: Connie Reik of Tisch Library, Tufts University
What: What a scientist can teach us about poet Emily Dickinson.
Thursday, August 23, 2012 12:00pm – 1:30pm
Where: State Library, Massachusetts State House (map)
Cost: Free and open to the public.

Bring your lunch and join the Massachusetts State Library for a presentation by Connie Reik of Tisch Library, Tufts University, on using federal and Massachusetts state documents and publications to research family members who served in the Civil War. To register, please go to http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/5CPLK9Q. You may also register by calling the State Library Reference Department at 617-727-2590 or by sending an email to reference.department@state.ma.us.

Read Full Post »

Photograph of Camp Meigs in Readville, Massachusetts, which is known to be of similar style to Camp Cameron.

Over the past few years, Dan Sullivan has been researching Camp Cameron, Cambridge’s short-lived Civil War barracks that was located on the Somerville/Cambridge line outside Davis Square.  Very little historical evidence exists for Camp Cameron.  Fortunately, Dan has found some – like descriptions of the camp in the Cambridge newspapers – and through his hard work has pieced together the Camp’s story.

Dan’s research is a fascinating look into both a great subject and the process of archival research.  His work is still ongoing.  Read his article on Camp Cameron for the Somerville Patch and follow his two blogs about the Civil War Barracks:  http://campcameron.blogspot.com/ and http://somerville.patch.com/users/dan-sullivan-4/blog_posts.

Read Full Post »

We were thrilled to have CCTV film our living history of the Civil War last month.  The footage and audio are great!  We’d like to send out a big thanks to filmmaker Pierry Chou and CCTV editor Shirin Mozaffari as well as all the other city departments who helped to make our 150th anniversary of the Civil War event so successful.  Of course none of this would have been possible without the 60 re-enactors from the 22nd MVI, the 28th MVI, and the Lawrence Civil War Memorial Guard who volunteered to spend the day with us, delight us with wonderful programming, and answer all our questions.

Read Full Post »

Every detail was perfect, even down to the soldiers’ bedrolls.  No farbing here!

A few weeks ago, the library hosted a living history of the Civil War with three Massachusetts Civil War reenactor groups, which included a women’s group portraying the Boston Sanitary Commission.  What was so remarkable about the Living History was the absolute attention to detail from the food the soldiers ate on the march (hard tack and puffed corn) to the toothpaste the women collected to send to the soldiers on the battlefield.  You can see some of the details here:  https://thecambridgeroom.wordpress.com/2011/11/17/a-few-good-photos-from-the-civil-war/.

Absolutely none of the reenactors could be accused of farbing– a derogatory term used to describe reenactors (especially those who portray the Civil War) who fail to represent history authentically.  The Urban Dictionary describes a farb as “an inaccurate reenactor, usually wearing gray sweatshirts and a paper hat to complete their confederate uniform. They always want to know if there is anywhere out in California where they can campaign.”

**Special thanks to Reference Librarian Susan Ciccone for this post.**

Read Full Post »

Read Full Post »

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »