Boston’s Civil War Top 10

black-soldiers-of-the-54th-massachusetts-regiment-memorial-in-boston-massachusettsI am working on finalizing a list of my top 10 favorite Civil War-related sites here in Boston for an upcoming issue of The Civil War Monitor. I’ve given a couple of talks in the area about how Bostonians commemorated and remembered the Civil War. It’s an interesting challenge given the extent to which the American Revolution dominates popular memory and heritage tourism. Boston’s commemorative landscape rivals any southern city and reflects the direct impact that the war and its outcome had on the region. Most of the sites listed below can easily be included in a family’s vacation itinerary.

  1. Robert Gould Shaw Memorial and Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument (the Boston Common)
  2. African Meeting House
  3. Grand Army of the Republic Hall in Lynn, MA
  4. Memorial Hall at Harvard University
  5. Mount Auburn Cemetery
  6. Tremont Temple
  7. Faneuil Hall
  8. Public Gardens (statues of Edward Everett Hale, Wendell Phillips, Thomas Cass, William Ellery Channing, and Charles Sumner and Emancipation/Lincoln statue)
  9. Fort Warren
  10. Governor Andrew House

The list is a work in progress so feel free to offer suggestions.

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24 comments… add one
  • john brogan Sep 8, 2013 @ 17:07

    What a great idea. I plan to do this for Chicago with my class. Looking forward to visiting Boston and using your list as a travel guide.

    • Kevin Levin Sep 8, 2013 @ 17:11

      Thanks, John. Nice to hear from you. Hope you’ve gotten off to a positive start in the new school year.

  • Dave Kearney Sep 8, 2013 @ 6:35


    We spent several days in Boston last month and thoroughly enjoyed walking around town, including an afternoon spent walking the Boston Freedom Trail, with which you’re probably familiar. The Trail naturally focuses on events in Boston leading up to and through the Revolution, but also includes at least two sites on your Top 10 work-in-progress list that relate to the Civil War and its issues – the Robert Gould Shaw memorial and “Fa-noodle” Hall (our “let’s not worry about how to pronounce it” approach to Faneuil). Faneuil, of course, is connected to a broad stretch of Boston and national history including both the Revolution and the Civil War.

    I raise for consideration for your Top 10 list another of the Trail’s featured sites that has Civil War connections – the “Old Corner Book Store,” which in the mid-1800s “became America’s literary center as the office of Ticknor and Fields, America’s leading book publisher.”

    According to the wonderful Trail guide booklet we used for our walk, Longfellow, Hawthorne, Emerson, Dickens, and Harriet Beecher Stowe all visited the Old Corner Book Store. Julia Ward Howe’s “Battle Hymn of the Republic” was one of the famous works published in the building, through “The Atlantic Monthly.”

    Would this site maybe at least make your “Honorable Mention” list? (The building also reflects a modern example of “adaptive reuse” of an historic American building – it now houses a Chipotle Mexican Grill!)


    • Kevin Levin Sep 8, 2013 @ 6:37

      Hi Dave,

      Glad to hear you had a nice time in Boston. I agree re: the importance of the “Old Corner Book Store.” It was definitely on my list, but in the end something has to be left out. Thanks for the comment and come back soon. 🙂

  • Roy Rider Sep 5, 2013 @ 12:44

    How about adding Fort Independence, the eighth fort on Castle Island. Castle Island is the oldest continuously fortified site in British North America.

    • Kevin Levin Sep 5, 2013 @ 12:45

      I’ve already got one fort on the list. 🙂

  • Nathan Towne Sep 5, 2013 @ 6:10


    If you are interested in paying homage there is a beautiful Equestrian statue of Joseph Hooker at the Massachusetts State House in the Beacon Hill neighborhood.

    In Waltham, Massachusetts, Nathaniel Banks is buried at a gorgeous site at the Grove Hill Cemetery and his statue is in Central square.

    Furthermore, Darius Couch is also buried right down the road at Mount Pleasant Cemetery in Taunton and Benjamin Butler at the Hildreth Family Cemetery in Lowell.

    Nathan Towne

  • JC Sep 5, 2013 @ 4:44

    Not sure if this would come in the top 10, but I really love the lion statues dedicated to the 2nd and 20th Mass in the BPL. There’s something about those statues that resonates with me.

    • Kevin Levin Sep 5, 2013 @ 5:22

      Couldn’t agree more.

  • Robert Romer Sep 5, 2013 @ 3:59

    Please – Let’s call it the Mass 54th Memorial. It’s a moving tribute to all the men of the 54th, including Col. Shaw.

    And the best place to see it, free from exhaust fumes, duck boats, and tour guides with bull horns, is indeed the Saint-Gaudens NPS site at Cornish, NH. You can study it, up close, to your heart’s content, peer behind the horse, for instance, to see the details on some of the soldiers that you cannot see from a distance. And often you can sit there and think and look, as long as you like, all by yourself.

    A special exhibit on the Mass 54th is there for a few more days – through September 9. And there is lots more Saint-Gaudens material there to look at.

    Bob Romer, Amherst

    • Kevin Levin Sep 5, 2013 @ 4:06

      Thanks for the comment. I think it’s important to refer to it by what I believe is its original name, though it is also important to remember that it is a monument to Shaw and his men. I do need to visit the NPS site in Cornish, NH, but I would suggest that it is much more important to see the monument in its proper setting on Beacon Street in front of the state house. Proper interpretation of what I think is our most important piece of Civil War commemoration hinges on this.

  • London John Sep 5, 2013 @ 3:09

    Many years ago I took the tour of Fanueil Hall with a uniformed guide (I think he was called a Ranger?) and I don’t remember his saying anything about its use as an enlistment centre during the Civil War.
    Is there nothing in Boston connected with the Civil War at sea?

    • Kevin Levin Sep 5, 2013 @ 3:13

      There is the USS Constitution at the Charlestown Navy Yard. In April 1861 it was docked at the U.S. Naval Academy in Maryland and was the target of a Confederate raid. The 8th Massachusetts Infantry arrived and sailed it safely away.

    • Jocelyn Sep 5, 2013 @ 8:44

      Boston National Historical Park helps to interpret the history of Faneuil Hall, so yes…the uniformed guide was a Ranger. However, depending on which Ranger you get and what questions are asked, the stories you hear even within the span of 20 minutes will be completely different because we all have different focuses. We are not known specifically as a CW park, we are an AmRev and 1812 park definitely.

      The Charlestown Navy Yard and, more specifically, Dry Dock 1 are associated with the battles at sea for the Civil War.

      • Kevin Levin Sep 5, 2013 @ 8:49

        Thanks for the information, Jocelyn.

  • M.D. Blough Sep 5, 2013 @ 2:29

    I’d include the Adams National Historical Park. In addition to JQA’s other accomplishments, he originated the war powers theory for emancipation.

    • Kevin Levin Sep 5, 2013 @ 2:31

      Good point, but I was thinking of places that are more directly connected to the Civil War. The tour at ANHP doesn’t include anything about the war as far as I remember.

      • M.D. Blough Sep 5, 2013 @ 4:41

        It should then. I don’t remember it including anything on the CW either. However, add a microwave, a bed, an easy chair, and a small bathroom and I could happily spend my days in the stone library behind the big house that Charles Francis Adams built to house JQA’s book collection.

        • Kevin Levin Sep 5, 2013 @ 5:22

          Not if I get there first, Margaret. 🙂

  • Patrick Young Sep 5, 2013 @ 2:06

    You might point out that St Gaudens was an immigrant. The Cass statue provides an opportunity to talk about the ambiguous position of the Irish in a city of abolitionists who wanted to make it harder for immigrants to become citizens. Cass’s past with the Columbian artillery is an opportunity for a discussion of the Know Nothing background as well as the opposition of many Irish to abolition.

    • Kevin Levin Sep 5, 2013 @ 2:12

      Hi Pat. Unfortunately, this feature is not going to be much more than a list and a few sentences, but I will definitely keep this point in mind when I write it up. As always, thanks.

      • Patrick Young Sep 5, 2013 @ 2:16

        Btw, have you visited the National Park in Cornish New Hampshire at St Gaudens old home. It is an amazing place for any student of historical memory because it has full size copies of many of his famous historical works.

        • Kevin Levin Sep 5, 2013 @ 2:19

          Not yet, but it’s definitely on my list.

          • Patrick Young Sep 5, 2013 @ 2:24

            I was blown over. And I learned that this Irish immigrant liked to be called Gus.

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