Historian writes about Northborough's role in Civil War


Northborough – While it's always been a matter of historical record that Northborough played a significant role in this country's Civil War, until recently the precise part the town played had never been fully explained.

In his book "Northborough in the Civil War – Citizen, Soldiering and Sacrifice" town resident Bob Ellis explains Northborough's involvement in the costly battle.

Ellis writes about many diff erent facets of the war in the 128-page, 30,000-word book, which was scheduled for release June 28, including anti-slavery activity within the town, personal stories of residents involved in the war and the town's post-war eff orts to memorialize the 29 soldiers who lost their lives in battle.

Another topic in the book is just how many people from Northborough actually fought in the Civil War.

"There have been two brief histories written about Northborough and both have mentioned the war and listed Northborough residents that fought in the war," Ellis said. "But one of the problems with those lists, for me, was what makes a Northborough man?

"A lot of people signed up in Northborough and were credited to Northborough who never lived in Northborough," Ellis explained. "Then, curiously, there are other men who may not have lived in Northborough In Josiah Kent's history of before the war, but who lived in Northborough for 50 years or more after the war that weren't listed as being a Northborough man because they weren't listed as being a Northborough man at the time."

Ellis said the high-end estimate of Northborough men who served in the Civil War in some capacity is more than 200, but when he's asked he replies "about 150." Ellis said the matter is further confused by the memorial in town, which states that 143 Northborough men served in the Civil War.

Ellis said that whichever is correct, it was a significant number when you consider there were about 1,500 town residents at the time, about half being women. The percentage of men who went off the war gets larger when you take the women and children out of the population number.

Of the many vignettes in the book, an interesting one is the story of Francis Harrington. Northborough, compiled in the 1920s, Kent lists Harrington as being a town resident, and a man who would later serve as town clerk, but makes no mention of his having fought in the Civil War.

"Not only did he serve, but he was captured by the southern army and sent to Danville Prison, where he became something of a hero," Ellis explained. "On the day he was to be released from prison he came in contact with another prisoner who had been injured badly and desperately wanted to get home. Harrington told this man he could go in his place.

"That was no small sacrifice, either," Ellis said. "A lot of people died in those prisons during the war. Harrington eventually was released and made his way back to Northborough, where he lived out his life. Sometime later he learned that the man he switched places with never made it home – that he had died on his way back home."

Short URL: http://www.communityadvocate.com/?p=613

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