(Host) For years, people have visited famous battlefields like Gettysburg and Antietam to learn about the Civil War. Now, the National Park Service has created a walking tour of a Vermont village to show how the war affected the attitudes and lives of the people who lived during that time.
As VPR’s Steve Zind reports the tour offers a different perspective on the Civil War.
(Tour guide) “We have some very important stops here on Elm Street that I’d like to point out to you….”
(Zind) You don’t have to close your eyes to picture Woodstock’s Civil War past. Buildings from that era still stand in this picturesque village, preserved with a little bit of luck and some careful planning. Now Woodstock’s ties to the war are being explored in the first ever Civil War home front walking tour offered by the National Park Service. The tour is run by the Marsh Billings Rockefeller National Historical Park.
Park Superintendent Rolf Diamont says its part of an effort by national parks to expand beyond the famous battlefields and explore the impact the war had on communities.
(Diamont) “So it’s an effort to place it in a different perspective. We’re able to focus on very much a social story.”
(Zind) Civil War historian, writer, and Woodstock native Howard Coffin helped develop the tour. Coffin says the small size of the village and its role in the war, make it ideal.
(Coffin) “I think it’s the best place in Vermont and I’m not sure it isn’t the best place in all the northern states.”
(Zind) As the Shire town of what was then Vermont’s most populous county, Woodstock was a bustling Civil War era community. Vermont’s Adjutant General directed the state’s war effort from his office in Woodstock. Members of Woodstock’s relatively large African American community enlisted in the Union cause. Beyond the antebellum architecture, the monuments and gravestones, and biographies of historical figures from Woodstock’s past, the tour is a lesson in the social impact of the war on communities across the north – how they rallied to support the soldiers heading into battle, how they mourned the war’s casualties and how their attitudes toward the conflict evolved.
(Guide) “And this transition from a society that didn’t want to invade the south to free the slaves to one that eventually by the end of the war sees as it’s aim the emancipation of slaves took place in small towns and communities just like Woodstock. And in many times in Churches just like the Woodstock Congregation Church that we see behind me.”
(Zind) Woodstock resident Mimi Baird says even the locals are learning something about the houses and buildings that they pass every day.
(Baird) “They’re very surprised and they’re very proud. I think it’s making some people take a second look at what we have here.”
(Zind) The Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park is offering the free hour and a half tours of the Civil War home-front through mid-October.
For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Steve Zind in Woodstock.