Civil War Riot of 1861 – Fremont, NH

July 4th is typically a day of great celebration in New Hampshire.  July 4th, 1861 was a day of great tension in the town of Fremont, NH (named after John C. Fremont, a devout abolitionist).  It was traditional for towns to built large flagpoles called “liberty poles.”  The folks of Fremont built one 150 feet high!  The event of the 4th was well attended and also included several soldiers getting ready to depart for the war.  As the ceremony commenced and the flag was raised on the “liberty pole,” a southern sympathizer attempted to take a shot at the flag.  A riot broke out and many citizens in attendance tried to attack the sympathizer.  Ultimately the soldiers broke up the quarrel.  The significance of this riot is that it was the first Civil War riot to take place in New England and was the fourth to take place in the nation.

This event is marked by the New Hampshire Highway Historical Markers.  They are a set of over 200 signs that document historical people, places, or events in the state of New Hampshire.  This event is marker #170.

The marker reads:  In 1928, the Exeter News-Letter printed an eye-witness account of Fremont’s July 4, 1861 Civil War riot, written by 77-year-old Alden F. Sanborn. After Fremont’s loyal citizens raised a 150-foot “liberty-pole” at nearby Liberty Square and had run up the Union flag, “a southern sympathizer moved to put a bullet through it. Someone immediately moved to put a bullet through that man. [A small riot ensued] which was soon squelched with the aid of the brave boys in Blue, one of whom remark[ed ‘If] we were going to fight the rebels…we had as soon commence here as anywhere.”

The location for this event is:  NH Rt 107 in front of #272, Opposite Sandown Rd, Fremont, NH

Governor Ichabod Goodwin

As a  young educator, finding work during the summer months is essential to supplement financial income.  During the summer of 2008 I took my history degree and got a job giving house tours at Strawbery Banke, in Portsmouth, NH.  Strawbery Banke is a lovely place to visit in the summer.  A field trip favorite for local schools, Strawbery Banke welcomes visitors from all over the world each year and is located across the street from the very attractive Prescott Park.  My duty was to stand post at a house and greet visitors, give a brief history of the home and its owners, and then entertain any questions.

My favorite house to work in was the mansion of the Goodwin family.  The owners of the house were Ichabod and Sarah Goodwin.  Ichabod was actually native to Maine but was the Governor of New Hampshire when the war broke out.  The Goodwin family was quite wealthy due to Ichabod’s career at sea (which is very evident in the home’s decor) and his work with railroads.  In 1841 he served as head of the Portland, Saco, and Portsmouth Railroad.

Governor Ichabod Goodwin

As a politician, Goodwin was a Whig.  He ran for Congress in the 1850s but lost the election.  As the Whig Party died out and the Republican Party increased in popularity, he ran as a Republican for Governor and won two straight terms (New Hampshire had one year terms then, it is now a two year term) serving as the 27th Governor in the State of New Hampshire from 1859-1861.

On April 12, 1861 shots rang out in Charleston, South Carolina Harbor when southern forces opened fire on Fort Sumter.   In response, President Abraham Lincoln issued a call for 75,000 troops.  New Hampshire’s legislature was not in session and there was no money to raise troops so Governor Goodwin took action.  He took some of his own money, appealed to banks, and raised funds to outfit the first two regiments from New Hampshire.

After his time as Governor he would find continued success in various ventures such as steam power.

Interestingly, the mansion at Strawbery Banke was moved from its original location on Islington St across from Goodwin Park.

Goodwin Mansion, Islington St. Portsmouth, NH

For more on Governor Goodwin:

Visit Strawbery Banke

Visit Goodwin Mansion

Note: Governor Goodwin’s wife Sarah Parker Rice was an amazing woman.  The garden on the Strawbery Banke grounds is maintained to be accurate to her work as a gardener from the concise notes she kept.  You can acquire literature on her here.

Fort Constitution

Fort Constitution is one of my favorite places of historical value to visit in New Hampshire.  Besides being a wonderful place to reflect on the past, its views offer some of the prettiest coastal scenery in the state.  While the purpose of this website is to promote New Hampshire during the Civil War, it is important to start this post with a tale of revolution.

New Hampshire Takes Action

Fort Constitution is located in New Castle, NH on the mouth of the Piscataqua and was built to protect Portsmouth Harbor. The British built it during the colonization of New Hampshire and named it Fort William and Mary. After a ride by Paul Revere to Portsmouth on December 13th, 1774, Sons of Liberty, under the guidance of John Sullivan took action on December 14th raiding the fort and taking supplies that would eventually be used in the Battle of Bunker Hill. After the American Revolution the fort was rebuilt and renamed.

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View of the entrance to Portsmouth Harbor, circa 1705 – Library of Congress

Fort Constitution and the Civil War

Here is a short list of some prominent names that visited Fort Constitution previous to the war.

Major Robert Anderson (“the defender of Ft. Sumter”) –  was garrisoned at the fort before the Civil War.

General Robert E. Lee –  Historians speculate that Lee visited the fort in the 1850s as the military conducted surveys of coastal fortifications. Lee was in the area working on fortifications and stayed with General Issac Stevens in Portsmouth.

Robert Parker Parrott (native to Lee, NH) – was at the fort in 1829. Of course he is most famous for his innovation in weaponry. His guns were featured in the fort during the 19th Century.

During the war

– There was construction of a three-tiered granite structure on the fort during the Civil War but it was never completed.

– Lastly, the fort was used during the war to train soldiers.

For a much more detailed history:

The Capture of Fort William and Mary on December 14-15, 1774:
http://www.library.unh.edu/special/index.php/exhibits/capture-of-fort-william-and-mary

A General History of Fort Constitution:
http://www.nhstateparks.org/uploads/pdf/FortConstitutionMilitaryHistory.pdf

Visit the Fort today:
http://www.nhstateparks.org/explore/state-parks/fort-constitution-state-historic-site.aspx