Freedom & Unity: War & Industry 1860-1910

Freedom & Unity: One Ideal, Many Stories

The second half of the nineteenth century, with the dramatic and heartbreaking impact of civil war and intense technological advancement in both industry and agriculture, was an era of rapid change for all Vermonters. The evolution of the state’s economy, driven by changes in transportation and technology, posed challenges to the integrity of Vermont’s landscape, social unity, and egalitarian traditions. It became necessary for Vermonters to find new ways to maintain the balance between individual fulfillment and the good of the community.

Civil War soldiers practicing with cannonThe Civil War had an impact on every aspect of life, from families who lost loved ones, to farms and factories that lost their workforce, to charitable groups that turned their efforts to supporting the war. Like all wars, it forever changed the men who fought in it. Many saw a different way of life upon leaving their farms for the first time and never returned home. Some who came home never recovered from their traumas, while others went back to their former lives, and many served as leaders of their communities. All shared the common experience of having fought for the principles of freedom and unity.

Image: Artillery practice near the Gaines’ house by George Houghton. Houghton’s Civil War photographs featuring Vermont soldiers are collected in the VHS publication A Very Fine Appearance.

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This page was originally created as part of the Vermont Historical Society’s Freedom & Unity exhibit in 2006. Some materials may have been updated for this 2021 version.

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