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Somerville Library Hosts Discussion by Rutgers Historian on New Jersey’s Role in the Civil War

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Rutgers Professor Emeritus William Gillette will discuss New Jersey's role in the Civil War Feb. 20 at the Somerville Library
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SOMERVILLE, NJ – Noted Civil War historian and Rutgers University Professor Emeritus William Gillette will visit the Somerville Library on Feb. 20 at 2 p.m. to discuss the role of New Jersey in the Civil War.

This program is funded by the Horizons Speakers Bureau of the New Jersey Council for the Humanities, a state partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities, through the Somerset County Library System of New Jersey. Gillette’s presentation will emphasize a reconsideration of New Jersey's Civil War role.

Gillette is the author of “Jersey Blue: Civil War Politics in New Jersey, 1854-1865.” Much of the discussion will include material from the book.

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The traditional view that New Jersey was a center for southern sympathizers, referred to as “copperheads” will be rebutted. Additionally, the battlefront and politics on the home front will be discussed.

The following is from a review of the book:

“This political history of New Jersey during the Civil War and the years immediately before and after invites us to rethink New Jersey's role and in particular its relationship to the border states.

“William Gillette argues that there is little evidence supporting the idea that New Jersey's residents were pro-southern before the war, or even antiwar during it, although attitudes toward the abolition of slavery were more ambivalent.

“The perspectives Gillette offers in Jersey Blue, from the recruiting ground, the battlefield, and the home front, cast new light on New Jersey's wartime activities, state identity, and our understanding of the interrelationships between New Jersey's national, regional, and state developments.

“Gillette takes a broader view of the politics of the Civil War as he touches on the economy, geography, demography, immigration, nativism, conscription, and law. The result is a pioneering history of New Jersey that deepens our understanding of the Civil War.

Gillette was a full-time faculty member in the History Department at  Rutgers Univresity between 1967-2015. He is the author of several history books and articles, and has lectured extensively around the world.

The library is located at 35 West End Ave. adjacent to the borough’s administration building. Call 908-725-1336 for further information. 

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