The Civil War was a defining moment in American history, and its impact can still be felt today. While many people are familiar with the major battles and events that took place during this time, the role of Nassau County, NY is often overlooked. However, this county played a significant role in the Civil War, both on and off the battlefield.
The Early Days of Nassau CountyNassau County was originally part of Queens County, but it officially became its own county in 1899. Located on Long Island, it is now one of the most populous counties in New York State. However, during the Civil War, Nassau County was much different than it is today. At the time, Nassau County was primarily a rural area with a small population.
The main industries were farming and fishing, and there were only a few small towns scattered throughout the county. However, despite its small size and population, Nassau County would play a crucial role in the Civil War.
The Battle of Long IslandOne of the most significant events to take place in Nassau County during the Civil War was the Battle of Long Island. This battle, also known as the Battle of Brooklyn, was fought on August 27th, 1776. It was one of the first major battles of the war and resulted in a British victory. The Battle of Long Island took place on land that is now part of Brooklyn and Queens, but it also extended into what is now Nassau County. The British forces landed on Long Island and began their march towards Brooklyn Heights.
The American forces, led by General George Washington, attempted to defend their position but were ultimately forced to retreat. While the Battle of Long Island was a defeat for the American forces, it was a crucial moment in the war. It allowed the British to gain control of New York City and set the stage for future battles. Without the involvement of Nassau County, this battle may have had a very different outcome.
The Underground RailroadWhile Nassau County may not have seen any major battles during the Civil War, it played a significant role in another aspect of the war - the Underground Railroad. The Underground Railroad was a network of secret routes and safe houses that helped enslaved African Americans escape to freedom in the North. Nassau County was an important stop on the Underground Railroad, as it was located just across the East River from New York City.
Many enslaved individuals would escape to Brooklyn and then make their way to Nassau County, where they could find safe passage to Canada or other Northern states. One of the most well-known stops on the Underground Railroad in Nassau County was the Jericho Friends Meeting House. This Quaker meeting house served as a safe haven for escaped slaves and was an important hub for abolitionist activity in the area.
The Draft RiotsIn addition to its involvement in the Underground Railroad, Nassau County also played a role in one of the most significant events of the Civil War - the Draft Riots. In 1863, President Abraham Lincoln instituted a draft to increase the number of soldiers fighting for the Union Army. However, many people in New York City were opposed to this draft, and riots broke out throughout the city. These riots quickly spread to Brooklyn and eventually reached Nassau County.
The riots lasted for several days and resulted in numerous deaths and widespread destruction. While Nassau County was not directly involved in the Draft Riots, it did see an influx of refugees from New York City during this time. Many people fled to the safety of Nassau County to escape the violence and chaos in the city.
The Role of Nassau County TodayToday, Nassau County is a bustling suburban area with a rich history. While many of its historic sites have been lost to development, there are still several places where you can learn about the county's role in the Civil War. The Old Bethpage Village Restoration is a living history museum that features several buildings from the 19th century, including a Civil War-era farmhouse. Visitors can learn about life in Nassau County during the Civil War and even witness reenactments of battles and daily life. The African American Museum of Nassau County also offers exhibits and programs that explore the county's involvement in the Underground Railroad and the fight for civil rights.
In ConclusionNassau County may not be the first place that comes to mind when thinking about the Civil War, but its role in this pivotal moment in American history should not be overlooked.
From the Battle of Long Island to its involvement in the Underground Railroad and the Draft Riots, Nassau County played a crucial role in shaping the outcome of the war. Today, we can still see the impact of this county's involvement in the Civil War. Whether you're exploring historic sites or learning about its role in museums, Nassau County's history is an essential part of understanding this tumultuous time in our nation's past.