Resources in the University Archives relating to the Civil War and its impact on NU and Evanston

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To commemorate the 150th anniversary of the American Civil War, the University Archives has prepared this Guide to Resources documenting Northwestern's and Evanston's involvement.
Summary of the historic Civil War years  
In April, 1861, just six years after Northwestern University opened the doors of its first building on the corner of Hinman and Chicago, the Civil War broke out. The young town of Evanston, mobilized quickly. Its men enlisted in the military, its women worked with the Sanitary Commission to supply food and medical supplies to the soldiers, and all citizens donated whatever money they could spare. At the new University, attendance was reduced during the next three years as faculty, students, and alumni enlisted. Most joined local Illinois regiments; some returned to their home states to join up there, including one or two students from the South who went home to join the Confederates.   
Alphonso Linn, NU 1860In May, 1864, after being excused from the college for the remainder of the term, 20 students mustered in under the call for troops to serve for 100 days. Known as the "University Guards," they served under Captain Alphonso C. Linn (NU, 1860) of Company F, 134th Illinois Infantry, and were responsible for garrison duty in Columbus, Kentucky.
By the end of the Civil War, 42 Northwestern graduates, and 41 men who attended NU or its Preparatory School but did not graduate, had performed military service. Eight members of the University died in service—including Alphonso Linn. The Alumni Record later commented, "That the material going from the University into the army was of the best sort, is to be surmised from the relatively large number of men who were promoted and who proved effective leaders. At the time of the mustering out, three were Colonels or Lieutenant Colonels, two Majors, three Adjutants, five Captains, eight Lieutenants, and four Chaplains" (p. 396).  Civil War cannon (from Fort Wadsworth, NY) on NU campus--gift of Class of 1905
In honor of the Northwestern men who served in the Civil War, the Class of 1905 presented the University with a cannon from Fort Wadsworth (Staten Island, NY). The cannon pointed "harmlessly through the campus trees" until it was removed during a WWII scrap drive. The names of the men who died in Civil War military service are included on the tablet in Alice Millar Chapel and in the Archives' digital exhibit, "In Service to their Country."
Collections (the links lead to finding aids which describe these collections, which are held in the University Archives)
  • Subject File: Civil War and Northwestern University
  • Biographical File: Alphonso C. Linn
Digital Exhibits and Online Resources
The following books are available in the Archives and also online through the Internet Archive
  • Atwell, Charles, ed.  Alumni Record of the College of Liberal Arts (Evanston, IL: Northwestern University, 1903), refers to the Civil War in several place. Note entries for 1860-1865 (pp 11-13); chapter on Alumni in the Civil War (pp 396-400); as well as bio info on individual students.
  • Reeling, Viola Crouch. Evanston, Its Land and Its People (Evanston, IL: DAR, 1928), an anecdotal history, describes Evanston's contribution to the Civil War (pp 408-426).
  • Wilde, Arthur, ed. Northwestern University: A History, 1855-1905 (NY: University Publication Society, 1905). The University's involvement in the War is described (Vol. 2, pp 365-375) by Charles Atwell, who also complied the Alumni Record.
  • Willard, Frances E.  Her anecdotal history of Evanston, A Classic Town (Chicago: WTPA, 1891), draws on interviews and diaries for a brief chapter on Evanston in the Civil War (pp 177-184).



                              Resource Guide prepared by Janet Olson and Yvonne Spura