92. Princeton in the Civil War


The encampment shown here is that of the Union Army’s New Jersey Brigade in Arlington, Virginia, made in July 1861 just before the Battle of Bull Run.  Camp Princeton was likely named by New Jersey Governor Charles Olden, who had served as the College’s treasurer and a trustee from 1844-1850.  Though located in the North, Princeton deeply felt the sectional division that brought about the Civil War because it was unique among northern schools for attracting nearly one-third of its student body from the southern states.  In the years leading up to conflict, political discussions and Whig-Clio debates frequently considered the issues of slavery and secession, with defenders of the status quo often winning such matches.  When war erupted, most southern students withdrew from Princeton to join the Confederate forces, even as their northern classmates enlisted in the opposing army; there were many tearful good-byes among classmates who feared their next meeting could be on the opposing sides of a battlefield.  Along with numerous officers and enlisted men, the College contributed four generals to the Union and eight to the Confederacy.  The Civil War section of the Memorial Atrium in Nassau Hall lists 70 Princetonian casualties.   Recorded in alphabetical order, the register makes no distinction between those on opposing sides, though campus lore has it that exactly half fought for the North and half for the South.

  • To learn more about things named for Princeton, see Café Vivian picture #28, 32, 36, 63, 64, 81, and 83.

  • To learn more about Princeton in the nation’s history, see quotation #11 and Café Vivian picture #20, 33, 83, 95, and 113.

  • To learn more about student life at Princeton, see icon #1, quotation #7, 9, 18, and 22, and Café Vivian picture #9, 12, 16, 18, 23, 24, 45, 53, 79, 82, 84, 89, 96, 97, 106, 109, 113, 115, 116, 117, 129, and 132.

  • To learn more about Nassau Hall, see icon #1, quotation #1 and 35, and Café Vivian picture #4, 20, 33, 75, and 95.

  • To learn more about Princeton trustees, see icon #5, quotation #7, 10, and 14, and Café Vivian picture #16, 18, 19, 27, 33, 101, 108, 111, and 123