DescriptionIn 1893, the E.M. Stanton Post 147 of the Grand Army of the Republic donated six Civil War tablets to Amherst. These tablets commemorate the dead and list every person from the town of Amherst who served in the war for a total of over three hundred individuals. The tablets are symbolically important, but a list of names only tells part of the story of Amherst during the Civil War. Many men, including African-Americans who could only recently join regiments, fought in the war. All of these men left families behind. Some even halted their education at Amherst College to participate in the war effort. Unfortunately, many men like Frazar Stearns did not make it home to Amherst alive. The small, tightknit town mourned these deaths together. Stearns’s death, for example, affected prominent families in town like the Dickinsons as well as the center for education in the town, Amherst College. Certainly, Amherst suffered greatly as a result of the war.
In spite of the major impact of the war, life in Amherst continued. Students remained at Amherst College, committed to their education along with their newly required military drills. Emily Dickinson composed poetry prolifically during the war years and continued to correspond with family and friends. At the Bee Hive, black residents of Amherst continued to enjoy fewer privileges than their white neighbors. However, some black citizens contributed to the war a few joined the prestigious 54th Regiment and others took advantage of the still limited educational opportunity to study at Amherst Academy in the evenings. Life went on, but it changed as a result of the conflict and the loss of the Civil War dead buried in West Cemetery and commemorated on the tablets formerly housed here in the Town Hall.
Although these tablets were displayed in the Town Hall for many years, they were removed in 1997 and are now stored where people cannot see them. Some citizens wish that a suitable location could be found to keep these tablets on display, but unfortunately no such site has yet been identified. Even today, the legacy of the Civil War is still a large topic for the Town of Amherst.