The Top 5 Most Overlooked Civil War Sites in New York City #1: Cooper Union

by Brett Schulte on March 17, 2014 · 1 comment

Editor’s Note: Bill Morgan, the author of The Civil War Lover’s Guide to New York City (published by Savas Beatie), was kind enough to offer up his list of the top 5 most overlooked Civil War sites in the Big Apple as a series of guest posts here at TOCWOC – A Civil War Blog.  Bill’s introduction will be followed by one overlooked NYC site per week, every Monday for the next five Mondays.  Join Bill here at TOCWOC – A Civil War Blog, as he counts down his list.

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The Top 5 Most Overlooked Civil War Sites in New York City

by Bill Morgan

#1 COOPER UNION

Cooper Square, Third Avenue between East 7th and East 8th Streets. General

information: www.cooper.edu or (212) 353-4100

Cooper Union, New York City

Cooper Union

 
 

The Cooper Union was founded in 1859 to provide free higher education to students based solely on merit. The school’s founder, inventor Peter Cooper (1791–1883), used his considerable wealth to set up the institute. A beautifully executed monument to him by Augustus Saint-Gaudens (1848–1907) can be found near the East 7th Street entrance. On February 27, 1860, Abraham Lincoln appeared at the Cooper Union to deliver a speech in the Great Hall in the basement of the main building. The hall held 1,500 people and was selected because it was one of the largest auditoriums in the city at the time. It remains today much as it was in 1860 when Lincoln spoke there. More than anything else, Lincoln’s speech led to his nomination for the presidency. “Let us have faith that right makes might,” Lincoln said that evening. The newspaper editor Horace Greeley said the speech was the most convincing argument to restrict the extension of slavery he had ever heard. Because of the press coverage, the little-known Lincoln awoke the next morning to find himself a famous man and the front runner for the Republican nomination.

Other notable people of the period spoke in the Great Hall, including Henry Ward Beecher, Frederick Douglass, William Lloyd Garrison, Ulysses S. Grant, the abolitionist Wendell Phillips, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and Mark Twain. Not all rallies held at the Cooper Union were as liberal. Fernando and Benjamin Wood used the podium to speak to what they called Peace Democrats, but whom the New York Times referred to as “the Anti-Negro-Submission Party.”

“This is a government of white men and established exclusively for the white race,” said then-Congressman Fernando Wood. The Women’s Central Association of Relief was organized at the Cooper Union. Out of this group sprang the U.S. Sanitary Commission that provided medical help, supplies, clothing, and food for the troops during the Civil War. The Ladies Committee met every day and opened a storefront on the Third Avenue side of the building to help support these efforts financially.

Cooper Union Historical Marker

Cooper Union historical marker.

 
 


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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Savas Beatie March 17, 2014 at 10:55 am

Thanks for this post, Bill Morgan, and A Civil War Blog for providing a platform to continue this discussion. I think a lot of casual Civil War readers may not be aware of the significance of Cooper Union in New York City. Your post provides insight into this location, which is enjoyable for both avid readers of Civil War material and newcomers to the topic. We look forward to seeing the upcoming posts in the following weeks.

You can read more information about the book, including an excerpt and author interview, at publisher Savas Beatie’s website here: http://tinyurl.com/d8a57vc

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