Date of Award
Master of Arts in History
United States History
History and Political Science
William D. Metz
The object of this study is to ascertain from available sources the effect of the Civil War on Westerly, Rhode Island. Particular attention was paid to economic aspects of the lite of the town. Every war has some effect on the towns and citizens of the countries involved, but this effect is not always permanent. Permanent results were hard to demonstrate, but temporary results are oftentimes as important as permanent ones and these could not be neglected.
Because it is difficult to eliminate the human element during such trying periods as wars, t he author felt that some space should be devoted to the men of Westerly who served in the war.
To illustrate the economic effects of the war on the town it was necessary to use such sources as tax books, minutes of town and town council meetings, reports of town officials, and the local newspaper. The utilization of reports of the overseer of the poor and the Relief Committee helped to give some understanding of the job opportunities of the period. A constant problem in developing this thesis was the lack of individual or industrial business records to substantiate assumptions developed by reading available sources. However, by using the comparative abundance of material on Rowse Babcock, a businessman of the period, a fairly clear picture of general economic activity was probably obtained.
Research for the paper turned up a large amount of data on Watch Hill which today is an important part of the Westerly community. Because it was quite obvious that Watch Hill business increased appreciably during the Civil War the author decided to incorporate a chapter on this section of the town in the paper.
The conclusions of the thesis were satisfying and at the same time disappointing. It was obvious that during the early stages of the war the volunteers were mainly young or poor men. A detailed description of the bounties offered during the war was obtained and proved very enlightening. Westerly's tax rate increased appreciably during the war. Substantial proof was found that Watch Hill received major impetus toward becoming a famous resort spot during the Civil War. Conclusive proof of the economic effect of the war on Westerly proved to be the trouble-spot of the thesis because of the previously mentioned absence of data.
Shea, Robert F., "Aspects of the History of Westerly During the Civil War" (1957). Open Access Master's Theses. Paper 720.