Bible underscores Lincoln’s belief he was to end slavery

As with a few of their other holdings, the Lincoln Presidential Library’s new Bible acquisition is of dubious connection to the man. He may have thumbed through it once or two, but an eighteen pound Bible is not really a book that lends itself to light reading. (Pun intended. Also, eighteen pounds?!)

A Bible given to Abraham Lincoln in the final months of the Civil War ties together the 16th president’s budding views on spirituality and his belief that God was calling him to end slavery as well as his widow’s labors to solidify his religious standing, historians say. The King James Bible was eventually given by Mary Lincoln to Noyes W. Miner, a beloved Springfield neighbor and a Baptist minister whose descendants donated it to the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, which unveiled it to th

Source: Bible underscores Lincoln’s belief he was to end slavery – News – The Repository – Canton, OH

Atlanta History Center acquires rare flag

The Atlanta History Centre has made a rare purchase, and boy is it a beaut! This USCT flag looks in great shape. I loved the added detail that there were famous flag-painters. Quite a niche specialty, but one that must have been a heyday during the war!



Measuring 72 by 55 inches, the silk banner depicts a black soldier carrying a rifle and bidding farewell to Columbia, the mythical goddess of liberty. A motto above the soldier reads “We will prove ourselves men.” On the flag’s reverse side, an American bald eagle bears a ribbon with the nation’s motto “E pluribus unum” — or, “Out of many, one.”

This is the only surviving example of 11 flags painted by African American artist David Bustill Bowser, who lived from 1820-1890. Bowser was a noted Philadelphia sign-painter, portraitist and anti-slavery activist noted for his portraits of John Brown and President Abraham Lincoln, the release said.

Source: Atlanta History Center acquires rare Civil War African American troop flag – Reporter Newspapers

Undistorting the Civil War

I blogged previously about the new Civil War museum in Richmond. It seems to have officially opened now, and the NYTimes has some reflections on it. I’m fascinated by museum design in general, and designing one in the current fraught historical climate is of particular interest.

The new American Civil War Museum in Richmond, Va., sits next to the James River in the historic Tredegar district, where slaves and immigrants once produced munitions for the Confederate Army. The product of a merger of the American Civil War Center and the Museum of the Confederacy, the new museum seeks to tell an inclusive story of the war in hopes of dispelling some of the myths and misconceptions that still dominate popular understanding.

“This is a period of history that’s been so distorted for a variety of reasons,” the museum’s chief executive, Christy Coleman, told me, “where memory has taken over the actual history, and that collective memory is not historical in many cases.”

Modern scholarship on the American Civil War takes a broad view of the conflict, more interested in social, economic and political circumstances than battlefield tactics; more concerned with the perspectives of ordinary people — soldiers, civilians, Native Americans and enslaved people — than individual military leaders.

Source: Opinion | Undistorting the Civil War – The New York Times

“Uncivil War”

Another medical article, this one a review of the Mutter Museum’s Civil War exhibit.  For those with strong stomachs, it looks like a fascinating visit.

The new exhibition focuses in part on Philadelphia’s role in the Civil War. It was not a battleground, but about 157,000 injured soldiers were transported here by train or steamboat for treatment. Though civilian clinics admitted some, a number of military hospitals were also built, including two that were almost cities unto themselves, each with more than 3,000 beds.

On display are surgical instruments like a hammer and chisel, knives and saws used for amputations and an unnervingly long pair of “ball forceps” for extracting bullets. Most of these grisly operations were done with the soldiers knocked out by chloroform or ether, the curators note — contrary to the common belief that there was no anesthesia back then and only a bullet to bite on.

One display case holds the broken skull of a soldier who was shot through both eye sockets. Stark photographs reveal young men with limbs missing, faces mutilated, and piercing, haunted eyes. Others, still able-bodied, are shown burying the fallen.

via ‘Broken Bodies, Suffering Spirits’ at the Mütter Museum –

New Civil War Center in Richmond

I missed Richmond on my whirlwind trip to DC, but it looks like my frown might be turned upside down: A new museum is born!  Huzzah!

In a joint announcement, the museums said the new historic attraction in the former capital of the Confederacy has yet to be named, but $20 million has been committed to its construction. Ground will be broken in 2014, with an expected opening the following year.

The new museum will be located along the James River, at the Tredegar Ironworks, where many of the South’s cannons were forged during the war. It’s also the home of the Civil War Center.

The museums said that bringing together both institutions will “further establish Richmond as the foremost Civil War destination in the United States.”

via 2 Civil War museums in Va. team up for new center.

Lincoln at the National Museum of American History

A website mentioned this exhibit at the Smithsonian, with an exhortation “don’t miss it!”  The official website doesn’t mention an end date, though, and I can’t tell if it’s a virtual exhibit or if the Lincolniana is assembled in one place.  Regardless, the Smithsonian’s always worth a trip, and it would be a treat to be in the presence of objects related to the Big Guy.

Walk, don’t run? 🙂


Abraham Lincoln: Introduction | National Museum of American History.

Winslow Homer in Maine

It’s too far for me to visit, but if you’re in the vicinity of Portland, ME in the next months, stop by the Portland Museum of Art.  This exhibit of Winslow Homer Civil War works promises to be spectacular.  Homer was on the front lines as a Harper’s war artist, and produced some memorable images.

In conjunction with the Maine Civil War Trail, a state-wide series of special displays at more than 20 institutions commemorating the sesquicentennial of the conflict, the Portland Museum of Art will present a focused exhibition on the war-related imagery of the American artist Winslow Homer (1836-1910). On view at the PMA from September 7 through December 8, Winslow Homer’s Civil War will feature 29 wood engravings and other prints drawn from the PMA’s permanent collection. The exhibition will examine the artist’s unique vision of this event and its profound impact on American society.

via Portland Museum of Art opens Winslow Homer Civil War focused exhibition.

The Civil War and American Art

Wow. I’ll need to add New York to my to-do list for this year, as this fabulous exhibition will have left DC before I’m due to visit.  The Smithsonian has linked to a PDF catalogue of the works on display and they are almost all pieces I recognize.  A greatest hits of Civil War artwork.  If you’re in NY or DC this year, run don’t walk.

The Civil War and American Art includes 75 works—57 paintings and 18 vintage photographs. The artworks were chosen for their aesthetic power in conveying the intense emotions of the period. Homer and Johnson grappled directly with issues such as emancipation and reconciliation. Church and Gifford contended with the destruction of the idea that America was a “New Eden.” Most of the artworks in the exhibition were made during the war, when it was unclear how long it might last and which side would win.

The exhibition also includes battlefield photography, which carried the gruesome burden of documenting the carnage and destruction. The visceral and immediate impact of these images by Alexander Gardner, Timothy H. O’Sullivan, and George Barnard freed the fine arts to explore the deeper significance of the Civil War, rather than chronicle each battle.

via Exhibitions: The Civil War and American Art / American Art.

Then, Thenceforth and Forever Acid Free

I’m proclaiming this week Emancipation Proclamation week here at the CWP.  It’s just too big an anniversary for all the mainstream news outlets to ignore, and they’re proffering some fantastic articles I want to share.

The video here lets you see what the Proclamation actually looks like. As the article says, it’s wonderfully, revealingly banal.  I love the ribbons and the affixed seal.  As a history fanatic with ridiculously sweaty hands, though, I was sent to new depths of stress-sweats watching the curator touching the paper with her bare hands.  All the while talking about methods to keep the acid out of the paper.

But what’s pretty amazing about the juxtaposition here — the document that bears the phrase “forever free,” folded and be-ribboned — is how eloquently it expresses technological frailty as a symptom of human frailty. The Proclamation wasn’t written double-sided because people couldn’t afford paper back then, or because they thought paper was more enduring than parchment, or because, indeed, they made any strategic decision at all to write the Proclamation the way they did; it was written that way because that’s just how things were done at that particular moment in our history. I asked Archives representatives about the double-sided nature of the Proclamation; they replied that “writing on both sides of the document was the convention of the time. It was written on a folded folio so that they could have four writing surfaces.” That’s it: Folio was the convention, so that’s what they did. (The Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation — the document that announced the Emancipation would take effect on January 1, 1863 — is written in the same format.) Technology isn’t just about tools; it’s about the assumptions and conventions that inform our use of those tools. And in the America of 1863, matters of national business were conducted with folded paper and punches and ribbons. Not for reasons that were transcendent, but for reasons that were wonderfully, revealingly banal. 

via The Emancipation Proclamation Was Written Double-Sided – Megan Garber – The Atlantic.

Watch Night

Came across this while researching yesterday’s podcast, but sadly, the writing got away from me and I had to cut the reference.  This is a really lovely callout to history – it wouldn’t fit on my podcast but I might just put it on my bucket list.

A tradition began Dec. 31, 1862, as many black churches held Watch Night services, awaiting word that Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation would take effect amid a bloody Civil War. Later, congregations listened as the president’s historic words were read aloud…

This year, the Watch Night tradition will follow the historic document to its home at the National Archives with a special midnight display planned with readings, songs and bell ringing among the nation’s founding documents…

“We will be calling back to an old tradition,” said U.S. Archivist David Ferriero, noting the proclamation’s legacy. “When you see thousands of people waiting in line in the dark and cold … we know that they’re not there just for words on paper.

via National Archives tribute, Watch Nights among events marking Emancipation Proclamation’s 150th – Washington Post.