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“Remembering the U.S. Civil War,” a Special Collections display

By Alice Bampton

The Special Collections first floor exhibit, mounted by Laura Bang, Special and Digital Collections curatorial assistant, commemorated this year as the 150th anniversary of the beginning of the American Civil War.

This display of six books, published from 1863 to 1902, covers a variety of topics: Ulysses S. Grant’s personal memoirs, travels through a number of Southern States, poetry, a novel, a report to the Pennsylvania House of  Representatives and a tribute to those who supported the Union cause.

A small book of poetry, Candle-lightin’ Time (1901) written by Paul Laurence Dunbar and illustrated with photographs taken by members of the Hampton Institute (now Hampton University) Camera Club, is opened to a poem, “When Dey ‘Listed Colored Soldiers,”  and its illustration. Both pages have decorative borders by Margaret Armstrong. Dunbar was the son of freed slaves and a noted poet who frequently wrote in dialect as he did in the poem on display, a work presenting the view of a female slave watching a man she loves leaving for the Civil War.

Shoulder-straps: A Novel of New York and the Army, 1862, written by Henry Morford, was published in Philadelphia in 1863 during the height of the conflict. A book review from the time period noted that Morford dealt with some of the strange social and criminal relations growing out of a period of civil war” (Curator’s placard). Bang notes that modern readers may not appreciate the author’s writing style, but “the novel may still be of interest from a social history perspective.”

The other works on display include Personal Memoirs of U.S. Grant (1885); The Southern States of North America: A Record of Journeys in Louisiana, Texas, the Indian Territory, Missouri, Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, South Carolina, North Carolina, Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia and Maryland (1875) by Edward King with illustrations from original sketches by J. Wells Champney; Report of the Select Committee Relative to the Soldiers’ National Cemetery [Gettysburg]: Together with the Accompanying Documents (1864); and The Tribute Book: A Record of the Munificence, Self-Sacrifice and Patriotism of the American People During the War for the Union (1865) by Frank B. Goodrich.

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Last Modified: June 24, 2011