Monday, 26 November 2012 10:36
by Brett Zongker, Associated Press
Library of Congress shows diaries from Civil War
WASHINGTON (AP) — Letters and diaries from those who lived through the Civil War offer a new glimpse at the arguments that split the nation 150 years ago and some of the festering debates that survive today.
The Library of Congress, which holds the largest collection of Civil War documents, pulled 200 items from its holdings to reveal both private and public thoughts from dozens of famous and ordinary citizens who lived in the North and the South. Many are being shown for the first time.
Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee, for one, was grappling with divided federal and state allegiances. He believed his greater allegiance was to his native Virginia, as he wrote to a friend about resigning his U.S. Army commission.
“Sympathizing with you in the troubles that are pressing so heavily upon our beloved country & entirely agreeing with you in your notions of allegiance, I have been unable to make up my mind to raise my hand against my native state, my relatives, my children & my home,” he wrote in 1861. “I have therefore resigned my commission in the Army.”
Lee’s handwritten letter is among dozens of writings from individuals who experienced the war. They are featured in the new exhibit “The Civil War in America” at the library in Washington until June 2013. Their voices also are being heard again in a new blog created for the exhibition.
For a limited time in 2013, the extensive display will feature the original draft of President Abraham Lincoln’s preliminary Emancipation Proclamation and rarely shown copies of the Gettysburg Address.
Beyond the generals and famous battles, though, curators set out to tell a broader story about what Lincoln called “a people’s contest.”
“This is a war that trickled down into almost every home,” said Civil War manuscript specialist Michelle Krowl. “Even people who may seem very far removed from the war are going to be impacted on some level. So it’s a very human story.”
Curators laid out a chronological journey from before the first shots were fired to the deep scars soldiers brought home in the end.
While some still debate the root causes of the war, for Benjamin Tucker Tanner in 1860, the cause was clear, as he wrote from South Carolina in his diary.
“The country seems to be bordering on a civil war all on account of slavery,” wrote the future minister. “I pray God to rule and overrule all to his own glory and the good of man.”
A personal letter from Mary Todd Lincoln in 1862 was recently acquired by the library and is being publicly displayed for the first time.
In the handwritten note on stationery with a black border, Mary Lincoln reveals her deep grief over the death of her son Willie months earlier. Krowl said Mary Lincoln’s grief is also evident in the new movie, “Lincoln.”
“When you read this letter ... you just get a palpable feeling of how in the depth that she’s been and she’s now finally coming out of her grief, at least to resume public affairs,” Krowl said.
All the documents in the exhibit are original. They include a massive map Gen. Stonewall Jackson commissioned of Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley to prepare for a major campaign.
The library also is displaying personal items from Lincoln, including the contents of his pockets on the night he was assassinated, and the pocket diary of Clara Barton who would constantly record details about soldiers she met and later founded the American Red Cross.
Some of the closing words come from soldiers who lost their right arms or hands in battle and had to learn to write left-handed. They joined a left-handed penmanship contest and shared their stories.
“I think this exhibition will have a lot of resonance for people,” said exhibit director Cheryl Regan. “Certainly soldiers returning home from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are going to be incredibly moved by these stories.”
To post a comment, please log into your IND account. If you do not have an account, click the "register" button to create one. Facebook comments can be used as an alternative to creating an account at theIND.com.
SEP 16 Here's something for LSU to be proud of. It's a video of some (presumed) 'frat boys' manhandling another young man who is not wearing a polo shirt and khakis on the parade grounds prior to Saturday's LSU football game. The best part of this brief video is the look on the face of the guy who shot it, who also is (presumably) responsible for the title of the tape.
SEP 16 Lafayette is up for inclusion in another pointless list, but if it makes you feel better, go vote for the city here. This contest, sponsored by that pillar of excellent journalism, USA Today, is seeking the top ten college towns that are able to conduct a social media campaign to get voted as the best college town.
SEP 16 Here's a weird post on LaPolitics about how many doctors we have in Congress. With Charles Boustany, John Fleming and Bill Cassidy, we've got a lot of physicians up there. Why is that? Jeremy Alford has some ideas.
SEP 16 Here's a post from the Facebook page of the Al Berard Music Festival, announcing the date of the new event to honor the musician's memory and to raise money for the Al Berard Memorial Music Fund at Community Foundation of Acadiana. They're seeking volunteers, if you want to help.
SEP 16 This post on the Oxford American magazine features the work of New Orleans-based photographer/artist Kevin Klein, as well as some of his amazing portraits of NOLA people. It's worth a few minutes of your time.
SEP 16 Just as Rod Dreher was marking the anniversary of his sister's death from cancer, he learned this his friend Dave's wife, Alison Neustrom, had died of cancer, he writes in this post. In searching online for info about her wake, he learned of Alison's testimony regarding medical marijuana, and marvels at the fact that this woman, who was fighting a battle herself, spent some of her precious, limited time to fight for others.
SEP 16 Finally, something useful from a daily newspaper. Here's a story in the Picayune about the Jambalaya Calculator, a free-to-download spreadsheet that helps hungry Cajuns calculate ingredients for the dish.
SEP 16 Columnist Jim Beam writes about cuts to the military in this post. It's a theme that has been repeated over our history, and it has never been a good idea, he argues. Beam remembers processing out of the Army in 1957 and sitting next to a captain who had been cut during one such drawdown.
SEP 15 Blogger Bob Mann is writing about the death of Victor White III, who died in New Iberia, handcuffed and in the back seat of a police car, from a gunshot wound to the chest. He wonders if perhaps the residents of that town should riot, as the residents of Ferguson did, in order to get national (and federal) attention for the case.
SEP 15 Here's the NOLA Defender blog's coverage of the Gulf Energy Forum, hosted last week in the city by The Atlantic magazine. Although the mag's people tried to ensure the discussion explored all types of energy, it focused on oil and gas, the post reports. Since the forum was held in Louisiana and underwritten by the American Petroleum Institute - how is that a surprise?
SEP 15 Blogger Tom Aswell gives us the details on a recent Legislative Auditor's report on Louisiana's obligations to Tom Benson, some of which he says "appear to border on financial irresponsibility." He's also detailing an audit of the seemingly endless problems with hurricane recovery contractors.
Read the Flipping Paper!
Click Here for the Entire Print Version of IND Monthly