On November 19, 1863, Abraham Lincoln offered “a few appropriate” remarks at the dedication of a cemetery to fallen Federal troops at Gettysburg. In his brief and eloquent “Gettysburg Address,” Lincoln articulated the purpose of the war and looked beyond it to a time when the nation would once again be made whole.
Yet even greater sacrifice lay ahead. In spring 1864, the Union and the Confederacy plunged into bloody campaigns that inaugurated a fourth year of fighting, prolonging and increasing the horrors of war. Casualty lists had grown to the hundreds of thousands. Civilians on both sides strained to help their governments cope with never-ending waves of the sick and wounded, as well as white and black refugees fleeing before armies or following in their wake. Throughout the year, the Union pursued a “hard war” policy, aimed at destroying all resources that could aid the Rebellion. But the South continued to fight; the end was not yet in sight.
The year 1865 opened with Union victories in the East that closed Lee’s most vital supply line. Further south, U.S. General William T. Sherman’s army stormed out of Georgia and through South Carolina, where Charleston fell in mid-February. By April, Sherman was pursuing Confederates under Joseph Johnston in North Carolina. Lee, unable to hold Petersburg or Richmond, evacuated those cities and was forced to surrender on April 9, 1865. With final victory in sight, Union luminaries gathered on April 14 for a special ceremony at Fort Sumter to again raise the Federal flag. Later that evening actor and Confederate sympathizer John Wilkes Booth assassinated President Abraham Lincoln at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, D.C.
A View of Camp Life
During the Civil War, cameras were not technologically capable of capturing action on the battlefield, but they excelled at documenting posed scenes. Photographers made portraits of soldiers and captured life in the camps, as well as the grim aftermath of battles. This carefully composed photograph taken in Petersburg, Virginia, shows Union officers playing cards, smoking pipes, and drinking Hadden’s Old Tom Cocktail, as their well-dressed African American servants stand nearby.
Unattributed. [Petersburg, Virginia. Officers of the 114th Pennsylvania Infantry playing cards in front of tents]. Albumen silver print, August 1864. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (134.00.00) [Digital ID# LC-DIG-ppmsca-33068]
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“Home Sweet Home”
Popularized in the 1820s, “Home Sweet Home” was the single hit from the otherwise forgettable opera Clari, or The Maid of Milan, based on the play by John Howard Payne with music by Henry R. Bishop. It remained a popular parlor song throughout the nineteenth century and was a favorite of regimental bands during the Civil War. The tune evoked such powerful nostalgia for home and better times that some bands were forbidden from playing it, out of fear it might dampen morale and encourage desertion.
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The Confederate army continually lacked a sufficient number of chaplains to serve in the field. Southern churches countered this problem by distributing religious literature to the troops in the form of newspapers, pamphlets, and tracts, despite wartime paper shortages. In the North, the United States Christian Commission was actively involved in overseeing the spiritual welfare of the Union army. These efforts doubtlessly played a part in spurring the massive evangelical revivals that swept through the ranks of both armies beginning in 1863.
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Army Life Chronicled
Chaplain Alexander M. Stewart, who served with the 13th Pennsylvania Volunteers (re-designated the 102nd after its first three-month tour of duty), sent almost weekly “sketches” of life in the Union army to home-front newspapers. On April 15, 1863, the Reverend Stewart wrote: “My opinion is, that just now, with the enemy directly ahead of us, there is no eligible route for us into Richmond. . . . Hence our prime object is the enemies’ army in front of us, . . . we should continually harass and menace him, so that he shall have no leisure, nor safety in sending away detachments. If he weakens himself, then pitch into him.”
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Communication with home has been a lifeline for military personnel throughout the centuries. Civil War soldiers and sailors looked forward to getting letters at mail call and often commented in their own letters whether or not they received precious messages. The subjects discussed ran from mundane to monumental, horrific to humorous, but writing kept alive the connection with home. Soldier artist Charles Wellington Reed, of the 9th Massachusetts Battery, often illustrated his letters home with scenes from camp, sometimes sketching himself writing letters in challenging conditions.
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The Southern “Flag” Song Book
Collections of song lyrics intended to be sung to popular tunes of the day proliferated in the nineteenth century. Known as songsters, they were usually published in small format for ease of portability and were often organized around a central theme. Publishing was primarily a Northern industry at the start of the Civil War, making The Southern “Flag” Song Book a rare example of a Confederate songster. The firm of H. C. Clarke saw a market for songsters in the military. The fact that in 1861 this was already a “new edition” attests to the success of the publication.
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“Books for the Campfires”
The beginning of the Civil War coincided with the rise of dime novel publishing. These cheaply produced paper-bound series books with their sensationalized frontier tales were hugely popular with the troops of both armies. Boston publisher and abolitionist James Redpath initiated his own dime novel series entitled “Books for the Camp Fires.” Redpath’s goal was to expose his readers to works with a greater literary merit than the “blood and thunder” tales of his competitors. An early publication in the series was Clotelle, a strong anti-slavery novel by the African American writer William Wells Brown, originally written in 1853 and published in London.
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Passing the Time in Camp
Much of a Civil War soldier’s life was spent in camp, searching for entertainment. Soldiers read books and newspapers, wrote letters, played cards and sports, sang songs, attended religious services, and perhaps found less wholesome activities as well. They also put on amateur theatrical performances. In his diary, U.S. topographical engineer Gilbert Thompson included production notes and programs, as well as sketches of the theater at Brandy Station, Virginia, and photographs of some male cast members assuming all male and female roles. On the first of these pages, Thompson also wistfully notes that he has turned twenty-five while in the army.
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Grant: Loving Husband and Father
The appalling casualty rates of the Union general-in-chief Ulysses S. Grant’s 1864 Overland Campaign made some in the North fear that Grant was a callous “butcher,” more insensitive to the value of his soldiers’ lives than Lee (whose losses were equally high). Had the public been privy to the letters Grant wrote to his family, however, it would have seen a thoughtful, caring man, who remembered to send his wife a requested lock of hair and routinely sent kisses to his wife and children.
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A Few Appropriate Remarks at Gettysburg
Included in the official party at the dedication of what would become Gettysburg National Cemetery, Commissioner of Public Buildings Benjamin B. French contributed a hymn to the program. French’s diary entry describing the day linked the past with the present as he recalled that former President John Quincy Adams’s efforts against slavery had come to fruition with President Abraham Lincoln’s promise of “a new birth of freedom” for the nation. In his diary, French recorded the approval of the crowd to Lincoln’s short but appropriate remarks, which history would enshrine as one of the greatest American speeches of all time.
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The Gettysburg Address
This document represents the earliest known of the five drafts of the speech President Abraham Lincoln delivered in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, at the dedication of a military cemetery on November 19, 1863—now known as “The Gettysburg Address.” Drawing inspiration from his favorite historical document, the Declaration of Independence, Lincoln equated the catastrophic suffering caused by the Civil War with the efforts of the American people to live up to the proposition that “all men are created equal.” This document is presumed to be the only working, or pre-delivery, draft and is commonly identified as the “Nicolay Copy” because it was once owned by John George Nicolay, Lincoln’s private secretary. The Library has two copies of the Address written in Lincoln’s hand, which will be on view in the spring and fall of 2013.
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Lincoln Finds a General
Lincoln’s long struggle to find a commanding officer whose promises of success were supported by action ended with Ulysses S. Grant, whose victories in the West led to his appointment as general-in-chief of the Union army in March 1864. Grant coordinated offensives with Union commanders in other theaters of war, before taking to the field himself during the Overland Campaign in Virginia (May–June 1864). Although casualties were high on both sides, Grant refused to follow precedent and withdraw to rest his army. He instead pressed forward with flanking maneuvers against Lee, vowing to Secretary of War Edwin Stanton to continue the fight all summer if necessary.
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Battle of the Wilderness
To offset partially a two-to-one numerical superiority, Lee allowed Grant to cross the Rapidian River in Virginia and set the stage for the Battle of the Wilderness (May 5–7, 1864). It was here, near the old battlefield of Chancellorsville, that a nightmarish battle of the war was fought in tangled underbrush and trees that made vision difficult and cavalry and artillery useless. When the brush caught fire, many wounded were trapped in the flames. Alfred Waud’s drawing of the division under U.S. brigadier general James S. Wadsworth (1807–1864), who was mortally wounded while rallying his men, was reproduced in Harper’s Weekly the next month.
Alfred R. Waud (1828–1891). Genl. Wadsworth’s Division in Action in the Wilderness, near the Spot Where the General Was Killed, [May 5–7, 1864]. Pencil and Chinese white on paper. Published in Harper’s Weekly, June 4, 1864. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (142.00.00) [Digital ID# LC-DIG-ppmsca-20999]
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Messenger of Death
Notification of a soldier’s death could come in a variety of ways, including personal letters from comrades and commanding officers, as well as impersonal newspaper casualty lists and telegrams. This telegram delivered the sad news of Brigadier General James S. Wadsworth’s death at the Battle of the Wilderness in May 1864.
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Grant’s 1864 Overland Campaign’s movement toward Richmond, Virginia, stalled in mid-June when Federal forces failed to take the important railroad city of Petersburg, south of the Confederate capital. Union troops laid siege to Petersburg from June 1864 to April 1865, with both sides digging in for a protracted period of trench warfare, punctuated by occasional offenses near the city and an ill-fated attempt by Pennsylvania miners to dig under Confederate lines. Sergeant Major Christian Fleetwood of the 4th United States Colored Troops, a Medal of Honor recipient in 1865, recorded his impressions of the initial assault on Petersburg.
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Issued as a broadside, this is a pattern for making slippers for Union soldiers. In the first six months of 1862, the Ladies’Aid Society of Philadelphia distributed more than 1,000 pairs of slippers, as well as thousands of boxes of other clothing, bedding, food, medicines, and books. Strapped by meager supplies and time-consuming military red tape, army hospital physicians and field commanders relied heavily on the efforts of voluntary aid groups. Throughout the war-torn country, women made clothing, grew food crops, raised funds, and managed distribution of supplies.
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No Civil War prison was more notorious than Confederate Camp Sumter near the town of Andersonville in southwestern Georgia. Designed to accommodate 10,000 prisoners, “Andersonville” as the prison became known, held nearly 33,000 in August 1864—the largest number held at any one time during the prison’s fourteen-month existence. Lack of adequate shelter, food, and sanitary facilities ensured that diseases ran rampant. Thirty percent of the inmates died. Prisoner Samuel J. Gibson, a corporal in the 103rd Pennsylvania Infantry, reassured his wife in a letter dated June 12, 1864, that the conditions could be worse, but his August diary entry revealed the depths of his despair. A later lithograph based on Maine infantryman Thomas O’Dea’s recollection of his own incarceration, reminded the public of the emaciated and diseased state of those prisoners in the horrific summer of 1864.
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T. J. S. Landis after Thomas O’Dea, Co. E. 16th Maine Inf. Vols. Andersonville Prison, Camp Sumter, Ga., As It appeared August 1st 1864, When It Contained 35,000 Prisoners of War. Lithograph. New York: Henry Seibert & Bro. Art Litho., ca. 1885. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (155.00.00) [Digital ID# LC-DIG-ppmsca-10762]
Samuel J. Gibson to Rachel A. Gibson, June 12, 1864, and diary entries of August 7–18, 1864. S. J. Gibson Papers, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress (156.00.00) [Digital ID# cw0156]
Samuel J. Gibson to Rachel A. Gibson, June 12, 1864, and diary entries of August 7–18, 1864. S. J. Gibson Papers, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress (157.00.00) [Digital ID# cw0157]
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Soldiers with free time in camp or in prison wrote letters home and made small handcrafted items from found objects. Both Confederate and Union prisoners often sent various items, including prison-made jewelry, to civilians who wrote to them or supplied such comfort commodities as tobacco and baked goods. Carved wood and bone rings were popular items, but this one is particularly unusual since it includes a tintype portrait of two children.
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Activist Union Women
The first woman in America to become a physician, Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell launched the Woman’s Central Association of Relief in April 1861 to “organize the whole benevolence of all the women of the country into a general and central association.” Blackwell’s goals were to systematize women’s relief work by staying informed of the changing needs of the army and soliciting the necessary supplies from its affiliated soldiers’ aid societies. The early work of the association inspired the creation of the United States Sanitary Commission later that year. Through the efforts of these organizations, millions of dollars worth of food, medicine, and clothing were sent to the Union forces in the field.
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Prisoners of War
The Federal prison at Rock Island, Illinois, a small strip of land in the Mississippi River, held between 5,000 and 8,000 Confederate prisoners. This sketch of the prison was found in a letter written by Confederate soldier James W. Duke to his cousin in Georgetown, Kentucky. The drawing, by a soldier identified only as H. Junius, is apparently the item described in Duke’s letter as “the picture of our row of Barracks.” This idyllic scene of men strolling peacefully on the grounds or performing routine chores among the neatly maintained barracks probably reveals more about the restrictions placed on outgoing mail than on actual conditions within the prison.
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“Sanitary Fair Grand March”
Ambitious in scope, often grand in presentation, sanitary fairs became a prime method of raising funds to assist Union soldiers. Fundraising efforts during the 1864 Great Central Fair in Logan Square, Philadelphia, included concerts held at the Philadelphia Academy of Music and in private homes. These musical events were organized by the Ladies Central Committee of Musical Entertainments, which was affiliated with the Philadelphia Branch of the United States Sanitary Commission. Edward Mack, a prolific composer with a song for every occasion, virtually guaranteed performance of his “Sanitary Fair Grand March” by dedicating it to Mrs. Elizabeth B. Biddle, chairwoman of the committee.
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Poet and Civil War nurse, Walt Whitman assembled lists of expressions for grief, suffering, and compassion to help formulate his poems of the Civil War. His Drum-Taps, the most important book of poetry to emerge from the war period, included accounts of calls to arms and of the personal heroism and comradeship of battlefields and encampments. At the book’s core was “The Wound-Dresser,” Whitman’s somber testament to the terrible afflictions of men in army hospitals and the quiet courage of those who cared for them. In his elegiac “Ashes of Soldiers,” the notes for which are shown in Whitman’s hand, the poet mourned the dead from all regions of the country and captured the high cost in sorrow paid to preserve unity.
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Walt Whitman (1819–1892). List of synonyms and notes for “Ashes of Heroes” [first published as “Hymn of Dead Soldiers”]. Holograph notes. Page 2. Feinberg-Whitman Collection, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress (148.00.00) [Digital ID# cw0148p1, cw0148]
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After Confederate general Jubal Early brought thousands of Southern troops to the gates of Washington, General Ulysses S. Grant formed the Union Army of the Shenandoah in August 1864, placing Major General Philip Sheridan in command. The army’s objectives were to destroy Early’s army and wreak havoc on the fertile lands of Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley, which was deemed the “Breadbasket of the Confederacy.” Grant ordered Sheridan to “take all provisions, forage and stock wanted for the use of your command. Such as cannot be consumed, destroy,” leaving the area so deprived that “crows flying over it . . . will have to carry their provender with them.”
Alexander Gardner (1821–1882), photographer. Sheridan and His Generals [pictured from left to right: Generals Wesley Merritt (1834–1910); Philip Henry Sheridan (1831–1888); George Crook (1828–1890); James W. Forsyth (1835[?]–1906); and George A. Custer (1839–1876) around a table examining a document, January 2, 1865. Albumen silver print, printed later by Moses P. Rice. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (160.00.00) [Digital ID# LC-DIG-ppmsca-24021]
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New Roles for Women
Following her thirtieth birthday on November 29, 1862, Louisa May Alcott decided to volunteer as a Union army nurse in Washington, D.C. The letters she wrote to her family about her experiences formed the basis for Hospital Sketches, the first critical and popular success achieved by the future author of Little Women. The first popular wartime account of wartime hospital conditions, the book exposed the poor management of military hospitals and the callous attitude of many doctors and sparked a movement for reform. Paid forty dollars for the book, Alcott insisted that five cents from each copy sold be donated to the growing population of Union war orphans.
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Burying the Dead
Since most families could not afford the expense of recovering their soldiers’ bodies for burial at home, the hundreds of thousands of Civil War dead overwhelmed existing cemeteries, requiring the creation of new burial grounds. Arlington National Cemetery, now one of the most famous American cemeteries, was located purposely on General Lee’s family estate by Union Quartermaster General Montgomery C. Meigs in 1864. In his diary Meigs wrote on June 10: “To Cemetery Soldiers Home. This is filled & being trimmed & decorated. Neatly laid out graves grassed with [indecipherable] white head boards & a gate lodge it is a very pleasant Cnty cemetery about 6000 soldiers are buried at it. Now all burials from Wash are made at Arlington.” Thousands of burials did take place in Arlington during the war, and Meigs joined their ranks in 1892.
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Destruction in Virginia's Shenandoah Valley
Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley was the scene of Stonewall Jackson’s brilliant 1862 Valley campaign. It was also the breadbasket of Lee’s army. As part of his combined strategy in 1864, Grant consolidated his forces and put General Philip H. Sheridan in command of the valley, with orders to defeat Confederate general Jubal Early and lay waste to this important rebel resource. According to Confederate Richard W. Habersham of Company C, Manning Guard, from South Carolina, Sheridan was very thorough in carrying out Grant’s orders.
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The Campaign of 1864
In early June 1864, the National Union Party, a temporary coalition of Republicans and War Democrats (who had split from the anti-war Democratic Party) met in convention at Baltimore and nominated Abraham Lincoln for a second term as president and Andrew Johnson, a Democrat and military governor of Tennessee, for the vice presidency. The 1860 invention of the economical tintype photographic process opened the door for candidates’ images to appear on campaign buttons for the first time. The other button on display promoted Lincoln’s opponent, George B. McClellan, who ran on the Democratic Party’s “peace party platform.” The African American soldier seated with his family (on the left) wears an 1864 Lincoln campaign button on the lapel of his jacket. It would be another six years before the Fifteenth Amendment gave African American males the right to vote.
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Unattributed. [Unidentified African American soldier in Union uniform with wife and two daughters]. Quarter-plate ambrotype, between 1863 and 1865. Liljenquist Family Collection, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (163.00.00) [Digital ID# LC-DIG-ppmsca-36454]
Mathew B. Brady (ca. 1823–1896), photographer. For President Abraham Lincoln—For Vice President Andrew Johnson. Tintypes with metal casing, 1864. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (164.00.00) [Digital ID# LC-DIG-ppmsca-19442, LC-DIG-ppmsca-19443]
Unattributed. [Gen. George McClellan campaign button for 1864 presidential election], 1864. Tintype with metal casing. Promised gift of the Liljenquist family, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (165.00.00)
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The Destruction of Atlanta
On September 2, 1864, Union troops under Major General William T. Sherman captured Atlanta. As this photograph attests, Union soldiers went well beyond their orders to destroy everything militarily useful and wrecked and burned much more. In 1866, photographer George N. Barnard published Photographic Views of Sherman’s Campaign, which contains sixty-one of his albumen prints of Civil War sites in Nashville, the Chattanooga Valley, Atlanta, and Savannah, as well as other locations associated with General Sherman’s command.
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Voting in the Field
Artist William Waud followed his brother Alfred Waud onto the battlefields as a sketch artist. Trained as an architect in his native England, William Waud recorded the activities of the Army of the James. The grid on the sheet guided the composition of the image for the wood engravers in New York. Before the election, nineteen states enacted legislation allowing soldiers to vote in the field—the first time the nation had confronted the question of absentee voting. Soldiers from those states in the Army of the James were thus able to vote in the U.S. presidential election near Richmond, Virginia. Harper’s Weekly reported “Our soldiers do not by fighting our battles cease to be citizens, but are even more interested than others in the maintenance of the civil institutions for which they are ready to give up their lives. There can be no doubt as to the loyalty and sincerity of these men.” The soldiers vote would help carry Lincoln to victory in the 1864 election.
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Children and the War
This photograph was taken by Charles R. Rees, who operated a thriving studio in Richmond, Virginia, at the beginning of the war. Rees was one of the era’s few photographers who signed his images directly on the glass plate. The barefoot young boy holds a photographic portrait of a soldier, suggesting that perhaps his father or another close relative had gone off to war, as was the case for so many other American children during the war. Children could also experience the war vicariously by staging battles with lead toy soldiers, like this boxed set sold as the “Campaign in Virginia.”
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Campaign in Virginia, 1864. Painted lead figures. Marian S. Carson Collection, Rare Book and Special Collections Division, Library of Congress (170.00.00) [Digital ID# cw0170b]
Charles R. Rees, photographer. [Unidentified young boy holding a photograph of a soldier], between 1861 and 1865. Sixth-plate ambrotype. Promised gift of the Liljenquist family, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (169.00.00) [Digital ID# LC-DIG-ppmsca-32461]
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The sectional tensions in the1850s inspired among Southerners a drive to produce their own textbooks to counter the North’s total dominance of the publishing industry. The Southern Commercial Convention of 1856 stated “The books rapidly coming into use in our schools and colleges at the South are not only polluted with opinions and arguments adverse to our institutions, and hostile to our constitutional views, but are inferior . . . to those which might be produced among ourselves.” Washington Baird, a Presbyterian minister from Georgia, wrote The Confederate Spelling Book as part of this effort, one of about eighty school texts produced within the Confederate States.
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LeRoy Wiley Gresham
LeRoy Gresham had just turned seventeen when Major General William T. Sherman’s Union forces left Atlanta for their “March to the Sea,” and his diary entries reflect the anxiety felt by many Georgians who feared their homes would be in Sherman’s path. A longtime invalid, Gresham kept diaries that faithfully recorded the news, his Confederate sympathies, and perceptive details about life on the home front. He began a final entry on June 9, 1865, and died nine days later.
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LeRoy Wiley Gresham (1847–1865). Diary entries, November 16–November 20, 1864. Page 2 - Page 3 - Page 4. Lewis H. Machen Family Papers, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress (173.00.00) [Digital ID# cw0173, cw0173p1, cw0173p2, cw0173p3]
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Many women put their own lives on hold during the war to devote themselves to nursing or charitable activities. An agent for the United States Sanitary Commission, Mary Ann Bickerdyke worked within and outside of official channels to procure supplies for wounded soldiers and ensure sanitary conditions in military hospitals. “Mother Bickerdyke” left her own sons in the North to tend to Union boys in the field, which included those in Major General William T. Sherman’s army in Georgia in 1864.
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The Atlanta Campaign
After boosting Union morale by occupying the vital Confederate railroad center of Atlanta, Georgia, Major General William T. Sherman, who had assumed command of the western armies after Grant’s promotion to general-in-chief, proposed a daring operation to which Grant and Lincoln somewhat hesitantly agreed. Leading 62,000 troops divided into two main columns, Sherman embarked on a “March to the Sea.” He intended to make the Confederates “howl” by having his men confiscate or destroy all materials useful to the Southern war effort as they marched across nearly 300 miles of hostile Georgia toward the port city of Savannah. This detailed map of the southeastern portion of the country shows fortifications and the lines of march of the 4th, 14th, 15th, 16th, 17th, and 20th U.S. Army corps and cavalry.
William Kossak and John B. Muller. Military Map Showing the Marches of the United States Forces under Command of Maj. Genl. W. T. Sherman . . . During the Years 1863, 1864, 1865. Sherman Map Collection, Geography and Map Division, Library of Congress (166.00.00) [Digital ID# g3866s-cw0072000]
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“Sherman’s March to the Sea”
In 1864, Samuel Hawkins Marshall Byers III, of the 5th Volunteer Iowa Infantry was imprisoned in Columbia, South Carolina. When Byers learned of Sherman’s decisive military operation and the fall of Atlanta, he was inspired to write a five-stanza poem. In his autobiography, Byers would claim that the poem was smuggled out of the prison camp by an exchanged prisoner named Tower, who “carried the song in this wooden limb [artificial leg] through the lines to our soldiers in the North, where it was sung everywhere and with demonstration.” Set to music by J. O. Rockwell, the song was issued as sheet music and remained popular for decades after its first publication in 1865.
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J. O. Rockwell, music. “Sherman’s March to the Sea.” Boston: Oliver Ditson Company, 1882. Music Division, Library of Congress (174.00.00) [Digital ID# cw0174]
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Out of touch with the North and living largely off the land, Major General Sherman and his Union forces kept President Lincoln in suspense regarding the success of this operation for thirty-two days. On December 22, 1864, Sherman relieved the president’s anxiety, as this diary records, and sparked renewed celebrations in the North with the telegraph message that Savannah had fallen. The diary was kept by David Homer Bates, one of the operators in the War Department's Telegraph Office during the Civil War. The entry Bates recorded for December 26, shows the jubilation in Washington, D.C., that greeted Sherman’s news.
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David Homer Bates (1843–1926). November 1863–June 1865 diary, entries for December 19–27, 1864. Page 2 - Page 3. Alfred Whital Stern Collection, Rare Book and Special Collections Division, Library of Congress (177.00.00) [Digital ID# cw0177, cw0177p1, cw0177p2]
Unattributed. The Original Four Operators of the United States Military Telegraph Corps (standing: Samuel M. Brown (d. 1877); front row, left to right: David Strouse (1838–1861), David Homer Bates, and Richard O’Brien (1839–1923), between 1861 and 1866. Quarter-plate ambrotype. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (176.00.00) [Digital ID # LC-DIG-ppmsca-34371]
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The Thirteenth Amendment: Forever Free
President Lincoln understood that the Emancipation Proclamation was a wartime measure that would not ensure freedom after the war. He also knew that the slave states that remained loyal to the Union were not included in the proclamation. The only way to truly eliminate the institution of slavery was an amendment to the United States Constitution, which Lincoln successfully lobbied the U.S. Congress to adopt. Witnessed by jubilant African Americans seated in the galleries, the Thirteenth Amendment was passed by the House of Representatives by a vote of 119 to 56 on January 31, 1865. Secretary of State William H. Seward issued a statement verifying the ratification of the amendment by the states on December 18, 1865.
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Thirty-eighth Congress of the United States. Ceremonial copy of the Thirteenth Amendment [signed by Abraham Lincoln and members of Congress], February 1, 1865. Abraham Lincoln Papers, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress (180.00.00) [Digital ID# at0100]
Thirty-eighth Congress of the United States. Ceremonial copy of the Thirteenth Amendment, February 1, 1865. John Hay Papers, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress (180.01.00) [Digital ID# cw0180_01]
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Healing Wounds, Rather than Causing Them
Despite the wide path of destruction Major General Sherman’s army left behind on its marches through Georgia and South Carolina, Sherman professed no hatred for the Southern people. His object in making “Georgia howl” was not revenge, but rather to crush the Confederate will to continue fighting. The quicker the conflict ended, the faster the nation could begin rebuilding what the war had destroyed, physically and emotionally.
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Sherman’s Special Order No. 15
As Sherman’s troops swept through Georgia and the Carolinas, many freed slaves attached themselves to his army. Concerned about their welfare and their effect on the army’s progress, the general and Secretary of War Stanton conferred with black church officials in Savannah, who asserted that freed people needed access to land to sustain themselves. Thus, Sherman issued an order in January 1865 granting former slaves forty-acre plots of coastline property from Charleston, South Carolina to Jacksonville, Florida, and the right to oversee their own affairs subject to U.S. military and congressional authority. President Andrew Johnson would restore most of the confiscated land to its original owners after the war.
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A Supreme Court First
The day after the House of Representatives passed the Thirteenth Amendment, another barrier was broken, this time in the judicial branch. Lawyer John S. Rock became the first African American admitted to practice before the United States Supreme Court. Although Lincoln had been at odds politically with his former Treasury Secretary, Salmon P. Chase, he appointed him chief justice in light of Chase’s longstanding commitment to the rights of African Americans, which Rock also recognized.
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Burning Columbia, South Carolina
William Waud’s dramatic image of Union soldiers looting and destroying Columbia, South Carolina, created a celebratory image for Harper’s Weekly readership, designed to rally support for the war, now in its fourth year. Fires set by departing Confederate soldiers and those set by some of General Sherman’s least disciplined troops, combined with the aid of high winds, consumed much of Columbia on February 17, 1865. In the days that followed, Sherman’s troops destroyed the city’s railroad facilities, supply depots, and other infrastructure deemed militarily useful to the enemy.
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“It is now becoming daily more evident to all reflecting persons that we are reduced to choosing whether the negroes should fight for us or against us,” wrote President Jefferson Davis to a friend in February 1865. Despite continuing opposition, the Confederate Congress passed a bill authorizing the enlistment of slaves as soldiers. The law did not guarantee emancipation for slaves who served under the Confederacy; their freedom would be at the discretion of their owners and the laws of their state of residence. The legislation was enacted too late to have any impact on the Confederate war effort.
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While celebrated for their colored lithographic prints of bucolic scenes from American life, the firm of Currier & Ives also issued a number of black-and-white political cartoons supporting of the Union cause. This print depicts Union generals Sheridan, Grant, and Sherman, and vice admiral Farragut only willing to entertain a complete military victory over the South, which is represented by Robert E. Lee and Jefferson Davis. Aimed not only at the Confederate leadership but also at the antiwar Copperheads in the North’s Democratic Party, the cartoon alludes to false Confederate peace overtures and to the 1864 Democratic platform, which called for “a cessation of hostilities with a view to an ultimate convention of the states, or other peaceable means” to restore the Union. A joint resolution issued by the Confederate States of America, shown here, advocates for peace but separation from the Union as late as February 20, 1865.
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[C.S.A.] House of Representatives. Joint Resolutions Expressing the Sense of Congress on the Subject of the Late Peace Commission, February 20, 1865. Confederate States of America Collection, Law Library, Library of Congress (185.00.00) [Digital ID# cw0185]
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The Desperate Finale
After evacuating Richmond, President Jefferson Davis and key Confederate officials arrived in Danville, Virginia, on April 3, 1865. With no communication from the Confederate armies still in the field, the situation was dire. Nevertheless, in his last official proclamation as president on April 4, Davis issued this handbill reassuring the citizens that “nothing is now needed to render our triumph certain but the exhibition of our own unquestionable resolve.” As Davis would later admit, when the proclamation was “viewed by the light of subsequent events, it may fairly be said it was over-sanguine.”
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The campaign of the Union’s Army of the Potomac to dislodge Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia from Petersburg and Richmond lasted almost a year (June 1864–April 3, 1865) with heavy use of trench warfare and near constant artillery fire. This photograph taken during the siege of Petersburg by David Knox for Alexander Gardner’s studio shows a mammoth Union mortar, aptly named the “Dictator.” The nearly nine-ton, thirteen-inch mortar was transported by rail and when fired would rain heavy fragments of iron shell down on the enemy soldiers. Eventually time and dwindling Confederate resources proved to be the most decisive weapon against Lee, who found it increasingly difficult to repulse Grant’s flanking maneuvers during the long siege of Petersburg. When continuing to hold the city appeared futile, Lee abandoned Petersburg and recommended the evacuation of Richmond.
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President Lincoln's Second Inaugural Address
In 1864, Lincoln was reelected, carrying fifty-four percent of the popular vote and all but three northern states—New Jersey, Delaware, and Kentucky. The president delivered his Second Inaugural Address from the east portico of the Capitol, under the building’s newly completed iron dome, on March 4, 1865. The power of the address is deepened by its conciseness and brevity, particularly when it is read in counterpoint with Lincoln’s First Inaugural Address. This typeset version of the address with a few annotations in Lincoln’s hand was the president’s reading copy on inauguration day. The spacing of each cut-and-pasted passage gives the viewer a sense of how he delivered the speech.
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Appomattox Court House
This schematic map records the historic moment when General Lee and his Confederate forces surrendered to General Grant at Appomattox Court House in central Virginia on April 9, 1865. The most important sites are noted on the map in a key at the bottom of the drawing: “A. [McLean] House at which Gen’l. Lee received Gen’l. Sheridan afterwards Grant,—where agreement was signed; B. Appomattox C. H.; C. Custar’s [sic] (3rd ) Cav. Div., R. Reserve Cavalry Brigade—In advance on extreme right, L. Lee’s army massed, and W. Wagon’s retiring.” The formal surrender occurred on April 12, exactly four years after the war began.
Unattributed. Memoranda. April 8, 1865. 10 o’clock A.M. Clover Hill (Appomattox Court House), Virginia, 1865. Geography and Map Division, Library of Congress (193.00.00) [Digital ID# g3884a-cw0525000]
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“I Bid You an Affectionate Farewell”
On the rainy morning of April 10, 1865, the day after he agreed to Grant’s terms of surrender at Appomattox Court House, General Robert E. Lee authored his famous farewell address to the Army of Northern Virginia, known officially as “General Order No. 9.” Colonel Theodore Lyman, a staff officer under the command of Union general George Meade, recalled upon meeting Lee later that day that he was “exceedingly grave and dignified—this I believe, he always was; but there was evidently an extreme depression, which gave him an air of a man who kept up his pride to the last, but who was entirely overwhelmed.”
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The Fall of Richmond
The “Burnt District” in Richmond was a pitiable sight for the various photographers who scrambled to record the Confederate capital in the last days of the Civil War. As the government collapsed and people rioted, fires—meant to destroy the arsenal, bridges, and anything of military value—spread to a large part of the city’s prime commercial district. Richmond’s weary and long-suffering inhabitants searched for missing friends and relations and combed the ashes for what could be saved. Northern forces, including an African American infantry brigade, entered burned-out Richmond on April 3, 1865. On the following day, President Lincoln visited the devastated Confederate capital.
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Andrew J. Russell (1829–1902). [Ruins on Carey Street, Richmond, Virginia, showing two women dressed in black approaching a shell of a four-story building gutted by fire], April 1865. Albumen silver print. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (189.00.00) [Digital ID# cph-3g04593]
Unattributed. Ruins on Carey Street, Richmond, Virginia, April 1865 [printed later]. Albumen silver print. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (189.00.00) [Digital ID# LC-DIG-ppmsca-33070]
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Hoisting the U.S. Flag at Fort Sumter
Brass bands flourished in the United States throughout the last half of the nineteenth century and were popular in both the North and South during the Civil War. In July 1861, cornetist Gustavus W. Ingals was commissioned to organize selected New Hampshire and Massachusetts musicians to become the band of the 3rd New Hampshire Regiment. The band became one of the finest such ensembles and is now best remembered as the “Port Royal Band” because of an extensive duty tour at Port Royal Island, South Carolina. Its instruments consisted mostly of saxhorns—cornets and tubas—and they played largely from “part books,” like the ones displayed here, designed for individual instruments. It is believed that the band played during the Federal flag-raising ceremony at Fort Sumter on April 14, 1865.
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[The ceremony at Fort Sumter during which General Robert Anderson raised the flag he had been forced to take down exactly four years before], April 14, 1865. Reproduction from glass plate negative. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (196.00.00) [Digital ID# cwpb-02464]
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Artifacts of Assassination
When Abraham Lincoln was shot at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, D.C., on April 14, 1865, he was carrying two pairs of spectacles and a lens polisher, a pocketknife, a watch fob, a linen handkerchief, and a brown leather wallet containing a five-dollar Confederate note and eight newspaper clippings, including several favorable to the president and his policies. Given to his son Robert Todd Lincoln upon Lincoln’s death, these everyday items, which through association with tragedy had become relics, remained with the Lincoln family for more than seventy years.
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Eyewitness to Lincoln's Assassination
By assassinating President Lincoln in a crowded theater on April 14, 1865, John Wilkes Booth ensured there would be many witnesses to his act. James S. Knox was in Ford’s Theatre on the fateful night and recounted the event for his father in a letter written the next day. The exuberant cheers that greeted the president’s arrival turned to cries of horror at the president’s wounding. Knox vowed never to forgive or forget Booth’s traitorous deed.
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Feeding the Public Hysteria
Dime novel publishers such as T. R. Dawley were better positioned than traditional publishing houses to quickly produce titles related to topical news events. Dion Hasco’s J. Wilkes Booth, The Assassinator of President Lincoln was widely sold in Northern cities just a few weeks following Booth’s death at the Garrett Farm in Virginia on April 26, 1865. While presumably a fictionalized account of the assassination (it was issued as part of Dawley’s New War Novels), it was among the popular works that cultivated public perceptions that the Lincoln assassination was orchestrated at the highest levels of the Confederate government.
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