Saturday, January 12, 2013

The "Civil War in America" at the Library of Congress

The New York Times reports on the current Civil War exhibit at the Library of Congress. The exhibit runs through June 1, but the draft of the Emancipation Proclamation will only be on view through February 18.

Here is a taste of the article:

The show’s documents are also dense with voices, offering a history told from above and below as well as from North and South. (A companion volume takes a similar approach in a detailed timeline of the war.) An 1861 diary of a plantation proprietor in South Carolina suggests that merely by being exposed to Northern forces “the Institution of Slavery has received a blow that it will never recover from.” From days of privation in 1863 we see a Confederate cookbook with recipes for imitation oysters and apple pie without apples.

We glimpse free black citizens in the midst of war. A letter from Frederick Douglass’s son Lewis, who was a member of the all-black 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, was written after fighting a “terrible” and “desperate” battle over Fort Wagner in Charleston Harbor. And in an 1868 book Elizabeth Keckley, a former slave and dressmaker for Mary Lincoln, describes establishing the Contraband Relief Association to help the 40,000 slaves who fled to freedom in Washington. 

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