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Voices of the Civil War Exhibit

Evidence and ArtifactsOn display right now at Special Collections, visitors will find a beautiful exhibit entitled “Voices of the Civil War.”  An enchanting wafting of music immediately draws in the curious and creates the atmosphere of stepping into the whispering voices of America’s past, while lantern slides rotate through historic pictures of the 19th century.

Through displays of historic correspondence, literature, cinema, artifacts, sheet music, and art, the Civil War is described by those who experienced it, those who were affected by it, and those who have learned from it.

Among those who have been given voice by this exhibit, we become acquainted with slave traders who have left a bill of sale which describes the dark complexions of an African family callously labeled “property.”  We hear the voice of a slave owner who has granted freedom to his own slave as we read his proclamation in his own hand.  We understand the reach of influence literature has as we admire an early edition of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin.

We see the fascination later generations have as we observe Civil War themes throughout American cinema.

We lift our eyes in painful awe as we attempt to absorb the details of the 9 feet by 20 feet reproduction of Peter Frederick Rothermel’s painting Battle of Gettysburg.

As we read the letters written home by young Don Carlos Salisbury (the nephew to Joseph Smith), we feel the excitement war is to a young boy and we experience the change and weariness in his voice as the years go on and how innocence changes in the wake of the hard reality known as death.  We see firsthand the turmoil and pain of a family torn by the war.  We see evidence that the war pitted brother against brother, father against son.

We see that historic newspaper, dated Saturday, April 15, 1865 declaring a “terrible calamity.  President Lincoln assassinated” and we hear a young nation gasp.

Of particular interest to Latter-day Saints, we hear the voice of the prophet Joseph Smith as we read the transcript in W.W. Phelps’ hand of the revelation given on December 25, 1835 which begins, “Verily, thus saith the Lord concerning the wars that will shortly come to pass, beginning at the rebellion of South Carolina…” (Doctrine and Covenants Section 87)

Ranging from the spring of 1861 to 1865, the American Civil War was the most costly wars of human life in its history.  More than 600,000 lives were lost.  Many more carried the scars, visible and nonvisible, for the rest of their lives.  So many stories and so many voices rise up to tell the defining moment of the United States, a moment when a nation began to define itself as “one nation, under God, indivisible, with Liberty and Justice for all.” (Pledge of Allegiance, emphasis mine)

For more voices from the Civil War visit the exhibit and see the stories that are told first hand.  There are also many other items available in Special Collections that tell about the Civil War.  The Journal of a Grandfather is a privately printed edition of only 100 copies which journals the experiences of a Civil War soldier who served in the 1st Texas Artillery and as colonel of the 16th Confederate States Cavalry.  (Call # 973.78 H87j 1912)  Another item of interest may be a holding titled Chronicles from the diary of a war prisoner in Andersonville and other military prisons of the South in 1864: Experiences, observations, interviews and poems written in prison, with historical introduction. An appendix containing statement of a Confederate physician and officer relative to prison condition and management. (Call # 973.771 N81 1904)

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