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national collection

“These photographs of artifacts and images from the Civil War make that traumatic era come alive in a way that mere words cannot convey. I found new items as well as old standbys in this book, which stimulated imagination and memories of many hours viewing the objects that connect us to that crucial part of our past.” —David McCullough, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Truman and John Adams “These photographs of artifacts and images from the Civil War make that traumatic era come alive in a way that mere words cannot convey. I found new items as well as old standbys in this book, which stimulated my imagination and memories.” —James M. McPherson, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Battle Cry of Freedom “These photographs of artifacts and images from the Civil War make that traumatic era come alive in a way that mere words cannot convey. I found new items as well as old standbys in this book, which stimulated imagination and memories.” —Adam Goodheart, author of 1861: The Civil War Awakening

For the very first time, the Smithsonian showcases the treasures of its Civil War collections in Smithsonian Civil War, taking readers inside public displays as well as private cabinets, storerooms, and vaults to learn the stories of its most fascinating and significant pieces. Curators from thirteen Smithsonian museums and archives crafted this immersive exploration to illuminate the full scope of the political, military, social, and cultural climate of the era. In 150 entries to honor the 150th anniversary of the war, each curator tells a truly unique story focused on one-of-a-kind, famous, and previously unseen relics handpicked from the Smithsonian Institution collections. The objects featured range from military uniforms and weaponry to recruiting posters, portraits, jewelry, letters home, and currency, and span the prewar era, the war, and its aftermath. Spellbinding narrative and stunning visuals transform these treasures into potent reminders of this devastating period in American history. Smithsonian Civil War is history as only the Smithsonian can tell it. Smithsonian Civil War features more than 500 items from thirteen



Smithsonian Kagan



CIVIL WAR inside


national collection

smithsonian museums and archives and text by its experts in a variety of fields. neil kagan has edited numerous best-selling Civil War titles. As the former

managing editor for Time-Life Books, he created several book series, including Voices of the Civil War. jon meacham is the Pulitzer Prize–wining author of American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House and Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power.

Jacket design by Studio A

US $40.00 / $46.00 CAN ISBN 978-1-58834-389-5


Smithsonian Books

Front cover: Colonel John Singleton Mosby’s frock coat. Back cover: Major General George Armstrong Custer’s frock coat, worn at his wedding in 1864.

Foreword by Jon Meacham




national collec tion

Foreword by

Edited by

Jon Meacham

Neil Kagan and Stephen G. Hyslop

Introduction by Michelle Delaney Principal

Smithsonian Editorial Committee James G. Barber, Tom Crouch, Michelle Delaney, Rex M. Ellis, Paul Gardullo, Frank H. Goodyear III, Eleanor Jones Harvey, Pamela M. Henson, Jennifer L. Jones, William S. Pretzer, Harry R. Rubenstein

photography by Hugh Talman

Smithsonian Books, Washington, D.C.

smithsonian civil war

c  ontents Foreword 8 Introduction / Civil War 150


1 Wartime Smithsonian


2 “Am I Not a Man and a Brother?”


3 Ending the Gag Rule


23 General Scott and Colonel Lee


4 Inventions for Planters


24 Parting Ways at West Point


5 Prewar Portraits


25 Militia Uniforms


6 Sold Down the River


26 The Seamstress and the


7 Skilled Slave Workers


8 The Price of Freedom


27  Confederate Money Made

9 Frederick Douglass


First Ladies 84

in New York

28 The Bowie Knife


29 A Call to Arms


30 Patriotic Prints for Unionists


31 The Death of Ellsworth


32 Dashing Zouaves


33 Wartime Photography


34 Portraits to Keep Loved


53 Lincoln’s Henry Rifle


54 Civil War Belt Plates


55 The Music of War


56 Admiral Farragut


57 The Vanity of Beast Butler


58 A Gift for Secretary Chase


59 Early Prisoners of War


60 Baseball in Prison


61 Civil War Headgear


62 The Telegraph at War


63 Writing the Emancipation


Proclamation 64 Lincoln at Antietam


65 Letters Home


66 The Iron Mine


67 The Destructive Minié Ball


68 Printing Presses in Action


69 Day of Deliverance


70 The Lord Is My Shepherd


71 Fighting for Freedom


72 Money in Many Forms


Ones Close

35 Collecting Cartes-de-Visite


36 Pioneering Photojournalists


37 Lincoln’s Air Force


38 Contrabands 112 39 Keeping Confederates Posted


10 John Brown


40 Clara Barton


11 Fugitives or Freedom Seekers?


41 Berdan’s Sharpshooters


12 Harriet Beecher Stowe


42 The Emergence of Grant


13 Bleeding Kansas


43 Men of Progress


14 Douglas and Lincoln


44 The Wartime Patent Office


15 “The Animal Himself”


45 The Union’s Constructive Genius 128

16 The Election of 1860


46 Saving Old Glory


17 Dissolving the Union


47 Tribes at War


73 Winning with Greenbacks


18 Passage through Baltimore


48 The Young Napoleon


74 The Gray Ghost


19 Lincoln’s First Inauguration


49 Chickahominy Fever


75 Coping with the Blockade


20 The Fire-Eater’s War


50 Hardtack and Coffee


76 Gordon’s Journey


21 Secrets in Lincoln’s Watch


51 Union Infantry Gear


77 Southern Illustrated News


22 Flags for a New Nation


52 Confederate Infantry Gear


78 J.E.B. Stuart’s Pistol



i n s i d e t h e n at i o n a l c o l l e c t i o n

79 Rewarding Grant’s Triumph


at Vicksburg

104 Designating Flags


133 The Richmond Hoard


105 Civil War Plans for Planes


134 Death to the Conspirators


106 Arming the Navies


135 A Funeral Procession



80 Port Hudson Burial Post


81 Colors of the 84th Infantry


107 “God Helps Those Who

82 Woodblock Printing


83 Searching for Shoes


in Gettysburg

84 Depicting Camp Life


85 The Sacrifice of Strong Vincent


86 A Harvest of Death


87 A Haunting Relic of Gettysburg


88 Treating the Wounded


89 Badge of Honor


90 New York Draft Riots


91 The General and the Actress


92 The Rock of Chickamauga


93 The Odyssey of Solomon Conn


94 Uniforms at Schuylkill Arsenal


95 Long Arms


96 At Home in Camp


97 Autograph Leaves


98 Grant Versus Lee


Help Themselves”

1,700 Miles Long

136 The Fate of Mary Lincoln


108 The Other War


137 Bringing Images of War Home


109 The Letters of Solomon Brown


138 Gardner’s Photographic


110 Equipping the Cavalry



111 Handguns 278

139 The Medal of Honor


112 Sheridan’s Warhorse


140 Presentation Swords


113 Election of 1864


141 Honoring Black Troops


114 The Miscegenation Ball


142 Sojourner Truth


115 Aurora Borealis


143 A Visit from the Old Mistress


116 The Fall of Fort Fisher


144 The Voyage of Robert Smalls


117 The Thirteenth Amendment


145 Remembering Slavery


118 Hell and Damnation


146 The Moses of Her People


119 Surrender at Appomattox


120 Appomattox Parole


121 Dignified in Defeat


122 Inside the Confederate


White House

123 The Promise of Freedom


124 Grant and His Generals


125 Burial Party


126 Documenting the Wounded


127 The Cracked Negative


147 Songs of the South


128 A Final Cup of Coffee


148 Wars in the West


129 A Night with Laura Keene


149 Reunions and Rememberance


130 Deathbed of the President


150 Designing the Lincoln Penny


131 Abraham Lincoln’s Top Hat


132 Wanted for Murder


Object List




99 Winslow Homer’s War Drawings 248 100 Shattered at Spotsylvania


101 Sherman Moves South


Images from left to right: Lincoln’s life mask (entry 15), red kepi (entry 61), scarred back of an escaped slave (entry 76), Union cavalry jacket (entry 94), a massive mortar (entry 103), and C.S.A. belt plate (entry 54).

102 Bird’s-Eye View of Andersonville 256 103 The Dictator



smithsonian civil war

i n s i d e t h e n at i o n a l c o l l e c t i o n

24 parting ways at west point


n the spring of 1861, the drumbeats of war reverberated at the U.S. Military Academy, where cadets from North and South now had to choose sides. For John Pelham (1838–1863), the son of an Alabama planter who

opposed secession but stood by the South, the choice was ago­

nizing. Torn in his allegiance, young Pelham wrote Confederate

President Jefferson Davis to ask what he should do. On April 22, eight days after Fort Sumter fell and just two weeks before his graduation, he left West Point to join the Confederate Army. George Armstrong Custer (1839–1876) was one class behind Pelham. The son of an Ohio farmer, he excelled at military drills but neglected his studies and finished last in his class. Because the Union needed officers, Custer and his classmates graduated George Armstrong Custer

a year early. Most cadets remained loyal to the United States, but more than a quarter of those in the two graduating classes joined the Confederate Army. Both Pelham and Custer became famous for the manner in which they fought and died. During the first two years of the war, Pelham led artillery in more than sixty engagements and was promoted to major by age twenty-four. “It is really extraordinary to find such nerve and genius in a mere boy,” Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson remarked. “With Pelham on each flank I believe I could whip the world.” Off duty when fighting erupted at Kelly’s Ford, Virginia, on March 17, 1863, Pelham rushed into the fray and was killed. His body lay in state at the Confederate Capitol in Richmond before burial in Alabama. Custer rose even higher in the Union Army, becoming a brig­ adier general at twenty-three. Yet the “Boy General” remained controversial during and after the Civil War. In 1876 his reckless daring led to disaster at the Little Bighorn, where Sitting Bull’s Lakota warriors killed him and more than 250 of his men. • fhg

John Pelham

soldiers in training Two ambrotypes portray George Armstrong Custer (left, top) and John Pelham (left, bottom) during their West Point days. Custer wears a cadet coatee similar to the one owned by Ulysses S. Grant (opposite), a member of the class of 1843.


smithsonian civil war

88 treating the wounded


ot even the most experienced military surgeons anticipated the huge numbers of casualties that would be sustained during the Civil War. The Union and Confederate armies entered

the conflict ill prepared to treat the wounded. Each side organized field hospitals and an ambulance corps, but after major

battles surgeons were overwhelmed with men requiring operations. At Gettysburg, the Union Second Corps alone “lost upward of 3,000 in killed and wounded,” a doctor there reported. Lieutenant Frank Haskell witnessed surgeons performing amputations at the Second Corps field hospital. “Their faces and clothes are spattered with blood;” he wrote, “and though they look weary and tired, their work goes systematically and steadily on—how much and how long they worked, the piles of legs, arms, feet, hands, fingers . . . partially tell.” The task of treating wounded men in crowd­ed, reeking field hospitals could be exasperating for surgeons. “If there is one thing more disagreeable or more dirty than another,” an army doctor remarked, “it is that of dressing sloughing, stinking gun shot wounds.” No antiseptics were available then to prevent the spread of infections. But ether and other anesthetics helped surgeons like Lieutenant Colonel William I. Wolfley—a Union physician whose medicine case and instruments are shown at right and on the next two pages—save many lives by operating on wounded men who would otherwise have perished. • jmc

S UR G EON’S S UP P LI ES This field medicine case (opposite), issued to surgeon William Wolfley (inset), contained bandages, silk ligature, scissors, and drugs such as chloroform and ether (right). The ether was sold by Dr. Edward Robinson Squibb, a former naval surgeon.


Their faces and clothes are spattered with blood; and though they look weary and tired, their work goes systematically and steadily on. L ieu ten a nt Fr a nk H a sk ell , de s cribing Union surg eon s at G e t t ysburg

i n s i d e t h e n at i o n a l c o l l e c t i o n


t r e at i n g t h e w o u n d e d

SURGIC A L T OOL S The instruments shown here were made of steel, with ebony handles, and used mainly for amputation. The four large Catlin and Liston knives in the box opposite were used to cut through layers of flesh. The large saw was used to complete amputations by cutting through bone. The forceps at lower right in the box on this page could be used to probe wounds for bullets, although many Civil War surgeons used their bare fingers for that purpose. These instruments belonged to Lieutenant Colonel Wolfley, who also possessed a surgical handbook that included illustrations and instructions for amputating an arm at the shoulder (above).


smithsonian civil war

111 handguns


n october 3, 1864, Lieutenant John R. Meigs,

termed “Navy.” Both Colt models were percussion revolvers,

Major General Philip Sheridan’s topographical

which required a percussion cap to be placed at the rear of each

engineer and the son of Quartermaster General

bore in the cylinder before the trigger was pulled, bringing the

Montgomery Meigs, was riding in the rain with

hammer down on the cap and igniting a cartridge filled with

two Union soldiers near Dayton, Virginia, when they overtook

gunpowder and a bullet. As was the case with long arms, few

three horsemen whose capes covered their uniforms. Meigs

revolvers in use during the Civil War fired self-contained metal

called on the men to halt. They were

cartridges that eliminated the need for

Confederate scouts who drew pistols

percussion caps.

and fired, killing Meigs. The Confeder-

Most of the handguns made by

ates captured one of the Union soldiers;

Colt and other American gun makers

the other escaped to tell of the shooting,

at that time were single-action revolv-

which Sheridan considered partisan

ers, meaning that pulling the trigger

warfare. In retaliation, he had houses

performed only one action—firing the

in and around Dayton torched.

gun. Before the trigger was pulled, the

As this incident demonstrated,

hammer had to be cocked manually,

handguns could be potent weapons

which also rotated the cylinder. Some

when opponents met at close quarters

revolvers in production then were

during the Civil War. Some infantry-

double action, meaning that pulling the

men and most officers carried them,

trigger cocked the hammer and rotated

and they were often issued to seamen

the cylinder as well as firing the gun.

and cavalrymen, who were more likely

Most soldiers were accustomed to the

than foot soldiers to come near enough

single action, and few purchased or

to their enemies to make handguns

were issued double-action revolvers.

useful. Although they remained strictly

Colt, Remington, and Whitney were

short-range weapons, those side arms

the major suppliers of Union handguns,

had evolved dramatically in recent

but the government also purchased

years from the cumbersome single-

some from smaller companies and

shot muzzle-loaders of old. That era

imported others from Europe. The

ended in 1848 when Samuel Colt sold a

Confederacy imported more revolvers

thousand of his innovative .44-caliber revolvers to the U.S.

than it produced at home. Unlike Colt, which made hundreds

Army, which issued them to dragoons (mounted infantrymen).

of thousands of revolvers during the war, few Southern con-

A few years later, Colt came out with a lighter, .36-caliber

tractors turned out as many as a thousand revolvers. • ddm

revolver. Because the U.S. Navy was an early customer and the cylinder bore an engraved naval battle scene, that model became

gunman Soldiers like this Union sergeant often posed for studio portraits with handguns. Some were their own weapons, but most were provided as props by photographers.

known as the Colt 1851 Navy Revolver. Thereafter, .44-caliber revolvers were termed “Army” and .36-caliber revolvers were


i n s i d e t h e n at i o n a l c o l l e c t i o n

COLT MODEL 1851 N AV Y R E VOLV ER This .36-caliber six-shooter was Colt’s most popular percussion revolver. Nearly 250,000 were made between 1850 and 1873, and many soldiers and lawmen, as well as outlaws, carried them.

K ER R R E VOLV ER The five-shot, .44-caliber Kerr was produced in England by the London Armoury Company and exported almost entirely to the Confederacy. A favorite of Southern cavalrymen, it could be fired in either single or double action.

S TA R R A R M Y R E VOLV ER The .44-caliber Starr was the only American revolver produced in both single and double action during the war. This 1863 single-action model was considered an improvement over the double-action model.


smithsonian civil war

C olt 1851 N av y R e volv er NicIquidest expedita ipsandae corrore scimet et officia consequam, utempore vel everere pediae verem enet fuga. Volupta dolut lantion et faccatur? Ignihil lesciat dit, omnis aut quae. Nam

COLT MODEL 1860 A R M Y R E VOLV ER This .44-caliber sixshooter was one of the most widely used revolvers during the Civil War. Many Confederates carried this or other Colt models—or copies of them made by Southern contractors.

L EM AT R E VOLV ER French physician Jean Alexandre LeMat, an in-law of Confederate General P.G.T. Beauregard, developed the nine-shot .40-caliber LeMat, with a 16-gauge shotgun barrel. Nearly 3,000 were shipped to the South.

L EFAUCHEU X R E VOLV ER The French-made .44-caliber Lefaucheux had metallic cartridges that fired when punctured by pins driven by the hammer. Purchased by the Union, it was also carried by a few Confederate officers.


han d g uns

S AVAGE N AV Y R E VOLV ER The .36-caliber six-shot Savage has a lower ring lever to cock the hammer and rotate the cylinder, and a trigger above that to fire the gun. Although hard to aim, some 12,000 were purchased by the Union.

GR ISWOL D & GUNNISON R E VOLV ER A Connecticut Yankee who moved to Georgia, Samuel Griswold teamed with Arvin Gunnison in 1862 to produce this close copy of the Colt 1851 Navy Revolver. It was the best revolver made in the South.

R EMING T ON 1861 A R M Y R E VOLV ER Also known as the Old Model Army, this Remington held six shots in a solid frame. Along with its successor, the New Model Army, it helped make Remington second only to Colt in Union revolver sales.


smithsonian civil war


i n s i d e t h e n at i o n a l c o l l e c t i o n

131 abraham lincoln's top hat


oon after John Wilkes Booth shot President

Davis, a Washington hat maker, whose label appears inside the

Lincoln at Ford’s Theatre on the night of April 14, 1865,

crown. The hat, which measures approximately a modern size

the War Department recovered his hat and his chair

7 ⅛, is trimmed with two bands: a thin ⅜-inch ribbon with a

from the presidential box. Once the trial of Booth’s

small metal buckle, just above the brim; and a 3-inch grosgrain

co-conspirators had concluded, the two items were no longer

mourning band, discolored over time. The stitching on that

held as evidence, and they were transferred to the Interior

band indicates that it was added after Lincoln purchased the

Department, which stored them with other national relics

hat to signal his ongoing mourning for his son Willie, who

at the U.S. Patent Office. The hat was briefly exhibited there

died of typhoid fever on February 20, 1862. In a very public

in the public gallery. Then in 1867, with Mary Lincoln’s per-

way, Lincoln was linking his own loss with the losses suffered

mission, the Patent Office presented

by so many Americans during the war.

the hat to the Smithsonian along with

Lincoln used his hat as an actor em-

the chair. Secretary Joseph Henry, who

ployed a theatrical prop. He famously

had served during the war as a scien-

stored papers inside its crown, removed

tific advisor to Lincoln, ordered the two

it humbly when speaking publicly, and

items crated and placed in storage in the

threw it down in front of generals to

basement of the Castle. He cautioned the

emphasize his anger. On April 4, 1865,

staff “not to mention the matter to any

Lincoln toured the fallen Confederate

one, on account of there being so much

capital of Richmond, Virginia. A writer

excitement at the time.” Although Henry

for the Atlantic Monthly reported that

did not explain his decision further, it

Lincoln was approached by an elderly

appears that he shared the belief that

black man who removed his hat in trib-

displaying items so closely associated

ute and bowed before the president.

with Lincoln’s assassination was offen-

Lincoln, in turn, “removed his own hat,

sive, and that pandering to curiosity

and bowed in silence; but it was a bow

seekers would disrupt the more impor-

which upset the forms, laws, customs,

tant scientific work of the Institution.

and ceremonies of centuries. It was a

The Smithsonian would eventually return the chair to

death-shock to chivalry, and a mortal wound to caste.”

descendants of the owners of Ford’s Theatre. The hat remained

Because the top hat was so much a part of Abraham Lincoln’s

in storage for twenty-six years, unseen by the public, until it was

persona, and because Lincoln is so much a part of this nation,

loaned to a Washington, D.C., gallery in 1893, after which the

the hat, which the Smithsonian first hid away, is now one of its

Smithsonian regularly placed it on display. Of all of Lincoln’s

greatest treasures. • hrr

personal items in its collections, the hat has become the iconic emblem of the martyred sixteenth president.

STANDING TALL Meeting in October 1862 with General John McClernand (right) and Allan Pinkerton (left), intelligence chief for the Army of the Potomac, Abraham Lincoln wears a top hat like the one he later wore the night he was slain (opposite).

At six feet four inches tall, Lincoln towered over most of his contemporaries. He chose to stand out even more by regularly wearing top hats. Lincoln acquired this silk hat from J. Y.


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