The Civil War

Even if the whole exhibition were dedicated to the American Civil War, the bloodiest military engagement fought on North American soil, it would still not be adequate to reflect the whole story. Selected for this section of the exhibition are representative prints and a few monographic publications, which, it is hoped, will whet the imagination of the viewer.

At left is an exceedingly rare old German lithograph, published about 1861, of the leading protagonists, showing on the right-hand side, Abraham Lincoln without a beard, as President, with Jefferson Davis, on the left, as President of the Confederate States.

To the right a complete set of "Prizefight Envelopes" issued by J. H. Tingley titled Lincoln and Davis in Five Rounds in which the outcome is anticipated to favour Lincoln.

If war is hell, according to General William T. Sherman, what in human vocabulary can be used to describe this most devastating of human conditions — brother against brother, family against family, city against city, and a country split.

"Plain Words to Plain People About the War",21 indeed. Even Lincoln himself did not escape the division, for many of his wife's relatives supported and fought for the Confederacy.

In 1861, the diplomat John Lothrop Motley,22 Minister to Austria from 1861-1867, sent his letter to the London Times in which he tried to explain to a foreign readership the causes of the civil war.

Pictured is a representation of Lincoln, General of the Army of the Potomac George Brinton McClellan and John Work Garrett, the president of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad.23 The image is that of an artist's rendition of the stereo photograph taken by Alexander Gardner, for Mathew Brady, at Antietam, Maryland, October 3, 1862. Lincoln, perturbed by McClellan's reluctance to pursue Lee's forces across the Potomac, had travelled to Antietam to "discuss" matters with McClellan. In November 1862, McClellan was relieved of his command.

Shown is the only portrayal of this exceedingly rare Civil War relic rescued by Captain Cyrus Chadwick depicting the Libby Prison, the infamous bastille for Union prisoners of war in Richmond. Infamous it might have been, but the printmaker portrays a rather cosy, somewhat domestic scene complete with a cat dozing on a bed, a prisoner lying on his cot, reading a book, another smoking a pipe, several prisoners chatting in groups.

Accounts of the Civil War belie the poster discussed above and photographs of the dead and dying on the field of battle and as well the prisoners of war give credence to Sherman's statement quoted before. Shown is a letter of petition from two officials in Alexandria, Virginia, one of many received by the President, written on December 14, 1864 on behalf of a loyal neighbour's son who had been conscripted into the Confederate Army and taken prisoner. In reply, Lincoln writes that the young man be asked to take the oath passed on December 8, 1863, that he would no longer bear arms against the Union, after which he would be set free.

Whiting's treatise,24, concerning the military powers of the President and the armed forces during war was written by the Harvard-trained lawyer who at the time of the Civil War was a solicitor with the War Department.

At right, Lincoln is portrayed as entering the defeated city of Richmond, Virginia. On April 2, 1865, the Confederate Government evacuated the city and the next day it was occupied by the Federal forces. Lincoln visited the beleaguered city on the 4th. Robert E. Lee surrendered to General Grant at Appomattox House, Virginia, on the 9th. It was, according to some, the straw that broke the camel's back. John Wilkes Booth owed much in his acting career to theatre life and audiences in the southern city. He and his fellow conspirators had previously intended to abduct the President in order to bargain for the release of Confederate prisoners held in Union jails, but their plan had been foiled by a change in Lincoln's plans. The fall of Richmond and the surrender of Lee caused Booth to change his scheme radically — only Lincoln's death could avenge the stricken South.

Another interpretation of Lincoln's entering the defeated city of Richmond is the framed page taken from an 1866 issue of Harper's Weekly. The illustration was by the famous cartoonist Thomas Nast (1840-1902), and like its companion in the exhibition, shows Lincoln as being almost worshipped, this time by both Blacks and Whites. The German-born Nast was famed for, among other things, creating the political symbols of the tiger, the elephant and the donkey as symbols of Tammany Hall, the Republican and the Democratic Parties, respectively.

Far different from the President's stroll through the Virginia city surrounded by admiring and cheering crowds is that of the Yankee invasion of the South; a march to the beat of a different drum, as is depicted in the coloured lithograph titled "Yankee Volunteers Marching Into Dixie" published by G. F. Morse in 1865. Yankee Doodle, Keep It Up, Yankee Doodle Dandy!

A mock epitaph dated April 8th, 1865, for the Southern Confederacy, died, aged four

21. Ezra Mundy Hunt, About the War: Plain Words to Plain People. Philadelphia: Printed for gratuitous distribution, 1863.
22. John Lothrop Motley, The Causes of the American Civil War: A Letter to the London Times. New York: J.G. Gregory, 1861.
23. John Work Garrett, 1820-1884, was born in Baltimore and was at first sympathetic to the Confederate cause. However when many of "his" southern railroad beds were destroyed by rampaging "rebels", he quickly aligned himself with the Union cause.
24. William Whiting, Military Arrests in Time of War. Washington: G.P.O., 1863.

Jefferson Davis and A.L. ca. 1861

Five Champion Prizefight Envelopes

Draft Order for Troops

Statement by a Union Soldier

Petition to Release Confederate Prisoners

Military Arrests in Time of War

The Causes of American Civil War

Plain Words to Plain People by Plain Man

Libby Prison

Reproduction of a photo by Matt. P. Brady, ca. Oct. 2, 1862 at Antietam, Maryland. Lincoln, Maj. Gen. John A. McClellan and Maj. Allan Pinkeston.

Lincoln's Gettysburg Address

Lincoln entering Richmond, April 3, 1865.

Yankee Volunteers Marching Into Dixie

Lincoln in Slave Quarter

The Southern Confederacy


Lincoln Bust