October 16, 2012 (REVISED October 23, 2012) Library of Congress Highlights Historical Civil War Figures in New Blog

Excerpts from Diaries, Letters and Journals are Featured Content

Press Contact: Donna Urschel (202) 707-1639, Erin Allen (202) 707-7302
Contact: Members of the media can find downloadable images from the exhibition in the Library's online pressroom at www.loc.gov/pressroom/.
Website: "The Civil War in America" exhibition online

The Library of Congress will debut a unique new blog to complement its exhibition, “The Civil War in America,” which opens Nov. 12. The blog will help chronicle the sacrifices and accomplishments of those—from both the North and South—whose lives were lost or affected by the events of 1861–1865.

“While poring through the collections in preparation for putting together this exhibition, it struck us that the wealth of first-person accounts – through diaries, letters and published memoirs – provided such a rich and personal narrative for the exhibition and could be repackaged in a modern-day format to evoke the immediacy of what these people were experiencing directly,” said exhibit director Cheryl Regan. “And posting this material throughout the duration of the exhibition will provide a memorable and unique experience even for individuals unable to travel to Washington.”

More than 40 people, from those well-known to those rescued from obscurity, will tell their stories in their own words. The blog, accessible at blogs.loc.gov, will run twice a week through the exhibition’s closing on June 1, 2013, and will be active only while the exhibition is on view. After June 1, readers will not be able to comment on the blog but can read posts via a link on “The Civil War in America” exhibition homepage at myloc.gov/exhibitions/civil-war-in-america/. Historical context for each entry will be provided through a direct link to the interpretive text on the exhibition’s site. One to three entries will be posted from each of the individuals. “Bloggers” will include such well-known historical figures as Robert E. Lee, Clara Barton, Stonewall Jackson, William Tecumseh Sherman, Ulysses S. Grant and Walt Whitman.

The blog will introduce lesser-known voices as well, including Elizabeth Keckley, Eugenia Phillips and John F. Chase.

Keckley [sometimes spelled “Keckly”] was born a slave in 1818 in Dinwiddie, Va. A series of moves by her master’s family resulted in Elizabeth, her mother and her young son living for a time in St. Louis, the home of a large free black population. An able seamstress, Keckley worked several years for hire and gained the financial support of many patrons, until she had enough money to buy her freedom in 1855. Her skills brought her to live and work in Washington, D.C., just before the war broke out, and she quickly earned a word-of-mouth popularity among society women. One such patron introduced Keckley to the newly elected president Abraham Lincoln and his wife, for whom she became not only exclusive dressmaker but also daily dresser and confidante.

South Carolina native Eugenia Levy Phillips was the wife of Philip Phillips, a prominent lawyer who was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1852. An outspoken Confederate sympathizer, Eugenia Phillips often found herself at odds with Union officials in the couple’s home of Washington, D.C. When South Carolina seceded and war broke out in 1861, Phillips was treated as a Southern sympathizer.

The Soldier’s Friend, a postwar veterans’ newspaper, ran a nationwide “Left-Hand Penmanship” contest designed for veterans who had lost their right hand or arm in the war. Veterans were asked to write in and compete for cash prizes. One of the veterans, Chase from Augusta, Maine, submitted an entry along with his photograph enumerating battles in which he fought and the wounds he incurred, first as a member of Company B, 3rd Maine Volunteers and then in the 5th Maine Battery.

"The Civil War in America" exhibition will be free and open to the public, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Saturday, from Nov. 12, 2012, to June 1, 2013, in the Southwest Exhibition Gallery of the Thomas Jefferson Building at 10 First Street S.E., Washington, D.C. The exhibition is made possible by the generous support of the James Madison Council. Additional funding is provided by Union Pacific Corporation, the Liljenquist family and AARP.

The Library of Congress, the nation’s oldest federal cultural institution and the largest library in the world, holds more than 151 million items in various languages, disciplines, and formats. The Library seeks to spark imagination and creativity and to further human understanding and wisdom by providing access to knowledge through its magnificent collections, programs, publications and exhibitions. Many of the Library’s rich resources can be accessed through its website at www.loc.gov.


PR 12-192
ISSN 0731-3527