Library of Congress Magazine (LCM), Vol. 1 No. 2: November-December 2012 Page: 20
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STORIES OF WAR RETOLD
From left, Margaret
writer-editor in the
historian in the
and Cheryl Regan,
senior exhibit director
in the Interpretive
served as co-curators
of "The Civil War in
They explain the
process of uncovering
accounts of the war,
including many that
will resonate with
audience. Photo I
Abby Brack Lewis
Michelle Krowl: There are some people who don't
feel that the Civil War speaks to them or their
experiences. Of course war is about battles and
generals, but we wanted to engage our visitors
beyond the battlefield, so we looked at the
individual citizen-North, South, black, white,
male, female, adult, child-and their different
perspectives, so that visitors will find someone
with whom they can identify.
Cheryl Regan: We used Peggy's book, "The Library
of Congress Illustrated Timeline of the Civil
War," as a starting point for the exhibition, and we
made a concerted effort to mine all the different
collections in the library, as she did in the book.
And we kept coming back to these compelling
Peggy Wagner: All wars are clashes between
people. But what was so interesting was during the
Civil War period, so many people were so eloquent
and so devoted to their causes. As Lincoln said,
"This is a people's contest," and it was deciding the
fate of the country.
PW: We also found some interesting and sad
parallels between the Civil War and today. For
instance, the technology of war at the time had
improved (and medicine had not) to the point
where no one fully anticipated the vast numbers of
casualties. The war's brutality shocked the world.
One English correspondent, Francis Charles
Lawley, wrote in an editorial, "Won't someone
come over here and stop this slaughter?"
CR: Thousands of veterans, if they survived, returned
from the war as amputees-removing a limb was
often the only viable treatment available. Today,
due to improvements in body armor and medical
technology, soldiers who would have been killed in
the past survive with head injuries or missing limbs.
MK: And then as now, the culture found ways to
adapt. Most people in the 19th century were right-
handed-or if left-handed, were encouraged to be
right-handed. If you lost the use of your right hand
or arm, this would affect your ability to return to
your old life.
William Oland Bourne, the editor of a postwar
veterans' newspaper called The Soldier's Friend,
ran a nationwide "Left-Hand Penmanship" contest
designed for veterans who had lost their right hand
or arm in the war. Bourne, who was also a chaplain
at New York's Central Park Hospital during the
Civil War, asked vets to write in and compete for
What's so striking
about this contest
is that most of the
soldiers took the
write their personal
it's patriotic poetry or !
doggerel, but for the
most part they write,
"this is who I am, I
enlisted on this date,
I fought in these
battles, and here's John F. Chase lost his right
how I was wounded." arm and left eye at Gettysburg.
When you read some William Oland Bourne Papers,
of the stories in their Manuscript Division
which are preserved in the Wm. Oland Bourne
Papers in the Library of Congress-you get a first-
hand account of that person's experience that would
have been completely lost without this contest.
PW: It was a precursor, in many ways, to the
Library's Veterans History Project, where we collect
first-hand accounts from living veterans now. We're
making it easier for researchers and curators down
the road to do what we've tried to do with this
exhibition-to bring back to life these people and
20 LCM I Library of Congress Magazine
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Office of Communications, Library of Congress. Library of Congress Magazine (LCM), Vol. 1 No. 2: November-December 2012, periodical, November 2012; Washington, D.C.. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc133017/m1/22/: accessed July 24, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; .