open: 11 7/8 in x 17 5/8 in x 1 13/32 in; 30.1625 cm x 44.7675 cm x 3.556 cm
closed: 11 7/8 in x 8 3/4 in x 1 1/2 in; 30.1625 cm x 22.225 cm x 3.81 cm
The struggle between North and South was followed with great interest at home and abroad. Portraits of the leading players helped those far from the action imagine the individuals they read about in newspapers. This album was kept by Karl Schenk, who became president of Switzerland in 1865. It contains small portraits known as cartes-de-visite because they were about the size of calling cards people presented at the door when visiting fashionable residences. Introduced in the late 1850s, when a process was devised for making multiple prints from a single glass negative, they functioned mainly as collectables to be preserved in albums.
Photographs can be powerful connections to the past. Soldiers, for example often had their portraits made before going off to war so that loved ones would have a rememberance of them in the event they did not return. This decorative mat is unusual and suggests the pride the owner may have felt about his status as a fighting soldier.
Ambrotypes were most popular in the mid-1850s, and, therefore, are less common than other formats for portraits of Civil War soldiers. Ambrotypes are cased collodian negatives backed by dark cloth, paper, or varnish. In this example, pink coloring has been applied to the subjects's cheeks to make the portrait feel more warm and human.
pieced, inscribed (overall production method/technique)
overall: 90 in x 60 in; 229 cm x 152 cm
United States: Massachusetts, Amherst
Three hundred eighty-four 3 ¾-inch squares of printed and plain white cottons were used to create this quilt top. The plain white squares were all inscribed in ink by many different hands. Several squares are dated “1864” and some state a place, “Amherst.” Most squares contain religious messages, but some secular inscriptions are evident: “Three cheers for the Red, white & blue 1864” and “God save Gen. Grant and his brave men.”
The pieced top was used to cover an older wool quilt (TE*T14021.00A) and the finished product was sent to a Union army hospital during the Civil War.
pieced; lined, quilted (overall production method/technique)
overall: 84 in x 50 in; 213 cm x 126 cm
United States: Maine, Augusta
Mrs. Gilbert (Susannah G.) Pullen and her Sunday school class made this pieced quilt in Augusta, Maine in 1863. She followed the guidelines set by the U.S. Sanitary Commission for bedding to be used in the Civil War. The fourteen young ladies in the Sunday school class contributed over 150 inscriptions that were penned on the quilt's fifteen separate star-patterned blocks. They chose Bible passages, stories to uplift and guide, and riddles to which the answer was only to be found in the Bible. They also provided numerous inscriptions on practical health advice, patriotic messages, and light-hearted riddles. Even personal messages such as: "If you are good looking send me your photograph. Direct to the name in the large square. E.G.D." appeared on the quilt. It was hoped that the quilt would not only provide a diversion for the wounded soldiers during their long days recovering in hospital but also "alleviate or prevent disease and lead to happiness and Heaven." The numerous inscriptions on this quilt provide an insight into the feelings and concerns of the period and perhaps all war eras.
Susannah Pullen expressed hope for correspondence when she penned these words on the quilt: "We have many dear friends connected with the army & any proper letters from any persons embraced in the defense of our country, received by any whose names are on this quilt shall have a reply. Tell us if nothing more its destination. We meet with many others to sew for you every Wednesday and your letters would prompt us to more exertions for our patriots." Two letters remain with the quilt and attest to its use at the Carver and Armory Square Hospitals in Washington D.C. A letter from Sergt. Nelson S. Fales of Nov. 22, 1863 eloquently expresses his gratitude: "Dear Madam I have had the pleasure of seeing the beautiful 'Quilt' sent by you to cheer and comfort the Maine Soldiers. I have read the mottoes, sentiments, etc., inscribed thereon with much pleasure and profit."
On the back of the quilt Susannah Pullen penned these words: “The commencement of this war took place Apr. 12th 1861. The first gun was fired from Fort Sumter. God speed the time when we can tell when, and where, the last gun was fired; & ‘we shall learn war no more.’ If this quilt survives the war we would like to have it returned to Mrs. Gilbert Pullen, Augusta, Me . . . This quilt completed Sept. 1st 1863.” It did survive use during the Civil War, and it was returned to Mrs. Pullen as she requested.
Susannah G. Corey was born in Brookline, Massachusetts in 1816. She married Gilbert Pullen (1810-1890) April 26, 1840. Gilbert was listed as a marble cutter on the 1850 census. They lived in Augusta, Maine with their two daughters, Susan E. and Charlotte. Susannah and Gilbert were members of the First Baptist Church. Susannah died November 26, 1871, and is buried in the Forest Grove Cemetery in Augusta, Maine.
Susannah Pullen's Civil War Quilt was exhibited at a library in Augusta, Maine, for many years. Over time the inscriptions faded, but fortunately a transcription of them was made in the early-twentieth century. In 1936 Susannah’s granddaughter, Gertrude B. Davis, donated the quilt in her mother’s name, Charlotte Pullen Scruton. It is a reminder of the efforts of the many women who used their needlework and organizational skills to provide comfort for the armies of both the North and South.
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center
Personal and public: Civil War portraits
While the photographs of battlefields are absolutely compelling, Shannon Perich, curator of Photographic History, is really interested in the ways in which personal relationships with photography during a national crisis help us understand the nuances of past individual experiences. By drilling down to the personal, the complexities of the political, social and cultural life are revealed and create a richer history. This video was created by Matt Lemanski, in partnership with the American University School of Communication. Learn more on our blog: http://blog.americanhistory.si.edu/osaycanyousee/2011/10/civil-war-portraits-where-personal-and-public-meet-video.html
During the American Civil War, Gen. Benjamin F. Butler so appreciated the heroic actions of African American soldiers under his command at the 1864 battles of Fort Harrison and Fort Gilmer that he commissioned a special medal for them. Designed by Anthony C. Paquet and realized in silver by Tiffany, the U.S. Colored Troops medal had no official status. After General Butler was relieved of his command in 1865, the 300 U.S. Colored Troops who had received the medals were forbidden to wear them on their uniforms.
overall, musket: 56 in x 2 1/2 in; 142.24 cm x 6.35 cm
rifle musket, percussion
The Model 1861 Rifle Musket was the standard issue infantry arm used throughout the Civil War. A soldier attached an infantry cap badge to the stock of this particular rifle. Originally made by the Springfield Armory, the U.S. government contracted with twenty private firms to meet the war time demand for rifles. It is estimated that about one million Model 1861–type rifle muskets were manufactured during the war.
Stereograph: The monitor-class ironclad U.S.S. Canonicus, taking on coal in the James River, 1864
paper (overall material)
overall: 3 7/16 in x 6 15/16 in; 8.73125 cm x 17.62125 cm
Many early stereoviews were pictures from around the world intended for armchair travelers. Informative and entertaining, they took on a more serious and somber tone during and immediately after the Civil War when curiosity about the conflict remained intense. Photographers produced images in series, often with explanatory text.
Slouch hats, like this one worn by Private George William Ramsay of the 17th Virginia Infantry, Company A of the Confederate States Army, were among the garb typically worn by Confederate soldiers. These hats were sought after since the alternative, kepis, provided little protection from the weather
overall, carbine: 39 1/2 in x 2 1/4 in; 100.33 cm x 5.715 cm
This .54 caliber breech-loading carbine was designed in the 1850s by Ambrose E. Burnside who became a Major General in the Civil War. It fired cartridges with copper or foil casings. The Union purchased over 55,000 of them for use by cavalry.
overall: 4 in x 3 in x 1 1/2 in; 10.16 cm x 7.62 cm x 3.81 cm
Tin cups were typically a part of any Union soldier's mess kit. This cup was an innovative idea of Augustus Hayes. It was made out of a soup can and the words "Cup made and used by Augustus B. Hayes during the Civil War U.S.A." were inscribed on the bottom.
Zouave units were known for their bravery and drills during the Civil War. Units that demonstrated exceptional skill in drilling were sometimes rewarded with Zouave uniforms. This was the case for the 155th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry Regiment.
Currently not on view
Kagan, Neil, editor. Smithsonian Civil War: Inside the National Collection
overall: 13 1/2 in x 5 in x 8 3/4 in; 34.29 cm x 12.7 cm x 22.225 cm
A stereoscope, like this one, and stereoviews provided the public with captivating three-dimensional views of the Civil War to experience at home. Stereoviews were produced using cameras with two lenses, through which the photographer took two pictures. When viewed side-by-side on a stereoscope, these pictures were perceived as one three-dimensional image. Stereoscopes came in a variety of styles and were handsomely designed to blend in with Victorian parlor decor. Some were handheld devices, some were freestanding, others were housed in attractive tabletop cabinets.