Civil War buffs' 5 must-read posts of 2013

This year marked the 150th anniversary of the Civil War. As 2013 winds to a close, we thought it would be altogether fitting and proper to take a look back at our most popular Civil War blog posts of the year.

1. The Civil War has had an undoubtedly lasting impact, but what some may not know is that it also laid the foundation for Memorial Day, which every year honors those who have died in military service. In this blog post, Project Assistant Ryan Lintelman explains the history behind the holiday for those curious about its origins. Notably, Ryan writes, "The first Memorial Day observances were organized by those Americans who were unable to fully participate in the conflict that defined their era: women and African Americans."

 

Divided-back picture postcard, showing an American flag with a wreath of roses around it and the words, "Honor the brave 1861-1865." Warshaw Collection of Business Americana, Civil War series, Archives Center, National Museum of American History.
Divided-back picture postcard, showing an American flag with a wreath of roses around it and the words, "Honor the brave 1861-1865." Warshaw Collection of Business Americana, Civil War series, Archives Center, National Museum of American History.

2. Our next popular Civil War blog post focuses on the story of a woman "who made no apologies about breaking every gender, social, and ethnic boundary." Loreta Janeta Velazquez, a Cuban immigrant who grew up in New Orleans, disguised herself as a man and fought for the Confederacy before becoming a double agent for the Union. We interviewed filmmaker María Agui Carter about Rebel, her documentary about the remarkable Velazquez.

 

The signature image for "Rebel" is a composite of two portraits of actress Romi Dias as Loreta Velazquez passing as Lieutenant Harry T. Buford, soldier and spy of the American Civil War. Photo by Gerard Gaskin, graphic work by Hayley Parker.
The signature image for "Rebel" is a composite of two portraits of actress Romi Dias as Loreta Velazquez passing as Lieutenant Harry T. Buford, soldier and spy of the American Civil War. Photo by Gerard Gaskin, graphic work by Hayley Parker.

3. In his Gettysburg Address, President Lincoln said, "The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here." Ryan Lintelman reflected on one of the Civil War's most important but most devastating battles in this blog post.

 

Case of relics presented to General Winfield Scott Hancock by the people of Gettysburg in 1885. Hancock, who commanded the I, II, III, and XI Corps at Gettysburg, was wounded in the battle but continued to command his men from his stretcher. Inscriptions read Cemetery Ridge, Little Round Top, Wheat Field, Railroad Cut, and Culp’s Hill, among others.
Case of relics presented to General Winfield Scott Hancock by the people of Gettysburg in 1885. Hancock, who commanded the I, II, III, and XI Corps at Gettysburg, was wounded in the battle but continued to command his men from his stretcher. Inscriptions read Cemetery Ridge, Little Round Top, Wheat Field, Railroad Cut, and Culp’s Hill, among others.

4. On October 3, 1861, President Lincoln issued a proclamation declaring the third Thursday in November a "day of thanksgiving and praise." Lincoln hoped that Thanksgiving, in the midst of such a great conflict, could be a time when Americans could come together through their common ideals. Museum Project Manager Nanci Edwards shared with us a family letter that indicates that her ancestor enjoyed a "good army meal" of baked beans, coffee, and bread for his Civil War Thanksgiving.

 

Union soldier Vidal Thom wrote this letter to his younger brother on Thanksgiving from a camp near Bealton Station, Virginia. In it, he imagines that his brother is enjoying chicken pie, cider, and plum pudding.
Union soldier Vidal Thom wrote this letter to his younger brother on Thanksgiving from a camp near Bealton Station, Virginia. In it, he imagines that his brother is enjoying chicken pie, cider, and plum pudding.

5. At the beginning of this year, visitors to the museum might have heard live fiddle music emanating from the Civil War section of our Price of Freedom: Americans at War exhibition. This blog post explores intern Sage Snider's fiddle project and the role that music played in the Civil War. "More than just offering a break from the miseries of battle and camp life, music was part of larger political and military battles raging throughout the war," Sage notes.

 

This violin was purchased by Solomon Conn in Nashville, Tennessee, on May 1, 1863. Conn carried the violin while serving with Company B, 87th Indiana Volunteers during the Civil War. Written on the back of the instrument are the names of places where the soldiers of the 87th were either on duty or engaging the enemy.
This violin was purchased by Solomon Conn in Nashville, Tennessee, on May 1, 1863. Conn carried the violin while serving with Company B, 87th Indiana Volunteers during the Civil War. Written on the back of the instrument are the names of places where the soldiers of the 87th were either on duty or engaging the enemy.

6. We couldn't stop at five, and this one is a staff pick. On the 150th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address, curator Shannon Perich explored a haunting photograph, entitled "A Harvest of Death," reflecting on the cost of war. Alexander Gardner, who printed the 1863 photograph, wrote: "Such a picture conveys a useful moral: It shows the blank horror and reality of war, in opposition to its pageantry."

 

"A Harvest of Death, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, July 1863" is plate number 36 in Gardner's Sketchbook of the War. Timothy O'Sullivan made the photograph with a wet plate collodion negative. Alexander Gardner printed the albumen photograph, titled it, and provided an accompanying text.
"A Harvest of Death, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, July 1863" is plate number 36 in Gardner's Sketchbook of the War. Timothy O'Sullivan made the photograph with a wet plate collodion negative. Alexander Gardner printed the albumen photograph, titled it, and provided an accompanying text.

For more on the Civil War, don't miss Smithsonian Civil War: Inside the National Collectionand make sure to check out Smithsonian Channel's Civil War 360a three part documentary. Leanne Elston is an intern in the New Media Department at the National Museum of American History.

Posted at 7:00 am EST in Civil War 150

Related Blog Posts

Civil War General Sherman in coat with buttons, seated, grim expression
On the 150th anniversary of the fall of the city of Atlanta to the Union Army's Division of the Mississippi during the Civil War, we're...
Cover of sheet music
With Confederate troops looming just outside of Washington, D.C., July 1864 was an exciting and scary time to be a nurse in the city....
Here in the museum's Division of Medicine and Science, we're undertaking an inventory of the museum's dental collection, and we discovered...