The Thin Light of Freedom - A Dramatization


One valley. Two towns, one Northern the other Southern. Their people had much in common: family ties, religious views, the soil they worked. Only one thing separated them: slavery.

Join us October 26 as we present a dramatization of Ed Ayers' new book, "The Thin Light of Freedom: The Civil War and Emancipation in the Heart of America." Co-written by award-winning historians Abigail Schumann and Sheila Arnold Jones, this presentation highlights the voices of diverse people and their reactions to war, its aftermath, emancipation, and freedom.

Fighting for a New World


By Adrian Brettle
Mellon Fellow

William J. Buchanan, a former United States envoy to Sweden and later a refugee in Confederate Richmond wrote that “The new map of America is as yet a blank… when the topographer shall take up his pencil to trace the outline of a renovated continent, he will mark, clear and strong, boundaries and State lines connected by new interests and determined by new power.”

September 2017 Document of the Month | Official Records Collector

By John Coski

On July 1, 1878, the United States War Department hired Marcus J. Wright (1831-1922) a former Confederate brigadier general from Tennessee, as an agent to help collect records relating to the Civil War. Wright sent a copy of the circular announcing the appointment to his former commander-in-chief, Jefferson Davis, who responded with this letter on July 18, 1878.

Off The Beaten Path | The Great Obscuration of October 1865

By Chris Graham
Mellon Curator

Some editors called it the “great obscuration,” but despite the lighthearted superstition, Americans were extremely well informed about the total eclipse of October 19, 1865.

Ancient and early modern astronomers had long ago developed the principles used to predict solar and lunar eclipses and by the 1800s, American scientists could describe in great detail the timing and path of “obscurations.”

June 2017 Documents of the Month | Camp Sketches


By John Coski

The most popular subjects of sketches by Civil War soldiers were their camps – no doubt a product of the amount of time they spent in those camps. Highlighted here are two such sketches from the Museum’s collections: a simple pencil and ink sketch of a simple camp at Neil’s Dam, Virginia, 1861, by Pvt. Kennedy Palmer of Company H, 13th Virginia Infantry, and a more elaborate sketch of the more elaborate winter quarters of an artillery battalion in Albemarle County, Virginia, 1863-1864.


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