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The Civil War, on display at Boston University

Posted by Kevin Hartnett  July 31, 2013 08:00 PM

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There is a unique power to artifacts from the Civil War, which are historically majestic and also exert a present-tense pull on our minds: maps of Gettsyburg still carry a whiff of gunpowder; John Wilkes Booth still feels, on a visceral level, like a villain.

The Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center at Boston University is currently running an exhibition called The American Civil War: Treasures from the Vault, which features a wide range of original documents from the war. Among the items on display are three reproduced below: a drawing of Booth, with a tempting Satan over his shoulder; a map showing where Henry Ropes of the 20th Massachusetts Infantry died during the battle of Gettysburg (look for "H.R." in the lower-center of the image below); and a letter from Abraham Lincoln to Vice President Hannibal Hamlin, written on September 28, 1862, six days after Lincoln had issued the Emancipation Proclamation. “It is six days old and while commendation in newspapers and by distinguished individuals, is all that a vain man could wish, the stocks have declined and troops come forward more slowly than ever," Lincoln writes, with a degree of worldly pessimism that is still clearly recognizable today. "This looked solely in the face is not very satisfactory... the north responds to the proclamation sufficiently in breath; but breath alone kills no rebels.”

The American Civil War: Treasures from the Vault is on display at the Mugar Memorial Library at BU from Monday-Friday, from 9:00am-4:30pm, through September 13.

BU Lincoln.jpg

BU Gettysburg.jpg

BU Booth.jpg

Images courtesy of the Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center.

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About brainiac Brainiac is the daily blog of the Globe's Sunday Ideas section, covering news and delights from the worlds of art, science, literature, history, design, and more. You can follow us on Twitter @GlobeIdeas.
Brainiac blogger Kevin Hartnett is a writer in Columbia, South Carolina. He can be reached here.

Leon Neyfakh is the staff writer for Ideas. Amanda Katz is the deputy Ideas editor. Stephen Heuser is the Ideas editor.

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Guest blogger Sarah Laskow is a freelance writer and editor in New York City. She edits Smithsonian's SmartNews blog and has contributed to Salon, Good, The American Prospect, Bloomberg News, and other publications.

Guest blogger Joshua Glenn is a Boston-based writer, publisher, and freelance semiotician. He was the original Brainiac blogger, and is currently editor of the blog HiLobrow, publisher of a series of Radium Age science fiction novels, and co-author/co-editor of several books, including the story collection "Significant Objects" and the kids' field guide to life "Unbored."

Guest blogger Ruth Graham is a freelance journalist in New Hampshire, and a frequent Ideas contributor. She is a former features editor for the New York Sun, and has written for publications including Slate and the Wall Street Journal.

Joshua Rothman is a graduate student and Teaching Fellow in the Harvard English department, and an Instructor in Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. He teaches novels and political writing.


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