Experiencing the Civil War: From the Battlefield to the Home Front

Joseph Allen Skinner Museum
July 6, 2011—April, 2015

An unassuming souvenir envelope rests in the Joseph Allen Skinner Museum. A Civil War soldier stands imprinted upon the paper’s face, weapons in hand, as he looks serenely out over white space. He has but one humble request: "For what he was and all he dared, remember him to-day!" While commemorating the past has always been the cornerstone of the Joseph Allen Skinner Museum, this summer it joins organizations across the nation in remembering the men—and women—who dared. A new exhibition, Experiencing the Civil War: From the Battlefield to the Home Front, marks the sesquicentennial of the Civil War and will be on display until the 150th anniversary of the war’s end, in April of 2015.  

Experiencing the Civil War examines the lives of soldiers on the battlefield, women managing the home front, and the role of communication in bridging these sectors. It also explores commemoration of the war as both Civil War era soldiers and civilians accumulated relics from battlefields like Fort Sumter, Antietam, and Gettysburg. These relics were not only collected during the war and its immediate aftermath, but also well into the 20th century, as Joseph Skinner’s personal collection attests.

Highlights of the exhibition include a rebel hand grenade from Fort Sumter, a piece of torn bunting from a U.S. flag picked up on the field after the battle of Antietam, a pewter nursing bottle, a photo album of South Hadley area soldiers, and the last edition of the abolitionist newspaper, the Liberator, with a penciled note stating: "Let this number be preserved. This paper was started in the infancy and interest of the anti-slavery cause, and for the total abolition of slavery in the United States by peaceful measure...The Liberator will have been published thirty-five years on the first of January next, and will then be discontinued for the reason that the object for which it was started has been accomplished…." As a complement to the exhibition, a scavenger hunt helps visitors locate and explore additional Civil War era objects found throughout the Museum.