April 22, 2014

Library will host ‘Civil War 150’ exhibit

by Christi Mathis

CARBONDALE, Ill.  -- “Civil War 150,” a traveling exhibit that traces major events of the Civil War through the eyes and words of those who lived through it, comes to Southern Illinois University Carbondale’s Morris Library starting next week. 

The library’s Special Collections Research Center will host, “Civil War 150: Exploring the War and Its Meaning Through the Words of Those Who Lived It.”  The exhibit, in the library’s Hall of Presidents and Chancellors, opens at noon Monday, April 28 and will run through May 16. 

The exhibit will include three related special programs and a companion display that spotlights the year 1864 through the letters of Southern Illinois soldiers and their wives.  In a letter written to his fiancée, Hannah Elliot, during the Atlanta campaign that August, Byron Webster, who later owned a Benton drugstore, tells of rebels shooting 10-pound balls with much accuracy, fatally wounding two boys in Company B of the 111th Illinois Infantry.  Going into great detail the letter recounts the horrors of war. 

The exhibits and presentations are free and open to the public.  

The display traces major wartime events as experienced by the soldiers, freed men and families of the era.  The exhibit gives visitors an understanding of how people handled the end of slavery and grappled with democracy and citizenship, the human toll from the war, and the wartime role of a president.  

On Monday, local historian Glen Bishop, dressed as a Union soldier, will dramatize through quotes from Civil War letters and reports how the region’s soldiers helped turn the tide during the Atlanta campaign of 1864.   Those attending are welcome to bring lunch or buy food at Delyte’s in the library. 

Rhonda Kohl, an SIU alumna and author of “The Prairie Boys Go to War:  The Fifth Illinois Cavalry, 1861-1865,” will present the keynote address at 4 p.m. on May 2.   She is writing about the wives of the Fifth Illinois Cavalry.  A reception will follow her remarks.    

Darrel Dexter, area teacher, historian and author, will make the final presentation, “The Political Climates of Southern Illinois during the Civil War,” at 3 p.m. on May 9.  Dexter is the author of “Bondage in Egypt:  Slavery in Illinois,” and “A Trot Down to Egypt:  The Lincoln-Douglas Debate in Jonesboro, Illinois.” 

The Gilder Lehrman Institute of America, in partnership with the Library of America, organized the national, traveling panel exhibition made possible by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities:  Exploring the Human Endeavor.