The current release of imprints from the American Antiquarian Society’s TheAmerican Civil War Collection, 1860-1922, includes many fine examples of illustrated Civil War envelopes, a scathing indictment of the pension system for veterans and their widows, and an old soldier’s reminiscences of his Union Army service.
The Loyalty States, Union. Illinois (1861)
This single example of the genre Civil War envelopes is from the state of Illinois. To be fully appreciated, it is helpful to view this scarce printed item in context with all of the Civil War envelopes found in the American Antiquarian Society’s extraordinary holdings, many of which are available in this online collection, as seen in the examples below.
According to the American Antiquarian Society (AAS),
Publication of Civil War envelopes began as early as the mid-1850’s, when north-south divisions began to take shape, but ended prior to the war’s conclusion because most believed that it was too indulgent and expensive to continue production in time of war.
All of the envelopes were decorated with illustrations, many of them in color. The AAS further explains:
With her Civil War expertise, passion for environmental history, and quick wit, Megan Kate Nelson, author of Ruin Nation: Destruction and the American Civil War, offered a compelling presentation at the Readex-hosted breakfast during the American Library Association’s Annual Conference in San Francisco.
The acclaimed historian shared her journey through thousands of images created during the Civil War, including sketches, photographs, newspaper illustrations, and engravings. Through these visuals, Nelson unlocked the story of war held in trees. By the end of the hour, her passion for injured landscapes had convinced the audience that trees are, in their own way, veterans of war. They played a critical role in the “destructive creation” by both Union and Confederate soldiers. By the end of the war in 1865, more than 4 million trees had been consumed.
But, the destruction of trees only tells half the story. During the Civil War, trees played a crucial role in construction, providing the necessary material to create sturdy housing structures, critical for soldiers’ survival, especially through cold winter months. These simple buildings gave soldiers a sense of place and community, a small inkling of security in unfamiliar territory hundreds of miles from home. Through her research, Nelson uncovered evidence that soldiers even gave their homes addresses.
The June release of The American Civil War Collection, 1860-1922: From the American Antiquarian Society features an extensive accumulation of images created throughout the conflict and into its aftermath. They are presented as a single work of 1,756 pages entitled "Civil War Stereographs, 1865-1900." Its citation reads, in part,
The American Antiquarian Society's collection of Civil War stereographs includes more than 800 examples, some that were published during the war years, 1861-1865, and others that were published as memorials towards the end of the nineteenth century. Includes cards published by many publishers from the works of many photographers. Included are works by Matthew Brady and W.H. Tipton…
The collection includes many views from the major battlefields during the war, including Antietam, Battle of the Wilderness, and the Battle of Gettysburg, shown after the destruction, some with the dead on the fields. There are images of the Boston Light Infantry, soldier camps, families, and the cities of Charleston, S.C., Nashville, Tenn., Richmond, Fredericksburg and Petersburg, Va. Also includes images of the monuments erected and dedicated to those lost at the Battle of Gettysburg. Includes views of the Washington Navy Yard, Libby Prison, Fort Marion in Florida, Lookout Mountain and cemeteries of dead soldiers.
The May release of The American Civil War Collection, 1860-1922: From the American Antiquarian Society includes a reply to a Confederate sympathizer’s claims of victimization, a lecture on the effects of the Civil War on national productivity, and a compilation of biographical sketches of Lincoln’s Cabinet officers, now often described as his “team of rivals.”
The April release of The American Civil War Collection, 1860-1922: From the American Antiquarian Society includes a defense of the leadership style of General John Fremont, a Pennsylvania Republican's critique of a Pennsylvania Democrat's secessionist pamphlet, and a history of illegal arrests and political imprisonments during the conflict.
General Fremont, and the Injustice Done Him by Politicians and Envious Military Men (1862)
By William Brotherhead
In 1861, while serving as Commander of the Western Armies, John Charles Fremont issued a proclamation putting Missouri under martial law and ordering the emancipation of slaves belonging to rebels. Fremont had gained a reputation for unilateral decision-making and later that year President Lincoln relieved him of his command for insubordination.
Fremont remains controversial. He is criticized as impetuous and overly ambitious by some and lauded as a military hero and political leader by others. Believing the latter, William Brotherhead in this work compares Fremont to the leadership of both the Union and Confederacy:
The March release of The American Civil War Collection, 1860-1922: From the American Antiquarian Society includes wartime discussions of paradoxical legal and constitutional situations prompted by the conflict.
Also found here is an early 20th-century military history by James Madison Drake, a Civil War veteran and 1873 recipient of the Medal of Honor for "extraordinary heroism on 6 May, 1864."
The February release of The American Civil War Collection, 1860-1922: From the American Antiquarian Society includes an array of documents relatable to wars from nearly any era: the battlefield readiness of new military technology; prisoner mistreatment and battlefield atrocities; and the deadly threat of espionage from within.
Engineer Stimer's Report of the Last Trial Trip of the "Passaic": Unparalleled Attempt to Throw Discredit upon Superiors, Language Unbecoming an Officer, His Dismissal from the Service Demanded, the Public Probably Deceived as to the "Result" of the Experiment of Firing inside the Turret (1862) By One of the People
Alban Crocker Stimers was a U.S. Navy Chief Engineer who assisted with the design of the Navy’s latest technological marvel, the ironclads. After the launch of the U.S.S. Monitor, the first ironclad warship commissioned by the Union Navy, and drawing on lessons learned from its performance, naval engineers quickly began designing the new Passaic-class ironclad.
The Soldiers' Guide in Philadelphia (1861) Published for gratuitous distribution by Robert R. Corson
This nifty city guide for soldiers includes railroad timetables as well as other pertinent information. Its “Instructions for Discharged Soldiers” provides rates of travel pay in addition to pension amounts for certain veterans and rates of survivors’ benefits for the heirs of deceased soldiers. It also gives special instructions to disabled veterans, directing them to the Citizens’ Volunteer Hospital where they will receive:
…every attention that kindness and medical aid can suggest, for the alleviation of their sufferings. Those soldiers who can bear transportation to other hospitals are carefully taken thither in the ambulances provided by the various Fire Companies of the city.
Advice is also tendered to those traveling beyond Philadelphia:
Many of the documents in the October release of TheAmerican Civil War Collection, 1860-1922: From the American Antiquarian Society are histories of specific regiments. Some contain registers naming each member of the regiment. Others include photographs of their officers. But they all have unique perspectives and descriptions of their regiment’s particular “tramps and triumphs.”
Testimonial to Col. Rush C. Hawkins, Ninth Regiment N.Y.V. (1863)
At a ceremony honoring Col. Rush Christopher Hawkins and the Ninth Regiment of New York Volunteers, also known as “Hawkins’ Zouaves,” Charles P. Kirkland contextualized the gravity of the Civil War. He considered it not only “a contest for a nation’s life” but also a “contest for the very existence of Republican Government, not only here but every where, for if our experiment fails, it surely can NEVER be repeated,—it is a contest… to determine the question of man’s capacity for self-government.” Kirkland continued:
The October release of the American Civil War Collection, 1860-1922: From the American Antiquarian Society includes documents discussing turning points in the war itself, the reputations of several prominent participants, and the ferocioius trench warfare that would later come to define the Western Front in World War I.
Within Fort Sumter; or, A View of Major Anderson's Garrison Family for One Hundred and Ten Days by One of the Company (1861) By Miss A. Fletcher
In this volume, Miss A. Fletcher vividly describes life within Fort Sumter until its siege and eventual evacuation. She includes detailed accounts of the supply of rations, hastily constructed barracks within the fort, and the dramatic communications prior to the outbreak of war between U.S. Army office Major Robert Anderson and the Governor of South Carolina. On January 9, 1861, after the Union supply ship, Star of the West, was fired upon and forced to retreat from Charleston Harbor, Anderson wrote the following to Governor Francis Pickens: