Civil War

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Civil War (51)

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Jewish Soldiers in the Civil War: The Union Army by Adam D. Mendelsohn (NYU Press—November 15th, 2022) asks, what was it like to be a Jew in Lincoln’s armies? The Union army was as diverse as the embattled nation it sought to preserve, a unique mixture of ethnicities, religions, and identities. Almost one Union soldier in four was born abroad, and natives and newcomers fought side-by-side, sometimes uneasily. Yet though scholars have parsed the trials and triumphs of Irish, Germans, African Americans, and others in the Union ranks, they have remained largely silent on the everyday experiences of the largest non-Christian minority to have served.

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Visiting Jewish cemeteries is a fruitful, and more adventurous way the research team can identify new Jewish soldiers to add to the Shapell Roster. Many military men have their service proudly displayed on their tombstones, making new additions a walk in the park for our researchers. But even markers without such obvious information can yield new discoveries.

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Religion in the Civil War: The Jewish High Holidays

By Sara Willen and Ben Shapell | September 15, 2020
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Detail: US map of 1856 shows free and slave states and populations. Reynolds's Political Map of the United States

The manuscripts gathered here follow the course of the Kansas-Nebraska Act, from being ratified by President Franklin Pierce to Pierce defending it after his presidency. We also look back to Pierce’s presidential predecessor, Millard Fillmore, ruminating over an impending race war after reading Harriet Beecher-Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Also present in this collection is the reaction of Abraham Lincoln to the bill when he was still an Illinois circuit attorney.

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One hundred years separate the Emancipation Proclamation and the March on Washington. Yet, these two events are profoundly linked together in a larger story of liberty and the American experience.

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2 Years 1 Month: Lincoln’s Legacy

January 15, 2018
April 2014 - October 2014
April 2014 - October 2014, Oregon Historical Society

An in-depth look at Lincoln’s monumental presidency between two historic points: the enactment of the Emancipation Proclamation and the Congressional passage of the Thirteenth Amendment. Through rare documents and artifacts, look at Lincoln’s legacy through the lens of slavery and the end of the Civil War.

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Lincoln Speaks: Words That Transformed a Nation

January 1, 2018
January 23, 2015 - June 7, 2015

Abraham Lincoln, despite only one year of formal education, achieved a literary command that would help him win the presidency and, once there, define in memorable prose the purposes that shaped the nation and its future. This exhibition shows Lincoln’s growth, progression and perseverance as a writer, from the early age of 16, and culminating in his exceptional ability to pen words that inspired, comforted, and healed a nation in a time of unprecedented crisis.

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With Malice Toward None: The Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial

December 14, 2017
February 2009 - April 2011
Library of Congress, February 2009 - April 2011

The exhibition reveals Lincoln the man, whose thoughts, words, and actions were deeply affected by personal experiences and pivotal historic events. This virtual exhibit includes some select items on display at the traveling exhibition.

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With Firmness in the Right – Lincoln and the Jews

December 13, 2017
March 2015 - November 2015
March 2015 - June 2015, New-York Historical Society. August 2015 - November 2015, Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum.

In 1858, when Abraham Lincoln emerged onto the national stage, Jews made up less than one-half of one percent of the American population. Many Americans of that time did not know Jews personally, yet Lincoln did, and these relationships stood out amid the stereotyping and anti-Semitism of mid-19th-century America. The bonds Lincoln formed with Jewish individuals during his lifetime, and the interventions he made as president on behalf of all Jews, reflected his deepest values and helped promote Jewish equality in the United States.

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Panoramic view of encampment of Army of Potomac at Cumberland Landing on Pamunkey River May 1862. Library of Congress.

Passages Through the Fire: Jews and the Civil War

August 21, 2017
March 2013 - February 2014
March 2013 - February 2014

A crucible for American Jews, the Civil War laid the groundwork for their integration and Americanization on a large scale. It enabled the full participation of Jews in American life – militarily, politically, economically and socially – and set the stage for massive Jewish immigration decades later.

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The Civil War was a time when soldiers would be executed for desertion, in order to prevent further desertion. Even immigrants, whose understanding of English and the conditions of service was limited, were executed in the American Civil War. Watch the story of five Union soldiers at Beverly Ford, VA, who perhaps unjustly were denied a stay of execution from President Lincoln.

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“The Union is Dissolved!”

By Benjamin Shapell, Sara Willen | December 20, 2015

The Charleston Mercury had already given warning. If the “Black Republican” party succeeded in the upcoming presidential election, it declared in the summer of 1860, “loyalty to the Union will be treason to the South.”

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Mary Surratt’s daughter petitions Andrew Johnson for the return of her mother’s remains.

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“We Have Not Yet Appointed a Hebrew”

By Benjamin Shapell, Sara Willen | March 17, 2015
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Lincoln Swears to Uphold the Emancipation Proclamation

By Benjamin Shapell, Sara Willen | December 20, 2013

Abraham Lincoln swears he shall not modify the Emancipation Proclamation, nor return to slavery any person freed by it.

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The Battle of Gettysburg

By Benjamin Shapell, Sara Willen | July 1, 2013

170,000 men fought for three days, often hand-to-hand, in encounters so epic they are known by name.

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Running for President, Grant tries to lose the antisemite label engendered by his infamous “Jew Order” during the Civil War.

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