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Viewing Posts from May 2016
  1. May 4, 2016
    Civil War Museum of Philadelphia Announces Historic Agreement to Showcase World Class Collection at Gettysburg and NCC

    For Additional Information:
    Suzanne M. Tavani
    For the Civil War Museum of Philadelphia

    Cindy Small
    Gettysburg Foundation


    Agreement with the Gettysburg Foundation and the National Constitution Center Will Provide Future Generations With Access To World Class Collection

    PHILADELPHIA – May 4, 2016 – The Civil War Museum of Philadelphia Board of Governors and the Gettysburg Foundation today announced an historic partnership to ensure that the largest collection of Civil War artifacts, not under government stewardship, will be cared for at the highest possible standards, will be maintained in perpetuity, and will be exhibited in venues where millions of visitors will have expanded access to it.

    The Gettysburg Foundation, the Gettysburg National Military Park, and the Civil War Museum have worked together to care for the artifacts since 2010. In seeking a strategy to protect the collection for the long-term, the Museum Board recognized that Gettysburg was the ideal partner for CWMP in its efforts to preserve this historic collection.

    “There is no more iconic and authentic place for learning about the Civil War,” said Oliver St. Clair Franklin, chair of the Museum Board. “Millions of people visit each year from across the country and across the world. The staff at Gettysburg knows better than anyone else how to care for and preserve these artifacts.&rdquo

    Since 2010, the Gettysburg Foundation and Gettysburg National Military Park have not only cared for the collection, but has also exhibited artifacts in the galleries of the Museum and Visitors Center and in special exhibits, such as the one commemorating the 150th Anniversary of the Civil War, “Treasures of the Civil War”.

    “The Civil War Museum collection complements our own holdings in important ways,” said Robert A. Kinsley, chairman of the board, the Gettysburg Foundation. “These artifacts are intimately connected to specific individuals and their roles in the war. These objects, used by those whose service shaped this conflict, will enhance our ability to connect visitors to the story of the Civil War on a personal and emotional, as well as an intellectual level. All the artifacts in the collection are significant to the history of our nation. In particular, the General George Meade Collection evokes stories and imagery of his leadership at Gettysburg during the battle that changed the course of history. When you see the American flag that was flown over Meade’s headquarters at Gettysburg, or see the bullet hole in his campaign hat, you can feel the passion, the courage and the conviction of the men who bravely fought to preserve our nation.”

    Ed Clark, Superintendent of the Gettysburg National Military Park, added, “These amazing objects will enable us to better tell the story of the Battle of Gettysburg and the American Civil War. They will inspire our visitors now and for generations to come.”

    The Board of the Civil War Museum approached Gettysburg after it evaluated its prospects for building a new museum for the collection in Philadelphia and it became clear that it would be both a challenge to build it and an even bigger challenge to sustain it over time. “As stewards of this world class collection, the Board of the Civil War Museum felt a strong ethical and historical responsibility to developing a partnerships that would both protect this collection and ensure that it is accessible to the public and researchers in both Gettysburg and Philadelphia into the future, said Franklin”

    The National Constitution Center will play an important role in this partnership, as well. While the Civil War Museum will transfer ownership of the artifact collection to the Gettysburg Foundation, Gettysburg has agreed to loan the National Constitution Center artifacts from the collection. If funding is secured, the Center will create the first permanent exhibit in America dedicated to the constitutional legacy of the Civil War and the passage of the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments. This will keep a significant part of the collection in Philadelphia, expand the number of people who can will see it, and enhance the National Constitution Center’s role as America’s only museum of the U.S. Constitution.

    “We are thrilled about the possibility that the National Constitution Center will create America’s first and only exhibit about the constitutional legacy of the Civil War,” said Jeffrey Rosen, President & CEO of the National Constitution Center. “The creation of a Civil War exhibit would help us tell the story of how Thomas Jefferson’s promise in the Declaration of Independence, that all men are created equal, wasn’t vindicated until Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address and the passage of the Reconstruction Amendments.”

    The agreement does not include the archives and books of the Civil War Museum. This important two-dimensional material, which will remain the property of the Museum is subject to a separate long-term stewardship agreement, is housed at the Heritage Center of the Union League of Philadelphia where researchers and others can access it.

    About the Civil War Museum of Philadelphia

    The Civil War Museum of Philadelphia, the oldest Civil War museum in the country, was chartered in 1888 by the Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States as the War Library and Museum. The museum’s artifact collection is one of the most historically significant and largest in the country outside of government hands with more than 3,000 items.

    About the Gettysburg Foundation and Gettysburg National Military Park

    The Gettysburg Foundation is a non-profit educational organization working in partnership with the National Park Service to enhance preservation and understanding of the heritage and lasting significance of Gettysburg. The Foundation raised funds for and now operates the Museum and Visitor Center at Gettysburg National Military Park, which opened in April 2008. In addition to operating the Museum and Visitor Center, the Foundation has a broad preservation mission that includes land, monument and artifact preservation and battlefield rehabilitation—all in support of the National Park Service’s goals at Gettysburg.

    Gettysburg National Military Park preserves, protects, and interprets for this and future generations the resources associated with the 1863 Battle of Gettysburg during the American Civil War, the Soldiers’ National Cemetery, and their commemorations. The Eisenhower National Historic Site preserves and interprets the home and farms of the Eisenhower family as a fitting and enduring memorial to the life, work, and times of General Dwight David Eisenhower, 34th president of the United States, and to the events of far-reaching importance that occurred on the property.

    About the National Constitution Center

    The National Constitution Center in Philadelphia inspires active citizenship as the only place where people across America and around the world can come together to learn about, debate, and celebrate the greatest vision of human freedom in history, the U.S. Constitution. A private, nonprofit organization, the Center serves as America’s leading platform for constitutional education and debate, fulfilling its Congressional charter “to disseminate information about the U.S. Constitution on a non-partisan basis.”

    As the Museum of We the People, the Center brings the Constitution to life for visitors of all ages through interactive programs and exhibits. As America’s Town Hall, the Center brings the leading conservative and liberal thought leaders together to debate the Constitution on all media platforms. As a center for Civic Education, the Center delivers the best educational programs and online resources that inspire, excite, and engage citizens about the U.S. Constitution. For more information, call 215-409-6700 or visit

    History of the Civil War Museum of Philadelphia

    The Civil War Museum of Philadelphia, the oldest Civil War museum in the country, was chartered in 1888, but its collection was begun in 1865 by the members of the Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States (M.O.L.L.U.S./Loyal Legion). When the body of President Lincoln lay in state in Independence Hall in April 1865, it was a group of Philadelphia’s veteran Federal Army and Navy officers who served as the honor guard. Afterward, these men decided to establish an organization, M.O.L.L.U.S., to commemorate the sacrifices and the meaning the war.

    The collection was begun soon after the end of the War when MOLLUS members began to donate important personal belongings and other items to preserve them and to create a place where the story of the war could be told. In the 1880’s, the era of commemorations began in earnest with the building of memorials and the work to preserve battlefield’s like Gettysburg. M.O.L.L.U.S. provided leadership for these efforts, as well, with Col. John Nicholson, a M.O.L.L.U.S. founder, the chair of the Gettysburg commission. In 1888, in recognition of the scale and significance of the collection, M.O.L.L.U.S. chartered the museum and library as a separate organization, the War Library and Museum.

    The Museum had a series of temporary homes and, from 1922 until its closing in 2008, was housed in a townhouse at 18th and Pine Streets. It closed in anticipation of moving to a new museum facility. With the assistance of the experts at the Conservation Center for Art and Historic Artifacts in Philadelphia, a plan was created for the preparation, preservation and move of the collection to Gettysburg. The William Penn Foundation and the Exelon Foundation provided major funding to support the implementation of the plan. The Museum also received a prestigious “Save America’s Treasures” grant, a collaborative program of the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Park Service, and the Institute for Museum and Library Services, designed to support conservation of the most important collections in the country. This allowed conservation work to be done to major components of the collection.

    The artifact collection of the Civil War Museum of Philadelphia’s (CWMP) is one of the most historically significant and largest in the country outside of government hands with more than 3000 items. The museum was chartered as the War Library and Museum in 1888 by its founders, the Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States (M.O.L.L.U.S. or the Loyal Legion)

    Harold Holzer, a noted Civil War historian and Co-Chair of the United States Lincoln Bicentennial Commission, pointed out the collection’s singular importance:

     “The Civil War Museum's collection is unique in that it is the product of the personal records, possessions and memories of the Union officers who founded the institution in the 19th century.  It is rare to have such important documents, artifacts, and cultural materials from so many individuals together in a single collection that tells the complex story of an era, especially one as important to our history as the Civil War.  This is truly an American treasure that needs and deserves the investment of funds and expertise to preserve it.”

    Notable items in the collection

    Civil War leaders such as Abraham Lincoln, Jefferson Davis, Gen. Ulysses S. Grant, Gen. Winfield Scott Hancock, Gen. William Sherman, and Gen. George Gordon Meade are represented in the collection.

    • Tiffany sword presented to Gen. Ulysses S. Grant by his officers to commemorate the victory at Vicksburg and the gold and ivory pen used by Abraham Lincoln to sign the Lieutenant General's commission of Ulysses S. Grant.
    • Fragments of the flag raised by Abraham Lincoln at Independence Hall, Feb. 22, 1861.
    • Smoking jacket captured from Confederate President Jefferson Davis’s luggage as he fled Richmond
    • Pike from the supply that John Brown brought to Harpers Ferry
    • Sash and sword belt of Gen. John Reynolds killed on the first day of the battle of Gettysburg after stopping the Confederate advance
    • Uniform frock coat and officer's slouch hat with bullet hole worn by Major General George G. Meade at the Battle of Gettysburg.
    • Brass and wood baton presented to Gen. William T. Sherman by President Andrew Johnson and carried during the Grand Review in Washington, D.C., in 1865.
    • Original wanted poster for Booth and his accomplices. Images of Surrat, Booth, and Harold at top.

    Other Items

    • Firearms, edged weapons, and ammunition
    • Uniforms, field equipment and utensils
    • Recruiting posters and broadsides
    • Badges and insignia
    • Escutcheons (military coats of arms)
    • Surgical tools and medicines
    • Band instruments
    • “Souvenirs” from battlefields, hospitals and prisoner of war camps which provide a powerful connection to the fighting men who owned them and to their service.


    Frederick P. Todd, in his foundational work entitled American Military Equipage, rated the Museum’s collection of flags as one of the top three repositories of flags of importance in the United States, second only to the collections at the United States Military Academy at West Point and the Chicago Historical Society.

    • Gen. George Custer’s personal battle flag, from the battle at Gettysburg
    • Fragments of the U.S. flag raised at Independence Hall by the newly elected  President Abraham Lincoln, whose speech on that day declared that he’d rather be assassinated than surrender the Union to the forces trying to pull it apart
    • A remnant of the Confederate flag captured at Darien, Georgia in one of the war's first engagements by an armed Federal African-American unit
    • The flags of the famed Confederate gunboat and blockade runner, the CSS Florida, captured by the future Adm. George Melville in Bahia Brazil
    • Various battle and regimental flags


    • David Bustill Bowser’s moving portrait of Lincoln, part of a series of four portraits of the President painted by this distinguished African American artist trained in Philadelphia at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts
    • Thomas Hicks full-length portrait of Gen. George Gordon Meade, with its background the battlefield at Gettysburg and Meade wearing the frock coat that is in the collection
    • William Spang’s evocative painting, “The Armed Slave”, whose iconography demonstrates the message of change for enslaved Africans through the musket propped behind the subject’s chair and the book he holds providing evidence that he has the right and the leisure time to develop literacy.

    Items from the Confederacy

    The Confederacy is represented in the collection by “spoils of war”:

    • Scarf of Confederate Colonel John Singleton Mosby of the famous 'Mosby's Rangers.' He harassed both Grant's and Sherman's forces, as well as the Union Army at Gettysburg. Late in 1864, in desperate flight from the 2nd Massachusetts cavalry, in northern Virginia, the scarf blew off and landed on a roadside bush. Captain John M. Locke, in hot pursuit and at full speed, drew his saber and 'hooked it' with the blade as he passed by."
    • A remnant of the Confederate flag captured at Darien, Georgia
    • Flags of the captured CSS Florida
    • Smoking jacket captured in the luggage of Confederate president, Jefferson Davis, during his attempt to escape Union troops as they entered Richmond and described in mocking editorial cartoons of the day as his wife’s bathrobe, allegedly worn in an effort to evade capture.

    Two-Dimensional Collection

    The Civil War Museum of Philadelphia will retain a significant two-dimensional collection that it has placed at the Heritage Center at the Union League under a long-term stewardship agreement.

    The collection includes rare books and nearly 100 linear feet of photographs, maps, letters, diaries, muster rolls, scrapbooks, and other archival materials. These include:

    • The Muster Roll of Company G, 2nd  Regiment of Berdan's United States Sharp Shooters, a regiment renowned among military historians for the skill of its marksmen
    • A hand-drawn map of the Battle of Oysters Point, which is the only known representation of the disposition of troops at one of the pivotal engagements of the Gettysburg campaign
    • Illustrated letters by Union soldier Carlton Birch, with his hand-drawn images of his war experiences
    • Four hand-written orders to and from Gen. Joseph Hooker during the Battle of Chancellorsville
    • Scrapbooks of Captain Francis A. Donaldson, a Philadelphia native who became a Captain in the 118th Pennsylvania Infantry.  A prolific writer with a keen eye and acid pen, Donaldson wrote some of the most honest and perceptive letters about the war experience.  Writing to his family in Philadelphia, and to his brother who fought for the Confederacy, Donaldson is a rare open window to the personalities and politics of a regiment in the field.  These letters, as well as newspaper clippings, photographs, and post-war ephemera were preserved by Donaldson in his scrapbooks. 
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