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Abraham Lincoln Exhibit at GCC

Class Resources

from the

Gilder Lehrman Institute of America History

 


The materials below are all publications of the Gilder Lehrman Institute, and are made possible by the generosity of the Julienne M. Michel Trust.  All letters and photographs are drawn from the Gilder Lehrman Collection, New York City.


Resources Book

People, Places, Politics: History in a Box Resources Book

 

Letters:

The War Commences:
Transcript Image Audio

George W. Tillotson to his Wife, September 24, 1862

George Tillotson was born in 1830. In 1861 he became a corporal in the 89th New York Infantry, and first saw combat as part of General Ambrose Burnside's assault in coastal North Carolina. Tillotson's regiment was transferred to the Army of the Potomac in time for the battle of Antietam and remained in the Chesapeake region for the balance of the war. Tillotson rose to the rank of sergeant; he returned to civilian life in the late fall of 1864.

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Family & The Home Front:
Transcript Image Audio

David V.M. Smith to "Charles My Son", November 4, 1862

David V.M. Smith was born in 1825. In 1850, he was working as a blacksmith at Post Mills, New Jersey, and by 1860 owned his own shop in nearby Elmer. He enlisted as a private in the 12th New Jersey Volunteers in the fall of 1862, leaving behind his wife, Elizabeth, and three young children. Smith was in the battle of Chancellorsville at Gettysburg. Chronic trouble with his legs worsened duirng his service, and Smith died in an army hospital on October 10, 1863.

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Mary Epperly to C.M. Epperly, August 9, 1863
Christian M. Epperly to Mary Epperly, August 15, 1863

Christain Marion Epperly was born the son of a Floyd County, Virginia, wagon maker in 1837. He was reared within a devoutly religious Lutheran community and at the age of 22, married Mary Phlegar, another committed evangelical. Epperly served the Confederacy in General Henry Stuart's "Horse Artillery," and the Army of Tennessee, after his transfer to the 54th Virginia. His hostility to the war was fairly typical for Floyd County, known as a haven for army deserters.

 

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Mary Kelly to Sarah Gordon, March 31, 1862

James Kelly joined the 14th Indiana Volunteers in 1861. In March 1862, his wife, Mary, traveled to the field hospital in Winchester, Virginia, where he lay wounded. Depite her efforts, James Kelly died of his wounds on May 8, 1862.

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Under Fire:
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John Flinn to A.M. Flinn, August 9, 1863

John W. Flinn enrolled in the Confederate army shortly before his fifteenth birthday and served in the 17th Regiment of Mississippi Volunteers. Wounded four times and twice taken prisoner, the young soldier returned to Mississippi after the war and enrolled at the University of Mississippi, from which he graduated in 1871.

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David V.M. Smith to Elizabeth Smith, July 10, 1863

See description above.

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Slavery & Emancipation:
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John P. Jones to His Wife, October 3, 1862

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Diary of William P. Woodlin, 1863-1864

William Woodlin enlisted in the 8th Regiment of the United States Colored Troops on August 20, 1863, while living in Syracuse, New York. Official records indicate little more about Woodlin than his birth date of 1841. After serving alongside other black troops in South Carolina, Florida, and Virginia, Woodlin's regiment was sent to Texas. There, he suffered sunstroke, an ailment that would afflict him long after his discharge.

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George W. Tillotson to Elizabeth Tillotson, February 5, 1863

See description above.

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William Brunt to Martha Weir, December 2, 1863

William Brunt was born in 1823. A plasterer, he lived in Illinois, Indiana, and northern Kentucky before joining the 83rd Illinois Volunteer Infantry on August 15, 1862. He was charged that November with overseeing the contraband camp at Fort Donelson, Tenn. He was appointed captain in the 16th Regiment of the United States Colored Troups in December 1863, and in 1864 became commander of the contraband camp at Clarkesville, Tennessee.

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Vision of the Future:
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Jeremiah M. Tate to His Sister, Mary, February 1, 1865

Jeremiah Tate was born in South Carolina in 1829. His family relaocated to Pickens County, Alabama, when Tate was a young boy; in 1860, he was working there as a grocer. Shortly after the bombardment of Fort Sumter, Tate enlisted in the 5th Alabama Infantry, where he served until the war's end. Among his assignments was a lengthy detachment late in 1864 as an army nurse.

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Charles C. Morey to His Mother, March 31, 1865

Charles Morey was born into a Vermont farming family in 1841. He entered the 2nd Vermont Infantry in the late spring of 1861, and spent nearly the entire war in the Army of the Potomac. Morey became an officer in the late summer of 1864 and was promted to captain of Company E later that same year. A round of grapeshot hit and killed Morey during the Union's final assault upon Petersburg, Virginia, on April 2, 1865, a week before Robert E. Lee's surrender at Appomattox.

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Lysander Wheeler to His Parents and Sister, May 21, 1865

Lysander Wheeler was born in Fultonville, New York, on May 29, 1837. In August of 1862, he left his job as a ship carpenter in De Kalb County, Illinois, to enlist in the 105th Illinois Infantry. He was promoted to first corporal and then assumed the rank of sergeant i 1864, just as his regiment completed the "March to the Sea" under General William T. Sherman.

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Songs

Music was a central part of life in the United States during the nineteenth century. In an age before radio or television, music was played in homes, at social gatherings, and as part of informal performances. This selection of songs illuminates the sentiments, fears, and dreams of Americans both enslaved and free during the Civil War. The songs are accompanied by the hammered dulcimer, fiddle, and guitar, all popular nineteenth-century instruments. (right click song title to download mp3)

Aura Lee: Lyrics: W.W. Fosdick Esq., Music: G.P. Poulton
This sweetheart song is a Union variation of a similar song popular among Confederate soldiers. Aura Lee represented all the sweethearts left behind as men departed for war.

Battle Cry of Freedom: Lyrics: George Frederick Root, Music: Anonymous
A patriotic song advocating the cause of the Union, the tune became so popular that it was used as the campaignsong for the Republican Party during the 1864 presidential election.
Battle Hymn of the Republic: Lyrics: Julia Ward Howe, Music: Anonymous
A leading abolishtionist as well as a prominent advocate for women's rights, Julia Ward Howe composed the words to the tune of "John Brown's Body." The song gained immediate popularity both among soldiers and on the home front.
Bonnie Blue Flag: Instrumental
A popular Confederate song, performed on the mountain dulcimer.

Darling Nelly Gray: Lyrics: Benjamin R. Hanby, Music: Anonymous
Hanby, the lyricist, was the son of a minister who kept a safe house for runaway slaves on the Underground Railroad. This song was inspired by a story recounted by a runaway slave.

Go Down Moses: Lyrics and Music: Anonymous
Like many other slave songs, plans to escape are encoded in this biblical story. The lyrics refer to Harriet Tubman, a runaway slave who later helped hundreds of fellow slaves escape from slavery. Her code name was Moses.
Goober Peas: Lyrics and Music: Anonymous
Due to shortage of grain, Confederate soldiers had to subsist on a diet of peanuts which they called "goober peas" after the West African word for peanuts.

Home Sweet Home: Instrumental
A favorite wartime song expressing a soldier's longing for home, performed on the hammered dulcimer.

Just Before the Battle, Mother: Lyrics and Music: George Frederick Root
The lyricist imagines the emotions of a young soldier about to engage in battle, describing his fears coupled with a nostalgia for home as he faces the possibility of death under fire.

Shelvin' Rock: Instrumental
A popular tune from Appalachia, performed on the fiddle.

Tenting on the Old Campground: Lyrics and Music: Walter Kitteredge
This song, written in 1864, gives voice to the weariness of soldiers and civilians and the universally shared wish for an end to the war. Over 620,000 men died in the Civil War.

When Johnny Comes Marching Home: Lyrics and Music: Patrick Sarsfield Gilmore
In 1863, the war continued with no clear victory in sight. This song expresses the sentiments of many Americans on the home front as they put aside dreams of glory and yearned for the return of soldiers.

Credits:

Producer/Director: Susan F. Saidenberg

Assistant Director: R. Benjamin Boerum

Audio Production: Sheriff Bob

Music performed by : Rhys Jones, Christine Wheeler Jones, Michael Daves, Sheriff Bob, Linda Russell, and Hannah Kreiger-Benson

Letters read by: Michael Wells, Brad Bellamy Randy Falcon, Linda Russell, Will Harper, Rob Askins, Graeme Gillis, and Chris Cerasco

Design: Jason Rayles, R. Benjamin Boerum

Programming: Jason Rayles

Copyright 2007 by the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History. All Rights Reserved. http://www.gilderlehrman.org