Torn in Two: Mapping the American Civil War

Torn in Two: Mapping the American Civil War


"The true issue or 'that's whats the matter,'" 1864. Courtesy of the Boston Public Library Print Department. 

In This Exhibition

The Civil War, from 1861 to 1865, is the centerpiece of our nation's story. It looms large, not merely because of its brutality and scope but because of its place in the course of American history. The seeds of war were planted long before 1861 and the conflict remains part of our national memory.

Geography has helped shape this narrative. The physical landscape influenced economic differences between the regions, the desire to expand into new territories, the execution of the conflict both in the field and on the home front, and the ways in which our recollections have been shaped.

Maps enable us to present the complex strands that, when woven together, provide a detailed account of the causes and conduct of the war. These visual images remain a salient aspect of our memory. Photographs, prints, diaries, songs and letters enhance our ability to tell this story, when our nation, as a Currier & Ives cartoon depicts, was about to be "Torn in Two."

This exhibition tells the story of the American Civil War both nationally and locally in Boston, Massachusetts, through maps, documents, letters, and other primary sources.

Credit: This exhibition was developed by the Norman B. Leventhal Map Center, a nonprofit organization established as a partnership between the Boston Public Library and philanthropist Norman Leventhal. Learn more at