After the War – Remembering Battles and Heroes

View item information

"[Panoramic View of the Gettysburg Battlefield]," ca. 1866. Courtesy of the Norman B. Leventhal Map Center at the Boston Public Library via Digital Commonwealth.

How do we remember something? What images linger? And how do these visual recollections affect our memory of events? 

How we choose to tell the story of the war that almost dissolved our nation suggests its magnitude, importance and centrality in our collective and individual memories. Visual images comprise an important part of this narrative. As technology improved during the second half of the nineteenth century, the ability to create and disseminate memorable images expanded greatly. What the viewer understood or remembered varied, but the presence of a common visual experience was part of the formation of a collective culture with a shared sensibility.

Yet different memories of the same events persist, leading to conflicting interpretations of the past.  What is consistent is the need to remember, and to find some way to honor and thank those who, as Lincoln proclaimed, sacrificed their lives "to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion."