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.”
Our newest exhibition, “Torn in Two: Mapping the American Civil War,” tells the story of the American Civil War both nationally and locally in Boston, Massachusetts, through maps, documents, letters, and other primary sources.
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 maps.bpl.org.
Featured image: Detail of “Map of the United States, showing by colors, the Area of Freedom and Slavery, and the Territories whose destiny is yet to be decided, exhibiting also the Missouri Compromise Line and the routes of Colonel Fremont in his Famous Explorations with important statistics of the Free and Slave States,” 1865. Courtesy of the Norman B. Leventhal Map Center at the Boston Public Library via Digital Commonwealth.