Exploring the American Civil War through 50 Historic Treasures brings together historic objects, documents, artwork, and the natural and built environments to tell the full story of this important event in American history. The American Civil War still matters. It matters because the war—its causes and its consequences— continue to influence America as a nation. At its core, the Civil War was about slavery. Began as a fight to secure the future of slavery, the Civil War resulted instead in the abolition of slavery. The complex racial issues at its core, however, remain with us today.
Exploring the American Civil War through 50 Historic Treasures begins with the causes of the war, examining objects that tell the story of slavery and its expansion in the nineteenth century. Cultural treasures representing the war years explore the battlefield and the homefront and the men and women caught up in the war as well the ways in which the scale of the war forced technological innovations.
Given the centrality of slavery, race, and emancipation in the story of the Civil War, one section presents objects that detail how free and enslaved blacks transformed the war effort and were in turn transformed by the war. In the final section, the historic treasures trace the ongoing impact of the war, including the dramatic increase in the removal of Confederate monuments in the summer of 2020.
Each object's story is detailed with color photos that draw readers into the story of the American Civil War. Many of these objects appear here in print for the first time.
Julie Holcomb is Associate Professor and Graduate Program Director in Museum Studies at Baylor University in Waco, Texas.
Holcomb received her Bachelor of Arts in History and Creative Writing from Pacific University, Forest Grove, Oregon; her Master of Library and Information Science, with a specialization in Archives and Records Management from the University of Texas at Austin; and her PhD in Transatlantic History from the University of Texas at Arlington.
She is the author of Moral Commerce: Quakers and The Transatlantic Boycott of the Slave Labor Economy and the editor of Southern Sons, Northern Soldiers: The Civil War Letters of the Remley Brothers, 22nd Iowa Infantry. In addition to her books, Holcomb has published widely in a variety of academic and popular venues.
List of Figures
List of Tables
Civil War Timeline
Part One: Causes
Part Two: Politics
Part Three: Battlefield
Part Four: Officers
Part Five: Soldiers
Part Six: Home Front
Part Seven: Symbols
Part Eight: Technology
Part Nine: Emancipation
Part Ten: Legacy
About the Author
At almost no time in our post-1865 history has it been so clear that the Civil War, though settled, has never really been over. This compendium features artifacts from many small museums, examining a wide variety of objects from the origins of the war right up to recent challenges to Confederate monuments. The final artifact included is a mural of George Floyd on a wall in Portland, Oregon. The objects are not presented in chronological order, but a chronological time line of objects and a Civil War time line immediately follow the preface. Artifacts are organized by category: causes, politics, battlefield, soldiers, home front, symbols, emancipation, and legacy. Each entry begins with a clear color photograph or reproduction with information on the collection in which the artifact is found and the accession number. An informed and readable essay follows, giving context (like political and social movements), concepts represented, and relevant historical and biographical detail. The volume ends with chapter notes, including relevant publications and websites, and a lengthy selected bibliography. Certainly timely, this title is worthy of consideration for public and university collections.
In Exploring the American Civil War through 50 Historic Treasures, Julie Holcomb relates the inspiring and painful history of the Civil War era through photographs, letters, objects, and art. Her compelling work underscores how material culture can help the public understand a complex past that continues to echo in our society today.
In Exploring the Civil War Through 50 Historic Treasures, Julie Holcomb takes a broad view of both the Civil War and what constitutes an object. The result is a rich and occasionally surprising discussion of the war that looks back to its roots and forward to its legacy.
From literature to landscapes, Professor Holcomb’s inspired selection of fifty historical objects immediately transports readers to the Civil War era. Her expertly researched snapshots provide an absorbing overview of the conflict, illuminating important social, political, and military issues. Holcomb’s crisp narration will draw in a general readership, while her academic sensibility makes the book suitable for a variety of classroom applications.