If ever you are in the Harrisburg, Pennsylvania area, I recommend visiting The National Civil War Museum, which opened in 2000 (www.nationalcivilwarmuseum.org). This two-story museum contains a wealth of documents, photographs, clothing, weapons and other artifacts that explain the events that led to the war, its prosecution and aftermath in an evenhanded manner, favoring neither the South nor the North.
(Photo: a Confederate flag flown over Fort Sumter following its surrender.)
The museum achieves its mission by taking visitors on a self-guided tour through 17 exhibits that, utilizing background information on prominent topics and the spectrum of items noted above, show how the collision of events and institutions and the evolution of American society in the early Nineteenth Century resulted in secession. Here’s how the exhibits are arranged.
- A House Divided, 1850-1860
- American Slavery: The Peculiar Institution
- First Shots, 1861
- Making of Armies
- Weapons & Equipment
- Campaigns and Battles of 1862
- Battle Map, 1861-1862
- Camp Curtin (the largest Union military camp, located in Harrisburg)
- Why Men Fought, 1861-1863
- Civil War Music (recordings of Northern and Southern tunes, spirituals and bugle calls)
(Photo: a full-scale rendering of the soldier’s typical weapons.)
- Gettysburg, 1863
- Costs of War (Civil War medicine)
- Women in the War
- Navy (including new aspects of naval warfare such as the submarine CSS Hunley and ironclads)
- Campaigns and Battles of 1864-65
16. Battle Map (from Stones River to Appomattox)
17. Lincoln: War & Remembrance (Lincoln’s assassination, Reconstruction and veterans’ organizations and reunions)
(Photo: what is believed to be the sole surviving Civil War ambulance.)
In addition, the museum features a video on the end of the Civil War; an interactive exhibit that permits visitors to ask questions of holograms of Abraham Lincoln, Ulysses Grant and other key personalities of the era.
(Photo: a display of Civil War military instruments.)
I recommend devoting several hours to touring The National Civil War Museum. It offers people that are familiar with the war and those new to the topic the opportunity to deepen their knowledge of the conflict upon which the nation’s history hinged.