Special Civil War Exhibit at Concord Museum

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When Duty Whispers: Concord and the Civil War
A Special Exhibition at the Concord Museum
April 15 through September 18, 2011
 
So nigh is grandeur to our dust,
So near is God to man,
When Duty whispers low, Thou must,
The youth replies, I can.
 
Voluntaries, 1863, Ralph Waldo Emerson
 
Thumbnail image for When Duty Whispers.jpgAs 2011 marks the 150th anniversary of the beginning of the American Civil War, the Concord Museum in historic Concord, Massachusetts, is commemorating the occasion with a special exhibition, When Duty Whispers: Concord and the Civil War.  On April 19, 1861, the town of Concord was united in readiness for war, arguably more ready and more united than on the famed date of April 19, 1775. Just one week after Fort Sumter had been fired on, the men of the Concord Infantry answered President Lincoln's call for troops, and the town as one family saw them off.  The scene, with variations, was repeated that April in countless communities in Pennsylvania, New York and New England. Still, although Concord's experience was in some ways typical, Concord can rightly claim a distinctive role in formulating the public opinions that made the devastating war seem not just right, but necessary.
 
When Duty Whispers: Concord and the Civil War features objects from the Concord Museum collection--some never before exhibited--including portraits, uniforms, firearms, swords, flags, broadsides, engravings, correspondence, and newspapers.  The exhibition also brings together selections from the remarkable collections of the William Munroe Special Collections at the Concord Free Public Library; an extraordinary group of Gettysburg relics from the Carlisle Historical Society; a charcoal study for the monumental painting "Memories of Antietam" by Elizabeth Wentworth Roberts from the Concord Art Association; and representative examples from a private collection of Springfield arms. In addition, a recently-conserved flag of the 55th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, one of two black infantry regiments from Massachusetts during the Civil War, is included courtesy of The Middlesex School.
 
Other highlights of the exhibition:
 
•  A Portrait of Mary Merrick Brooks (1801-1868) by Alonzo Hartwell (1805-1873)
Concord was one of the most radically abolitionist communities in the nation in the 1830s and 40s and Mary Merrick Brooks was a driving force of those efforts.  As a founding member of Concord's Female Anti-Slavery Society, she led petition drives, organized anti-slavery fairs and participated in the county-wide anti-slavery society.  The Concord Female Anti-Slavery Society was closely allied with the leading advocates of abolition, many of whom addressed the community repeatedly through lectures at the Concord Lyceum.
 
•  An undated letter from Frederick Douglass (1818-1895) to "My kind Friend Helen," Helen Thoreau (1812-1849)
Helen Thoreau, Henry Thoreau's oldest sister, was an ardent abolitionist and founding member of Concord's Female Anti-Slavery Society. Her letter from Frederick Douglass, a leader of the abolitionist movement known for his powerful oratory and incisive antislavery writing, refers to upcoming abolitionist meetings.
 
•  Pistol presented to an officer of Concord's departing company on April 19, 1861
Concord's Billiards, Chess and Whist Club presented each of the officers of Concord's departing company with a new pistol. This pistol, which belonged to "Joseph Derby, Jr. 1st Lieut, Co. G. 5th Regiment. Mass. Volunteer Infantry," is engraved on the ivory grips to document the gift and the date of departure: April 19, 1861. Although the date is a coincidence, it is eighty six years to the day after Concord's militia turned out to confront the British regulars at the North Bridge during the first battle of the American Revolution.
 
•  Letters from Private Alvin W. Lamb (1842-1863) to his sister Helen Rebecca Lamb
Written in Sharpsburg, Maryland in 1862, Lamb's letters include vivid descriptions of Abraham Lincoln's visit to camp on October 3 ("odd to see a man with a stovepipe hat on riding along side of generals"), picket duties, and the difficulties of camp life. Lamb, of Fitchburg, Massachusetts, served as a private with the 32nd Reg. Mass. Infantry, dying in 1863 from wounds suffered at Gettysburg.
 
Louisa May Alcott nurse's kettle.jpg•  Kettle (photo at right) used by Louisa May Alcott (1832-1888) when nursing at Union Hotel Hospital in Washington, D.C.
Alcott used this kettle when she was nursing soldiers for six weeks in 1862/3, an experience which she wrote about in Hospital Sketches.  The best-selling serialization was based on her now-lost letters home which she reported were "written on inverted tin kettles...while waiting for gruel to warm or poultices to cool, for boys to wake and be tormented..."  The kettle was presented by Alcott to Cummings Davis, whose collection initially formed the Concord Museum.   
 
•  Bust of Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865) by Martin Milmore (1844-1883) and the Order of services for the meeting of the people of Concord at hour of the funeral of President Lincoln
On April 19, 1865, four years to the day after the troops debarked for Washington and ninety years to the day after the North Bridge Fight, Concord united once more, this time in mourning for the loss of Abraham Lincoln.  Boston sculptor Martin Milmore is best known for his Soldiers' and Sailors' Monument, erected on Boston Common in 1877.  On the day it was unveiled, 25,000 Civil War veterans marched on a six-mile promenade through the city.
 
The exhibition title, When Duty Whispers, is taken from the 1863 poem, "Voluntaries," by Ralph Waldo Emerson, written in honor of the men of the famed 54th Massachusetts, of which George W. Dugan of Concord was a member. The exhibition is on view at the Concord Museum in historic Concord, Massachusetts from April 15 through September 18, 2011.
 
ASSOCIATED PROGRAMS
 
Gallery Talk with Concord Museum curator David Wood
Saturday, May 14, 2:00 p.m.
Go beyond the exhibition labels and learn more about some of the remarkable objects in the Museum's newest exhibition with David Wood, Concord Museum curator.  Concentrating on a selection of works in the exhibition--including a portrait of ardent abolitionist Mary Merrick Brooks, a pistol presented to an officer of Concord's departing company on April 19, 1861, a flag of one of two black infantry regiments from Massachusetts, a bust of Abraham Lincoln by Boston sculptor Martin Milmore--David Wood will explore the issues and ideas of Civil War Concord.  Free with Museum admission; Members free; by reservation.
 
Thumbnail image for Forage Cap.jpgBike Tour of Civil War Concord
Saturday, June 18
The Concord Museum and Concord Bike Tours have teamed up to offer a guided ride through Concord's Civil War history.  Begin your Father's Day weekend tour with a visit to When Duty Whispers.  Then tour the town by bike with a Concord Bike Tours guide stopping at often-overlooked sites that honor Civil War soldiers, houses that highlight the town's active Abolitionist movement, and spots unearthed by the Drinking Gourd Project related to Concord's African American history. Tour includes Concord Bike Tours comfort bike and helmet, snack & guide.  1:00-3:30; Member/Non-Member $23/$28 adult, $18/$23 child (ages 9-17). Call the Museum to book this special Father's Day Weekend bike tour, (978) 369-9763.  Other dates available by appointment April-September.
 
Free School Programs
April - September
Are you a middle school or high school teacher studying the Civil War in your classroom?  The Concord Museum is presenting free visits to the special exhibition When Duty Whispers: Concord and the Civil War, packaged with a grade-appropriate activity.  Call the Concord Museum's Education Department to receive a pre-visit packet and to schedule a visit (978) 369-9763.  Recommended for grades 7-12.
 
For more about the museum, admission information, hours and directions, contact the Concord Museum at (978) 369-9609 (Taped information) (978) 369-9763 (Reservations) • cm1@concordmuseum.org • Web site:  www.concordmuseum.org.  The Concord Museum is accredited by the American Association of Museums.

Photos: David Bohl

Center: Kettle used by Louisa May Alcott (1832-1888) when nursing at Union Hotel Hospital in Washington, D.C.
Alcott used this kettle when she was nursing soldiers for six weeks in 1862/3, an experience which she wrote about in Hospital Sketches.  The best-selling serialization was based on her now-lost letters home which she reported were "written on inverted tin kettles...while waiting for gruel to warm or poultices to cool, for boys to wake and be tormented..."  The kettle was presented by Alcott to Cummings Davis, whose collection initially formed the Concord Museum.

Bottom: Forage cap, New York, 1861-64, Wool, leather, gilt brass
Concord Museum Collection Cos82-43
The buttons with the arms of New York identify this cap as being from the 135th Regiment of New York State Volunteers

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