America’s National Archives hold a treasure trove of materials encompassing the nation’s history. Sadly, most of those treasures will never be seen by the general public. Recently, a touring exhibit from the National Archives called “Discovering the Civil War” appeared in a few cities. Its contents were a wonderful mix of letters, posters, and other items related to America’s greatest conflict. HistoryNet’s editor, Gerald Swick, visited the exhibit during the final days it was on display at the Tennessee State Museum in Nashville and took photos to share with our readers of a few of the many items displayed behind Plexiglas before they were returned to the National Archives.
Well-done signage provided information beyond what was contained in the original documents (e.g., more than 10,000 Union soldiers were younger than 18; about 5% of the Confederate Army was under 18), and much of the display covered little-known aspects of the war, such as a letter from Kamehameha IV, King of the Hawaiian Islands declaring the islands would remain neutral in dealing with the two warring sides.