Carry Me Home: Dispatches from the Civil War

January 26, 2007
September 03, 2007

Drawing upon the extensive Civil War collections of the New-York Historical Society, Carry Me Home: Dispatches from the Civil War will explore the ways in which those in the field recorded their experiences, shared information among themselves, and conveyed details back to those on the home front. Throughout the Civil War, soldiers, prisoners and hospital workers documented their experiences by writing letters, keeping diaries and drawing pictures. Their primary audience was family and friends but their outpourings were also attempts to come to grips with what they experienced and, at least in a few cases, conscious efforts to chronicle details for future generations. They were joined in the field by newspapermen, illustrators and photographers, many of whom were assigned to specific units and traveled with the troops, the first generation of  "embedded" journalists.

All these dispatches, whether conveyed through the intimacy of letters, the intention of journalism or with at least a small desire for profit, were dependent on revolutionary developments in technology: the creation of vast networks of railroads, the recent invention of the telegraph, sophisticated printing techniques that made illustrated newspapers possible, and an increased use of cameras. These technological advances lent an immediacy and vividness to the depiction of the war never before possible.

Highlights of the exhibition, which will feature letters, diaries, sketchbooks, drawings, prints, photographs, newspapers, broadsides, song sheets and posters, all produced between 1861 and 1865, include:

  • Letter written by Walt Whitman in 1863 to the parents of Erastus Haskell, a soldier dying of typhoid fever in a Washington D.C. army hospital where Whitman was a frequent visitor
  • Photographs from Mathew Brady's "Incidents of the War" series
  • Stereographs of camp life and battlefield scenes, many by Alexander Gardner and Timothy O'Sullivan
  • Hand-colored Currier & Ives print, 1862
  • Manuscript smuggled out of a Richmond prison and published in 1862 as Prison-Life in the Tobacco Warehouse at Richmond
  • Sketches drawn by a Confederate prisoner at Point Lookout, MD; 1864
  • Prison Times, manuscript newspaper produced by Confederate prisoners at Fort Delaware; April 1865

Creative: Tronvig Group