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Gettysburg: History and Memory

Irvin Department of Rare Books and Special Collections Gallery, Hollings Library
Apr 30, 2013 - Sep 27, 2013

The Battle of Gettysburg resonates with us in ways that are somehow different from our historical and emotional understanding of other aspects of the Civil War. We remember Gettysburg differently from the other battles of the war. As Americans, we have thought differently about it since the battle itself was fought. Gettysburg was the largest engagement, not only of the Civil War, but ever seen in the Western hemisphere. It was also, by far, the costliest battle of the war with over 50,000 casualties. It is seen as a turning point – the “high tide” of the Confederacy – when the remarkable successes of Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia at Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville in the previous year were finally stopped and began to be reversed. Gettysburg was the only battle to occur on Northern soil. Confederate troops marched into the North and took food and supplies from Pennsylvanians. They also seized free blacks, who they sent South into slavery. The Gettysburg battlefield was dedicated four months after the battle, and President Lincoln’s eloquence at the dedication ceremony stands as a monument of oratory.

As we mark its 150th anniversary this year, this exhibition takes as its focus the three days of combat in and around the town of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, on July 1-3, 1863. It also explores the ways in which what happened there has been understood and remembered, by its own participants and by subsequent generations. In these cases, you will find military manuals, memoirs, maps, histories, newspapers, and an extremely rare first edition of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. We are grateful to Henry Fulmer, Graham Duncan, and the South Caroliniana Library for their assistance and loan of several letters and manuscripts which add a particularly rich, personal dimension to the materials on display here, and to Greg Wilsbacher and the Moving Image Research Collections for the footage on view in the gallery.

This exhibition has as its core an exhibition on the Battle of Gettysburg created in 2000 by Patrick Scott for USC’s First-Year Reading Experience. The majority of items on display come from two major collections given to the Irvin Department in the late 20th century: a collection formed by Civil War historian Francis A. Lord, who taught at USC for many years, and a military history collection formed by Robert S. Chamberlain.

An audio tour is available for this exhibit.