Civil War Treasures from the New-York Historical Society

About the Collection

The materials in this online collection are drawn from twelve archival collections housed at the New-York Historical Society. Pictorial items include 731 stereographs, and over 70 photographs from an album, 178 sketches from 3 different collections, 304 posters, 29 etchings of caricatures, and almost 500 envelopes with printed or embossed decoration related to Civil War events and personalities. Items from manuscript collections include letters, photographs, and papers regarding a competition sponsored by William Oland Bourne for left-handed penmanship, the first and only issue of The Prison Times handwritten by Confederate prisoners in Fort Delaware, 32 letters written by Sarah Blunt, a nurse in hospitals at Point Lookout, Maryland and Harper's Ferry, West Virginia, and 3 letters by Walt Whitman.

About the New-York Historical Society and its Collections

The New-York Historical Society, founded in 1804, houses one of the oldest research libraries in the United States. It is one of seventeen libraries qualified to participate in the Independent Research Libraries Association, which consists of institutions that "house collections of national or international significance that are capable of supporting sustained research in a variety of interrelated subjects and of attracting scholars from all over the world."

Two hundred years of gathering research materials has allowed the society to develop collections which are rich, deep, and diverse, covering the 400 year period of the American experience in general and the history of the New York region in particular. The library collection encompasses a breadth of formats: printed books and pamphlets, manuscripts, which include diaries, letters, and business records, maps and atlases, photographs, prints, architectural drawings, advertising art, newspapers with a special concentration on pre-1820 titles, broadsides, sheet music, scrapbooks, menus, and an unparalleled variety of other ephemera. All of these materials total approximately 3 million items.

Collections documenting the Civil War are a particular strength of the society. This digital compilation displays only a fraction of the materials generated during that conflict and added to the society's collections. The selection of images in this presentation indicates the depth and breadth of the society's Civil War collections: recruiting posters for New York City regiments of volunteers; stereographic views documenting the mustering of soldiers and of popular support for the Union in New York City; photography showing the war's impact, both in the north and south; drawings and writings undertaken by ordinary soldiers on both sides of the cause in attempts to articulate and make sense of their plight, and even find humor in it.

The Civil War was clearly a conflict at the national level, yet with ramifications at the very local and personal level. This selection of images and documents seeks to show the many ways in which the war reverberated upon the lives and land that it engulfed.

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