Confronting the South: New Hampshire People During the Civil War

A collection of a Civil War era photograph of a soldier, coat buttons, and wooden tools

2011 marked the 150th anniversary of the start of the American Civil War. Between April 1861 and the spring of 1865, the Civil War tested our concepts of nationhood, attitudes towards race and human rights, gender roles, and the US Constitution itself.

During the Civil War, New Hampshire sent 35,000 to fight to preserve the Union. This represented about 11% of the entire population of the state. They were farmers, stevedores, mill workers, lawyers, and teachers, who left behind wives and families, who often struggled to maintain farms and households. And all of them were hard to pigeonhole; they could be Republican or Democrat, abolitionist or racist. The soldiers were part of the best educated military force to be involved in a war; the Confederate Army they faced was a close second. As a result, their letters and writings tell a story like no other.

Through their letters, scanned and created as posters, the exhibit interprets three aspects of the war experience:

  • Confronting the South—the soldiers’ reaction to being in unfamiliar territory
  • Seeing the Elephant—a popular term of the day that described an overwhelming emotion and awe of experiencing battle for the first time
  • Life at Home—the anxiety, feelings, and hardships of those left behind in New Hampshire

For more information, see the article in Campus Journal.

The panel exhibition is available for loan.

The exhibit consists of 7 framed poster panels (16 x 20” and 20 x 24”) and two introductory text panels(16 x 20”). It’s traveled to Portsmouth Public Library, as well as Bedford, Laconia, and Hudson libraries and will be exhibited at the Durham and Hooksett libraries in the first half of 2014.

For loan information, please contact Dale Valena.