By Audrey Scanlan-Teller
Special to The Herald-Mail
Even President Abraham Lincoln would not be spared; within days of the official end of the war, he was killed by an assassin's bullet.
Millions of former slaves were now free men and women and the struggle to exercise their citizenship had begun. The survivors took stock and, reunited by necessity, sought to reconcile their differences and rebuild the nation. The commemoration of the war was an essential part of reconciliation and healing.
The North, at the brink of victory and the promise of peace, was rocked by the assassination of Lincoln on April 14, 1865. Great crowds publicly mourned his death. Lincoln became the iconic Union martyr and his image was proudly displayed in most Northern homes, businesses and public buildings.
Veteran soldiers returned home, but their lives were changed. They had spent years living with, fighting beside, watching over and being watched over by their comrades, and seeing men, including family members and friends, die. Veterans desired a continued connection after the war and fraternal organizations for veteran soldiers were established.
In 1866, the Grand Army of the Republic (G.A.R.) was founded for Union veterans, and in 1889, its Confederate equivalent, the United Confederate Veterans (U.C.V.) was formed.
A new exhibit, "Valley of the Shadow," features memorabilia and photographs that belonged to members of these organizations. Indeed, a number of the military objects in the exhibition as a whole were once housed in the local Hagerstown Reno Post No. 4 G.A.R.
While the art and artifacts in the "Valley of the Shadows" exhibit at the Washington County Museum of Fine Arts can be considered for their material, cultural, historical and technological value, the personal stories related to individual objects in the exhibit connect us with the ordinary and extraordinary people caught in tumult of the American Civil War.
On view is the hotel registration that abolitionist John Brown, under the alias I. Smith, made at the time of his raid on the arsenal at Harpers Ferry in 1859. His raid, in combination with the election of Lincoln in 1860, was a spark that set ablaze sectional policies in North and South and ignited the Civil War.
Some of the objects belonged to career U.S. soldiers who switched allegiance to follow their seceding states to war. Others once were owned by civilians turned soldiers who enlisted with patriotic fervor in the Union and Confederate armies following the fall of Fort Sumter in April 1861. There are artifacts worn by famous military leaders, such as the spur of Confederate Brigadier Gen. George Burgwyn Anderson, or the courier pouch of Confederate Maj. Henry Kyd Douglas, a resident of Washington County and a staff officer of Gen. Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson.
Other objects were used by unsung ordinary soldiers like the drum used by the Union drummer William Brown of the 95th Pennsylvania Infantry or the dulcimer of Confederate Pvt. Abraham Stramm of the 1st North Carolina Infantry. There are artifacts associated with soldiers awarded the Medal of Honor for their actions in battle, and others belonging to spies and deserters.
The exhibit highlights objects connected with the 1862 Maryland Campaign and the 1863 Gettysburg Campaign, and items belonging to or collected by local soldiers and civilians.
Among the especially poignant objects are those related to the civilians who found themselves unwillingly engulfed by war in their fields, homes, and towns, and items left in the desolation after the battle.
There are forks belonging to the family of Samuel Mumma, who lost their home, barn, crops and most of their worldly possessions — save the clothes on their backs and a gold watch — to the destruction wrought in the Battle of Antietam. In a further twist of irony, these forks were alleged to have been recovered in the possession of a dead Confederate lying on the battlefield.
There are fragments of the Mumma barn and small sections of rail fence imbedded with bullets from the Sunken Road at Antietam. There is a temporary wooden headstone marking the grave of Lt. Col. William Holmes of the 2nd Georgia Infantry that was preserved by Sharpsburg resident Martha Ada Mumma Thomas. She was 3 years old when her family's farm became a hospital and a burial ground. She, along with Oliver T. Reilly, another child witness to the Battle of Antietam, collected relics from this battle and preserved stories related to it from veterans and other eye witnesses.
Finally, there is a receipt from the U.S. Treasury Department recording the disbursement to the mother of a deceased soldier his final pay and bounty. This soldier, Pvt. Israel Partial (Parshall) Keeney of the 50th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry, was mortally wounded at South Mountain in September 1862 and died in Frederick in October of that same year, leaving behind his mother and small sister who were dependent on his income. The arms of war left few untouched.
Audrey Scanlan-Teller, who holds a doctorate in art history, is an independent scholar and volunteer at Antietam National Battlefield in Sharpsburg and the National Museum of Civil War Medicine in Frederick, Md. She served as a member of the Exhibition Planning Committee of the "Valley of the Shadow" exhibition at the Washington County Museum of Fine Arts.
If you go ...
WHAT: "Valley of the Shadow"
When: Now through Saturday, July 28
Where: Washington County Museum of Fine Arts, City Park, off Virginia Ave., Hagerstown
For a complete list of the museum's hours, go to www.wcmfa.org