This year marked the 150th anniversary of the Civil War. As 2013 winds to a close, we thought it would be altogether fitting and proper to take a look back at our most popular Civil War blog posts of the year.
1. The Civil War has had an undoubtedly lasting impact, but what some may not know is that it also laid the foundation for Memorial Day, which every year honors those who have died in military service. In this blog post, Project Assistant Ryan Lintelman explains the history behind the holiday for those curious about its origins. Notably, Ryan writes, "The first Memorial Day observances were organized by those Americans who were unable to fully participate in the conflict that defined their era: women and African Americans."
2. Our next popular Civil War blog post focuses on the story of a woman "who made no apologies about breaking every gender, social, and ethnic boundary." Loreta Janeta Velazquez, a Cuban immigrant who grew up in New Orleans, disguised herself as a man and fought for the Confederacy before becoming a double agent for the Union. We interviewed filmmaker María Agui Carter about Rebel, her documentary about the remarkable Velazquez.
3. In his Gettysburg Address, President Lincoln said, "The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here." Ryan Lintelman reflected on one of the Civil War's most important but most devastating battles in this blog post.
4. On October 3, 1861, President Lincoln issued a proclamation declaring the third Thursday in November a "day of thanksgiving and praise." Lincoln hoped that Thanksgiving, in the midst of such a great conflict, could be a time when Americans could come together through their common ideals. Museum Project Manager Nanci Edwards shared with us a family letter that indicates that her ancestor enjoyed a "good army meal" of baked beans, coffee, and bread for his Civil War Thanksgiving.
5. At the beginning of this year, visitors to the museum might have heard live fiddle music emanating from the Civil War section of our Price of Freedom: Americans at War exhibition. This blog post explores intern Sage Snider's fiddle project and the role that music played in the Civil War. "More than just offering a break from the miseries of battle and camp life, music was part of larger political and military battles raging throughout the war," Sage notes.
6. We couldn't stop at five, and this one is a staff pick. On the 150th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address, curator Shannon Perich explored a haunting photograph, entitled "A Harvest of Death," reflecting on the cost of war. Alexander Gardner, who printed the 1863 photograph, wrote: "Such a picture conveys a useful moral: It shows the blank horror and reality of war, in opposition to its pageantry."
For more on the Civil War, don't miss Smithsonian Civil War: Inside the National Collection, and make sure to check out Smithsonian Channel's Civil War 360, a three part documentary. Leanne Elston is an intern in the New Media Department at the National Museum of American History.