After a year and a half of preparation, I am pleased to announce that the Rosenbach's online project Today in the Civil War: Dispatches From the Rosenbach Collection will [finally] begin tomorrow, November 6, on the 150th anniversary of the election of Abraham Lincoln. The project uses a blog format, so you can just hop over to http://rosenbach.org/civilwar/ and subscribe, so you don't miss a single post!
I know that I have blogged about this project before, but here's a quick rundown. Today in the Civil War will show images of Civil War-era documents from the Rosenbach collection 150 years after they were originally created. Each will be accompanied by a transcript, either full or partial, depending on the length of the document. Items bearing an exact date (e.g. letters, newspapers) will be posted on that date. Material where only the year is known (e.g. books) will be posted during the appropriate year. Items which date from the Civil War period but do not have a specific date (e.g. photographs) will appear from time to time as well. We don't have enough material to do each and every day until April 2015, but we will be posting at least a couple of times a week, for a total of about 1100 entries over the four and half years, so hopefully that will be enough to fill your Civil War quota.
Trying to figure out when to start such a project was a bit tricky--when does the Civil War begin--the secession of South Carolina, the first shots at Fort Sumter? I decided to go with Lincoln's election in large part because I really enjoy the entries in John Henry Brown's diary for the secession winter of 1860-61 and I wanted to be able to include them. ( I wrote a bit about John Henry Brown in September 2009). John Henry Brown was a Philadelphia painter and his journal entries are not lengthy or eloquent, but he had voted against Lincoln and didn't subscribe to the Republican cause and looking at his diary really gave me a sense of what it was like to be living through that period and watching the country you know fall apart around you and there's nothing you can do to stop it. That's the great thing about the blog format--it will allow you to follow the events as they unfold and to follow the thoughts of certain people over time, like John Henry Brown and Col. Alexander Biddle. Of course all the big names will turn up from time to time too--Lincoln, Grant, Davis, Lee, etc., plus some really great characters like Elmer Ellsworth and Belle Boyd. So it should be fun.
A couple of other Civil War related notes. First, since I've been spending my marinating in the rhetoric and ideology of the war in preparation for our upcoming The Civil War Begins exhibit, I was very intrigued by an op-ed in yesterday's Philadelphia Inquirer, about how sovereignty questions between state and federal government are still politically contentious today. Cue the speeches by Davis and Lincoln please... Secondly, on a more commemorative note, I want to put in a plug for the statewide website for the Civil War sesquicentennial: http://www.pacivilwar150.com/ . Its slogan and organizing principle is" Understand the war through people then & now" and like our blog project it focuses on people and stories; it also provides a wonderful event listing of all the civil War related events going on in our region and across the state. So go check it out.