A Just Cause: Voices of the American Civil War

Sep. 22, 2012Jan. 8, 2013
Library, West Hall

To complement the concurrent major photographs exhibition, “A Strange and Fearful Interest: Death, Mourning and Memory in the American Civil War,” “A Just Cause: Voices of the American Civil War” explores the war-time debate on the causes and mission of “this cruel war.” The debate that began long before the first shots were fired at Fort Sumter became increasingly fierce as the war raged on and casualties on both sides piled up.

Both sides believed that they were fighting a just war in defense of the sacred legacy of the Revolution, be it independence, the integrity of the Union, or the cause of human rights, all of which inevitably boiled down to the dispute over slavery. This battle for the nation’s soul is the focus of the exhibition. The title invokes the parting words that Abraham Lincoln addressed to his new general-in-chief, Ulysses S. Grant, in April 1864:  “And now, with a brave army, and a just cause, may God sustain you.”

The displays present the voices of numerous Americans—Northerners and Southerners, soldiers and civilians, black and white—who defended their own visions of the just cause. Visitors get a rare chance to explore these debates preserved in The Huntington’s famous Civil War collections of prints, pamphlets, cartoons, broadsides, sheet music, and private correspondence and diaries of  soldiers, chaplains, surgeons, nurses, charity workers, and their families.  

Exhibition Music

(played in the Library, West Hall)

Tom Glazer, Treasures of the Civil War Songs (The Smithsonian’s American Folkways)

Anne & Ridle Enslow, Music for Abraham Lincoln

The Americus Brass Band, Music of the Civil War

2nd South Carolina String Band, Southern Soldier, Hard Road, Dulcem Melodies
119th New York Volunteers, Field music, vol. 1

Oscar Bran, Election songs of the United States

Libby Prison Minstrels, Far From Home