From the Saturday, March 1, editions of The Daily Journal (Kankakee, Ill.) and The Times (Ottawa, Ill.) …
By Dave Wischnowsky
The WISCH LIST
Our state is called the Land of Lincoln.
But, ironically, when it comes to the Civil War that defined Abraham Lincoln’s presidency, the Great Emancipator’s home state of Illinois is likely one of the last ones you think about.
But think again.
Because there’s a lot of Civil War history in Illinois, and through March 24, much of it’s living at the Newberry Library in Chicago’s Gold Coast neighborhood. With an exhibition entitled “Home Front,” the Newberry – Chicago’s independent research library, founded in 1887 at 60 W. Walton St. – captures and memorializes daily life in the Civil War North.
“More than 150 years after it began,” the Newberry explains in the exhibition, “the Civil War still occupies a prominent place in our collective memory. Paintings and photographs, plays and movies, novels, poetry, and songs remind us of the struggle over the future of slavery, Lincoln’s determination to save the Union, and the brutality of brother fighting against brother. Battles and battlefields occupy us, too. Bull Run, Antietam, and Gettysburg all conjure up images of desolate landscapes strewn with war dead.”
The frontlines, however, weren’t the war’s only landscapes. Across the country, from the East Coast to the “West,” which Chicago was then considered a part of, civilians had their lives thrown into turmoil. The Newberry’s exhibition explores these connections between the Northern home fronts and Civil War battlefronts, including war relief work and women’s changing roles due to the conflict. It features beautiful paintings from the Terra Foundation for American Art, as well as compelling books, magazines, photographs, correspondence, sheet music and newspapers from Newberry’s own Civil War archives.