Civil War 150 Update, Summer 2012

With the 149th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg just completed, it seems like a good time to take a look at what’s going on with the Civil War sesquicentennial on the Trails of History. (For general info on activities throughout Pennsylvania, visit the PA Civil War 150 website.)

In April, the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania opened a new temporary exhibit, “The Role of Railroads in Pennsylvania During the Civil War,” in its second floor gallery. The exhibit explores the impact of railroads on the war (and vice versa) using both statewide and national contexts. I had a chance to see the exhibit last month and will share a few of my photos (the ones that aren’t too blurry to use—not sure what happened).

One of the running themes of the exhibit is the role of telegraphy and telegraph operators in communicating troop movements and supply needs. By 1861, railroads were using telegraphy to dispatch trains and had a network in place. Railroad telegraphers played an important role on both sides of the conflict.

Telegraph key of Ten Eyck Fonda, who received and conveyed (in person) a telegraph message warning of the advance of Confederate troops toward Gettysburg

Numerous historical photographs, documents, and maps also help to tell the complex story of the people and places involved in railroading during the war

The exhibit runs through December, so there’s still time to catch it. On Saturday, July 14, the museum will present "Three Authors and an Artist," a Civil War-themed event featuring authors Herbert H. Harwood, Jr. (The Railroad that Never Was), Diana Harris (Reflections of a Civil War Locomotive Engineer), and Scott Mingus, Sr. (Flames Beyond Gettysburg). Artist Bradley Schmehl will sign reproductions of his painting, Columbia Bridge Burning. You can get more info (and order books) here.

The Pennsylvania Civil War 150 Road Show is on the move again. It’s at the Kutztown Folk Fest in Berks County through this weekend (that is, now through Sunday, July 8). Next weekend (July 12-15) it will be at the Centre County Historical Society, not too far from either the People’s Choice Festival of Pennsylvania Arts and Craft (on the grounds of the Pennsylvania Military Museum in Boalsburg) or the Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts (in State College). For a complete schedule of the Road Show’s appearances this summer, including a visit to the State Museum of PA, July 20-22, go here.

Other Trails of History offerings this summer that feature or include the Civil War are:
• Armed Forces Tribute Weekend, July 14-15, and Living History/Civil War Weekend, August 18-19, at Eckley Miners’ Village
• Civil War Days, July 28-29, at Landis Valley Village and Farm Museum
• Then & NOW living history timeline, Sept. 8-9, at Pennsylvania Military Museum

And for an update on the Civil War Muster Rolls project, check out the Pennsylvania State Archives summer newsletter here.


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