Although the shutdown of the U.S. government has closed the venerable Smithsonian Institute for a time, history buffs will still be able to explore some of the museum’s more remarkable U.S. Civil War artifacts, thanks to a soon-to-be-released coffee table book.
Smithsonian Civil War: Inside the National Collection, which hits bookstores this month, brings together more than 150 artifacts from the noted institute’s various historical collections. Similar to last spring’s The Civil War in 50 Objects by Viking Press, every item in this latest volume is accompanied by a brief narrative or anecdote that’s bound to fascinate. Collectively, the rich assortment of pieces offer even seasoned Civil War enthusiasts some fresh perspectives on the divisive four-year conflict.
Artifacts include: J.E.B Stuart’s own personal sidearm; General Philip Sheridan’s taxidermied horse; the stovetop hat Lincoln wore to Ford’s Theatre; and the white towel Robert E. Lee’s entourage waved on their way to surrender at Appomattox. The book contains several items you’d expect to see in such a collection, like flags, sabers, muskets and medals, but also some you wouldn’t: like a war amputee’s prosthetic leg or a picture frame made from a piece of hard tack.
Smithsonian curators reportedly reviewed tens thousands of relics in the institute’s vaults and storerooms before settling on the contents profiled, several of which have never before been seen by the public. In addition to the fascinating cache of historical odds and ends, the book’s 368 pages feature more than 500 photos, posters, maps and paintings from the era.
MilitaryHistoryNow.com had a chance to peruse an advanced copy of Smithsonian Civil War this week and are confident that anyone fascinated with the conflict or interested in history in general will want to clear some space on their bookshelf for this one.