More than 150 years after it began, 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.
Yet the frontlines were not the only landscapes of the war. Countless civilians saw their daily lives upended while the entire nation suffered. This exhibition explores the deep connections between Northern home fronts and Civil War battle fronts, revealing that even those who lived far from the fighting felt the war’s effects every day. Home Front examines the cotton economy, visions of slavery and freedom, Indian wars, war relief work, and women’s changing roles as a result of the cataclysmic conflict. It includes paintings from the Terra Foundation for American Art and books, magazines, photographs, correspondence, sheet music, broadsides, and newspapers from the Newberry Library. Seen together, these objects of daily life demonstrate the profound impact of visual culture in shaping individuals’ understanding of the war.