Traveling Civil War Exhibit Debuts in Pittsburgh Before Hitting the Road

Mar 23, 2012

As part of the commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, a new traveling exhibit will be debuted in Pittsburgh. The Senator John Heinz History Center will host the display over the weekend, before it heads to its next destination.

"The Civil War was the seminal event in American history," said Heinz Center President and CEO Andy Masich, "it shaped our nation and perhaps is still shaping it today. Issues of race and sovereignty, these are issues we grapple with today."

More than 340,000 Pennsylvanians, including 8,600 African American troops, served in the Union Army. That number is second only to New York State. The Commonwealth played a key role in agricultural resources and other natural resources needed during the war, according to the center's Director or Museum Services, Anne Madarasz.

"There's also a story here of industry, Pennsylvania provided most of the coal used by the Union Army, many of the munitions and armaments and other goods, so there's a story of the home front, and what went on on the home front that was important to the war effort," she said.

The exhibit features 4 life-like museum figures of individuals from Pennsylvania who played a part in the war:

  • Strong Vincent: Born in Erie and a graduate of Harvard University, Strong Vincent was a young attorney when he enlisted in the Union Army in 1861. In the fierce battle on Little Round Top, Vincent rallied flagging troops with the phrase, "Don't give an inch!" A moment later, he was struck by a bullet and mortally wounded.
  • Martin Delany: One of the first blacks admitted to Harvard Medical School, Delany, who lived in Pittsburgh most of his life, was a practicing physician as well as an ardent abolitionist. In 1863, Delany began recruiting African American men as soldiers, many of whom joined the newly formed United States Colored Troops. Commissioned a major, Delany became the highest ranking African American in the Civil War.
  • Women and the War: Young women such as Tillie Pierce and Allegheny Arsenal worker Kate McBride contributed mightily to the Civil War. When troops turned her hometown into a bloody battlefield Tillie hauled water, tore cloth into bandages, and comforted the sick and dying. Kate McBride and other teenage girls toiled at the Arsenal making thousands of cartridges until the tragic day when an explosion killed more than 70 of them.

There are also displays of artifacts. But, Masich pointed out, because of the traveling nature of the exhibit, each stop will feature collections that are unique to local history and augmented by local collections.

The exhibit will travel for the next four years, and be hosted by nearly 40 History Center Affiliate Program institutions. The next stop will be at the Beaver Area Heritage Museum in Beaver. It will come back to Pittsburgh for about 4 months in July of 2013.