Elizabeth Brown Pryor in a post on the New York Times Disunion Blog describes a recent discovery of a faded and fragile letter written by Mary Custis Lee, oldest daughter of Robert E. Lee. Pryor asserts in her post that the letter changes everything historians have written about Lee’s decision to resign his commission and join the Confederacy. The discovery and the subsequent care of this letter reflects a larger truth about the power and value of documents, artifacts and places to connect us with the past, which in this case was one of the defining moments of the Civil War.
Save America’s Treasures has restored many fragments of the Civil War and its legacy. From archives that provide first-hand details of the experiences of soldiers and civilians to restoration of fighting ships to paintings and murals that depict how the war lived-on in the imagination of artists and the public. With the Civil War’s 150th anniversary just begun, another generation will learn and commemorate those that fought and lived through one of the nation’s most traumatic events in part because Save America’s Treasures has ensured that story will continue. In reflecting on how the Civil War remains a vital issue today, filmmaker Ken Burns observed, “But it is clear that the further we get from those four horrible years in our national existence — when, paradoxically, in order to become one we tore ourselves in two — the more central and defining that war becomes.”
All of the SAT projects below shed light on different aspects of Civil War. These restoration and conservation projects have created new museums, exhibits and interpretation that have attracted thousands of visitors and engaged a new generation in scholarship and understanding of the Civil War.
Records of the United States Sanitary Commission, New York, NY, 1999
Award amount: $250,000
The United States Sanitary Commission, precursor to today’s Red Cross, was a voluntary organization formed in 1861 to provide medical and physical relief to the Union troops during the Civil War. The commission’s archives include photographs, medical rolls, correspondence, memoranda, reports, registers, scrapbooks, posters and diaries. When this grant was awarded the collection was not accessible to scholars or the public due to its advanced state of deterioration. Although the conservation work the SAT funds help catalyze continues, the New York Public Library is now sharing the stories in these records through a dedicated blog.
Collections, Gettysburg National Historical Park, Gettysburg, PA, 1999
Award amount: $514,600.00
Gettysburg National Military Park’s extensive collection of Civil War artifacts includes more than a million documents, objects and relics. This Save America’s Treasures grant was critical to the conservation of these collections, providing adequate storage, treatments and other preservation activities.
Anderson Cottage, United States Soldiers’ and Airmen’s Home, Washington, DC 2001
Award amount: $750,000
For more than 140 years the Anderson Cottage, which served as a retreat for President Lincoln during his presidency, had been off-limits to visitors and almost forgotten, except by scholars. Built in 1842-43, Anderson Cottage was the country home of George W. Riggs, a prominent banker in Washington, D.C. In 1851, it became part of the U.S. Soldiers’ Home, and was a summer retreat for Presidents Buchanan, Lincoln, Hayes and Arthur. It was here that Lincoln wrote his final draft of one of the nation's most significant documents—the Emancipation Proclamation. The SAT funds leveraged more than $10 million in private funds and transformed this cottage into a vital part of Lincoln’s legacy.
Iowa Battle Flag Collection, Des Moines, IA, 2002
Award amount: $144,000
This collection includes more than 300 Civil War-era flags from Iowa's volunteer infantry and cavalry regiments and light artillery batteries, as well as Confederate flags captured in battle. The grant has supported the conservation treatments of several flags and specialized storage for the entire collection.
USS Monitor Collection, Newport News, VA, 2002
Award amount: $100,000
This grant supported the conservation of the engine, cannon, gun carriages, and other components of the National Historic Landmark Union iron-clad that sank during the Civil War. These artifacts became the core collection of a new 63,500-square-foot USS Monitor Center at the Mariner Museum. The interactive exhibit entitled Ironclad Revolution tells the story of the USS Monitor, the CSS Virginia; the men who served on both vessels.
Lincoln Station, Gettysburg, PA, 2002
Award amount: $125,000
After the battle of Gettysburg, the station was used to evacuate the wounded and bring desperately needed supplies to treat Union and Confederate injured. Months later, the station welcomed President Lincoln just before he delivered the Gettysburg Address. With the help of a Save America's Treasures grant, the historic railroad station has undergone a massive rehabilitation, and reopened as a downtown interpretive center and museum.
Civil War Naval Flag Collection, Port Columbus National Civil War Naval Museum, Columbus, GA, 2003
Award amount: $ 68,000
Of the hundreds of extant Civil War flags, very few are Naval flags. This grant will be used to conserve these seven Naval flags and make them available for public viewing for the first time since the Civil War.
Stratford Hall, Robert E. Lee Memorial Association, Stratford, VA, 2003
Award amount: $300,000
This National Historic Landmark was the family home of the Lees, whose notable members included Richard Henry Lee and Francis Lightfoot Lee, signers of the Declaration of Independence, and Civil War General Robert E. Lee. This grant will support the installation of a climate control system to protect the 18th century house and its collections.
H. L. Hunley, Friends of the Hunley, Charleston, SC, 2005
Award amount: $98,611
On February 17, 1864 the Confederate submarine embarked on a mission that would forever mark its place in American history. It was the first successful submarine in combat, sinking the Federal blockade ship USS Housatonic with its spar torpedo. The Warren Lasch Conservation Center with help from a Save America’s Treasures grant is conserving the fragile remains of the Hunley.
Pennsylvania Civil War Muster Rolls, Pennsylvania State Archives, Harrisburg, PA, 2005
Award amount: $375,000
Pennsylvania was second only to New York in its contribution of troops to the Union forces in the Civil War. The State Adjutant General’s Office created muster rolls that surpass the US War Department’s in detail on each soldier’s military service, including post-service information on many. Funds will support conservation and archival housing for a portion of the collection, the Muster-Out Rolls.
“Battle of Gettysburg” Cyclorama Painting, Gettysburg Foundation, Gettysburg, PA 2006
Award amount: $200,000
The 19th-century painting was completed two decades after the battle. It was designed to put the visitor in the middle of Pickett’s Charge, one of the Civil War’s most famous events and the culmination of the battle of Gettysburg. It is the largest conservation project for a single painting ever done in North America on a work that is a little less than 365 feet in circumference and 27 feet tall. The $9 million conservation of this painting is complete, and it is the centerpiece of the new Gettysburg Visitor Center.
USS Constellation, USS Constellation Museum, Baltimore, MD 2007
Award amount: $173,702
The U.S. Sloop-of-War Constellation, launched in 1854, is the last all-sail warship designed and built by the US Navy. It is the only Civil War era vessel still afloat, and the largest example of Chesapeake Bay traditional wooden shipbuilding in existence. Formerly listed on the National Trust for Historic 11 Most Endangered list, Save America’s Treasures funds have helped complete significant repairs to the ship’s hull and stabilized this popular public attraction.
Abraham Lincoln Library and Museum, Lincoln Memorial University, Harrogate, TN, 2007
Award amount: $29,025
This project will allow for two flags and two banners from the Abraham Lincoln Library and Museum of Lincoln Memorial University to be sent to accredited conservators for evaluation, treatment, and professional remounting. One of the flags flew over Lincoln’s funeral procession, the second flag and two banners were part of Lincoln’s 1858 bid for Stephen Douglas’s senatorial seat.
Battle Flag Restoration, St. Paul, MN, 2008
Award amount: $181,119
The Minnesota Historical Society preserves and makes available a wide range of artifacts and materials chronicling Minnesota history, including 48 battle flags associated with the Civil, Spanish, and U.S. Dakota Wars. These flags are in serious states of deterioration, improperly stored, and poorly displayed. The grant funds will conserve 23 of the Civil War flags, provide appropriate environmental storage for all 48 flags at the Minnesota History Center, and retrofit original exhibit cases for a rotating display of the flags in the Cass Gilbert designed Minnesota State Capitol.
Civil War Museum of Philadelphia, Philadelphia, PA, 2009
Award amount: $150,000
This collection of personal records, possessions, and memories of the Union officers who founded the museum in the 19th century is one of the finest assemblies of Civil War documents and artifacts in the country. The grant funds will help to conserve and re-house items in urgent need of treatment including manuscripts, photographs, paintings, flags, uniforms, and weapons.
Arlington House, Robert E. Lee Memorial, Arlington, VA 2010
Award amount: $290,000
The Arlington House was built by George Washington Parker Custis as a memorial to George Washington, his step-grandfather. For 30 years, it served as the home of Robert E. Lee and his family. Today, it is preserved as a memorial to General Lee. Funds will support the stabilization of the foundation in order to preserve the structural integrity of the mansion.
Civil War Battle Flag Collection, Little Rock, AR, 2010
Award amount: $26,032
Save America’s Treasures funding will treat three fragile battle flags. One is linked to Arkansas regiments that fought in every major Army of Tennessee battle, and a second represents an Arkansas artillery unit known for its role at the Battle of Pea Ridge. An 1868 flag is the only one of its kind from a battle between Confederate veterans and a state-organized militia during Reconstruction, representing the violent political struggles that followed the Civil War.
Charles Hoffbauer "Memorial Military" Murals, Richmond VA 2010
In 1914, the Confederate Memorial Association commissioned the leading historical muralist of the early twentieth century, Charles Hoffbauer, to do the "Four Seasons of the Confederacy". These murals were a response to the pain and destruction of the nation’s bloodiest war and became symbolic of the South’s complex perspective on the Civil War. Funds will help repair flaking and lifting paint, as well as remove layers of grime, soot and varnish.