The Massachusetts Historical Society is recognizing the 150th anniversary of the Civil War with online presentations of manuscripts selected from its collections, lectures by noted Civil War scholars, and exhibitions in our second floor gallery space.

Web Features

Civil War Manuscript Collections Online

Funding for the digitization of the following nine Civil War manuscript collections that enabled both the creation of preservation microfilm and the online version of the collections was provided by the Institute of Museum and Library Services under the provisions of the Library Services and Technology Act grant as administered by the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners.

Items from the monthly Civil War featureLooking at the Civil War: Massachusetts Finds Her Voice

This monthly feature showcases Civil War-era materials from the Massachusetts Historical Society's rich collections.  Please visit each month and examine a selection from the Society's collection of unique manuscript and visual materials that conveys how the people of Massachusetts experienced the war in that month 150 years ago. 

Massachusetts in the Civil War, 1861-1862

View a selection of documents, photographs, broadsides, and maps featured in the exhibition, The Purchase by Blood: Massachusetts in the Civil War (see details below).

Timeline

A timeline of significant Civil War events with occasional links to related web content. View the timeline.

Events

Front of 1154 Boylston StreetUpcoming Events

  • Currently, no events are scheduled. Please check back for updates to this area.

Past Events

  • 21 October 2014, 12:00 P.M. Civil War Boston. More information...
  • 10 May 2014, 10:00 A.M. Created Equal: Walking Tour of Boston's Black Heritage Trail. The tour is presented by our partner organization Boston African American National Historic Site. More information...
  • 2 April 2014, 5:30 P.M. Created Equal: The Abolitionists and The Freedom Riders. More information...
  • 29 March 2014, 1:00 P.M. Tell It with Pride. More information...
  • 12 March 2014, 5:30 P.M. Created Equal: The Abolitionists and Slavery by Another Name. More information...
  • 20 February 2014, 6:00 P.M., Tell It with Pride Preview Reception. More information...
  • 12 February 2014, 5:30 P.M., Created Equal: The Loving Story. More information...
  • 29 May 2013, 6:00 P.M. Sounds of the Civil WarMore information...
  • 16 May 2013, 6:00 P.M. The Tender Heart and Brave: The Politics and Friendship of Charles Sumner and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. More information...
  •  28 April 2013, 2:00 P.M. Authors & Abolitionists: A Walking Tour of Concord, Mass. More information...
  • 4-6 Apri, 2013, Conference: Massachusetts and the Civil War: the Commonwealth and National Discunion. More information....
  • 11 February 2012, 6:00 P.M. Lincoln & Liberty, Too. More information...
  • 19 January 2013, 2:00 P.M. America’s Second Revolution: New England, Old England, & the Civil War. More information...
  • 27 November 2012, 6:00 P.M. The Confederacy in History, Myth, & Memory. More information...
  • 19 November 2012, 6:00 P.M. Cotton & Race in the Making of Massachusetts & America. More information...
  • 17 November 2011, 6:00 P.M., Daughters of the Union: Northern Women Fight the Civil War . More information ...
  • 6 November 2011, 2:00 P.M., Civil War Walking Tour. More information ...
  • 25 October 2011, 12:00 P.M., The Trent Affair.More information ...
  • 12 October 2011, 6:00 P.M., 1861: The Civil War Awakening. More information ...
  • 17 September 2011, 2:00 P.M., The Trent Affair. More information ...
  • 13 August 2011, 2:00 P.M., Citizenship Through Civil War Service. More information ...
  • 12 April 2011, 12:00 P.M., A Crisis in Leadership: Massachusetts on the Eve of the Civil War. More information ...
  • 19 March 2011, from 10 AM to 3 PM, the Massachusetts Historical Society will kick off its sesquicentennial commemoration of the Civil War with its spring Open House. More information ...
  • 17 February 2011, 6 P.M.:  "To Place the Federal Govt on the Side of Freedom": Remembering Charles Sumner. Special lecture by Beverly Wilson Palmer. More information ...

Exhibitions

  • Tell It with Pride: The 54th Massachusetts Regiment and Augustus Saint-Gaudens' Shaw Memorial
    21 February to 23 May 2014
    Organized by the National Gallery of Art, Washington, Tell It with Pride celebrates Augustus Saint-Gaudens's magisterial Shaw Memorial (1883–1900). When Saint-Gaudens created the monument, he based his likeness of Shaw on photographs of the colonel, but for his depiction of the other soldiers, he hired African American men to pose in his studio. This exhibition seeks to make real the soldiers of the 54th represented anonymously in the memorial. It brings together vintage photographic portraits of members of the regiment and of the men and women who recruited, nursed, taught, and guided them.
  • Proclaim Liberty Throughout All the Land: Boston Abolitionists, 1831-1865
    22 February to 24 May 2013
    Massachusetts, the home of abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison and The Liberator, was the nexus for the American antislavery movement. This exhibition will feature manuscripts; broadsides and banners announcing antislavery meetings and fairs; artifacts—including the imposing stone for The Liberator; and portraits of key players to illustrate the role of Massachusetts in the national debate over slavery and demonstrate how the movement was communicated and followed.
  • The Purchase by Blood: Massachusetts in the Civil War, 1861-1862 
    7 October 2011 to 13 January 2012
    Following the surrender of Fort Sumter on 13 April 1861, Northerners rallied behind President Lincoln's call for states to send troops to preserve the Union. This exhibition follows a small group of officers—husbands, brothers, and friends of the first families of Massachusetts—through the first years of the Civil War. These young men, like so many, wanted to feel the glory of combat and enlisted with a sense of adventure and unquestioning patriotism. Not anticipated was the bloody aftermath of early conflicts—the Battle of Ball's Bluff, the Seven Days Battle, the Battle of Cedar Mountain, the Battle of Antietam—and the horrifying loss of life and optimism. This exhibition showcases letters, photographs, broadsides, journals, and works of art surrounding one group of men as the price of war is brought home to Massachusetts.

Publications

MHS Bookshelf of Selected Reprints: Civil War Series

Affordable paperback editions of four classic titles in Civil War history, published by the MHS in the early decades of the 20th century and comprised primarily of selections from letters and diaries in the Society's collections.  More information ...

Classroom Tools

The Education Department offers a variety of resources related to the Civil War for K-12 educators, including primary-source-based lesson plans, workshops, and online resources. More information ...

Additional Links

  • Massachusetts 54th Regiment--Web presentation of photographs and a few broadsides relating to the first black regiment that fought in the Civil War.  
  • Celebrating Lincoln--Web displays of manuscripts, artifacts, portraits, and sculpture relating to Abraham Lincoln drawn from the MHS collections.