2011 marks the 150th anniversary of the beginning of the Civil War, and history buffs will find no shortage of sites and events in the DC area to commemorate the historical date and learn more. There are some obvious choices: Ford’s Theatre, President Lincoln’s Cottage, Frederick Douglass House, the National Museum of American History, and the National Archives, to name just a few. Besides all the history museums, there are Civil War defense forts throughout DC, and battlefields to which one can make a day trip. Websites provide examples of suggested itineraries for packing a few days with Civil War-related activities.
Along with all these options are some that probably don’t immediately come to mind. The National Postal Museum will host a Civil War family day, focusing on postal history during the Civil War as well as stamps relating to this period (of which there are many!). Next year, the Smithsonian American Art Museum will unveil an exhibit called The Civil War and American Art.
And at the Lillian and Albert Small Jewish Museum, I attended a lunchtime lecture and learned about local Jewish history during the Civil War. Sitting in the oldest synagogue in DC, I listened to a talk that focused on the lives of individual Jewish citizens during the Civil War – some in DC (Union) and some across the Potomac River in Alexandria (Confederate). The exhibit panels in the museum echoed these individual stories. While other recent museum visits have given me a fuller picture of famous figures like Abraham Lincoln, Frederick Douglass, and Robert E. Lee, the exhibit at the Small Jewish Museum focused on people I’d never heard of but whose lives also intersected with the Civil War, such as Abraham Lincoln’s foot doctor and confidante who was dismissed by some as a mere “toenail trimmer.”
With a plethora of museums addressing the Civil War anniversary, what would your itinerary include?