Are we that wait – sufficient worth –
That such Enormous Pearl
As life – dissolved be – for Us –
In Battle’s – horrid Bowl?
– Emily Dickinson, Poem 444
It is natural to imagine the Civil War as a battlefield event. Americans still visit historical sites to learn about the military strategies, tactics, and fortunes of each side, and to imagine the action of battle. But it is equally important to remember that everyday people on the homefront, often far away from the actual fighting, also contributed to the war effort and experienced its tragic consequences.
Most of the artworks presented in this exhibit were produced during the Civil War era and paint a vivid picture of life on the Northern homefront. Artists recorded their environment and captured the ways in which civilians tried to help and struggled to manage during such an uncertain time. These artworks show new war-related industries and services (including prisoner-of-war camps), changing gender roles in society, and the way that civilians struggled to cope with the death and injury of so many soldiers.