The National Archives' Civil War exhibit combines photos, documents and memorabilia with a unique presentation and modern technology.
Eager to fight during the Civil War, Sarah Emma Edmonds Seelye disguised herself as a man named Frank Thompson, enlisted in the Michigan 2nd Regiment and became a spy. Amazingly, she pulled off her gender-bending role undetected. Marriage and domestic responsibilities came after the war. But Seelye suffered extensive injuries while serving and applied for a military pension to support her family.
In 1884, after several failed applications, the House of Representatives approved Seelye's request in the amount of $12 a month. The paperwork that authenticates her victory is among millions of documents the National Archives and Records Adminstration (NARA) has unearthed and assembled into its innovative Discovering the Civil War exhibit.
The two-part exhibit, which opened at NARA headquarters in Washington, DC, and will soon go on tour (see below), marks the 150th anniversary of the war that pitted northern and southern states against each other, killed 620,000 soldiers and sailors, and freed 4 million slaves. Part one, Beginnings, illustrates the breakup of the United States and the challenges North and South faced in finding leaders and support on the homefront. Part two, Consequences, explains the war's global reach and the Reconstruction era.