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The Treasures of Tulane: Abraham Lincoln document highlights Tulane exhibition
A close-up of a military commission signed by Abraham Lincoln appointing John Wesley Turner as a major general in the Union Army. Lincoln signed this document just three weeks before his assassination. Photo credit: Louisiana Research Collection, Tulane University.

By: Mike Strecker

NEW ORLEANS, LA.- Where can you find George Washington’s letter informing John Jay of his nomination as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court or Thomas Jefferson’s plan to help Lafayette get out of debt or William C.C. Claiborne’s commission as first governor of the Louisiana Territory or William Penn’s note to Charles II, thanking him for “Pennsilvania”?

All of this, plus a commission signed by Abraham Lincoln appointing John Wesley Turner as major general, can be found at “The Treasures of Tulane,” a free exhibition sponsored by the Louisiana Research Collection (LaRC) on view Aug. 19 to 23 from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. in Tulane’s Jones Hall, Room 201.

The Turner commission, the LaRC’s newest acquisition, inspired the exhibition. Turner was aide-de-camp and staff colonel to Benjamin F. Butler, leader of the Union forces in New Orleans. He was chief commissary of the Department of the South at New Orleans, with the responsibility of distributing food to residents. Turner later became chief of staff of the Department of North Carolina and Virginia and of the Army of the James. His troops were instrumental in Lee’s surrender at Appomattox.

“I want my great grandfather’s commission permanently preserved where scholars and students can use it,” said donor Robert P. Turner III of Albuquerque, New Mexico, who earned a masters of architecture from Tulane in 1974. “With Tulane’s commitment to education and the Louisiana Research Collection’s renowned Civil War holdings, I knew that Tulane University was the right place.”

The exhibition will also include Lee’s Gettysburg letters, Stonewall Jackson’s famous “book of maxims,” the Pulitzer Prize for John Kennedy Toole’s “A Confederacy of Dunces” and the most important cache of Huey P. Long papers discovered in the last 40 years.

LaRC is the world's oldest, largest and most comprehensive library and archival research center for the study of New Orleans.

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