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Smithsonian treasures tell stories of the Civil War in a new book
Smithsonian Civil War: Inside the National Collection. Image: Smithsonian Books.

WASHINGTON, DC.- The Smithsonian offers an unprecedented behind-the-scenes look at its Civil War treasures in Smithsonian Civil War: Inside the National Collection. Thirteen Smithsonian museums and research centers contributed to this commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the Civil War. Each of the 150 entries in the book tells a Civil War story illustrated by objects handpicked by Smithsonian curators and historians.

The treasures range from famous historical icons—notably the original “Old Glory” flag and the hat Lincoln wore to Ford’s Theatre on the night he was assassinated—to rare, fragile and never-before-seen artifacts selected from cabinets, store rooms and locked vaults. The Smithsonian’s Civil War collection has never been showcased like this before; many of these historical gems have been brought to light for the very first time.

Objects from 13 Smithsonian museums and research centers come together to illuminate different aspects of the Civil War. The National Portrait Gallery provides rare early photographs of Stonewall Jackson and Ulysses S. Grant. From the National Museum of American History comes a slave-ship manifest listing its human cargo and secret messages that were hidden inside Lincoln’s gold watch for almost 150 years. The National Air and Space Museum contributes futuristic aircraft designs from the Civil War era. Objects as diverse as weaponry, posters, jewelry, military uniforms, paintings and letters complete this panoramic view of the Civil War.

Smithsonian Civil War is written by 49 Smithsonian curators responsible for preserving and interpreting priceless treasures from America’s past. The narratives are illustrated with more than 550 color photographs of the Civil War treasures from the national collection, including all-new photography of three-dimensional objects. Featuring a foreword by historian Jon Meacham, Smithsonian Civil War will appeal to history lovers and Civil War buffs alike.

The Smithsonian is the largest museum complex in the world. Smithsonian Civil War features objects from 13 Smithsonian museums and research centers and text by 49 curators with expertise in a variety of fields. Neil Kagan specializes in producing innovative illustrated books. As the former publisher for Time-Life Books, he created numerous book series, including Voices of the Civil War, Our American Century and What Life Was Like. He has edited Great Battles of the Civil War, Great Photographs of the Civil War, Concise History of the World, Eyewitness to the Civil War, Atlas of the Civil War and The Untold Civil War.

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