Gettysburg park gets 3,000 artifacts from Civil War museum

GETTYSBURG (AP) – Gettysburg National Military Park is taking ownership of some 3,000 items from an American Civil War museum in Philadelphia that’s been closed for eight years under an agreement announced Wednesday.

The Civil War Museum of Philadelphia said it was donating artifacts linked to some of the war’s most famous figures and important events, from pieces of a flag Abraham Lincoln raised at Independence Hall a few weeks before his 1861 inauguration to a sword presented to Gen. Ulysses S. Grant by his officers to honor the Union’s pivotal 1863 victory in Vicksburg, Mississippi.

“It definitely will add to the collection of Gettysburg National Military Park in significant ways,” said park spokeswoman Katie Lawhon. “It’s just an amazing collection.”

The Philadelphia museum was founded in the 19th century by officers who served in the Union army, but by 2008 it had closed in hopes of moving from a town house in Center City to a new facility. Its collection was sent to the park and items were made part of an exhibit timed to coincide with the 1863 Battle of Gettysburg’s 150th anniversary.

The museum ran into funding problems and instead decided the best way to preserve the material, maintain it as a collection and make it available for public viewing was to donate it. The Gettysburg museum gets about 1.2 million visitors a year, compared to about 5,000 at the Philadelphia museum. The park’s collection consists of about 300,000 artifacts.

“The most important thing was preservation – making sure the collection was properly cared for, that conservation work was done, first and foremost, that it was kept together,” said Civil War Museum of Philadelphia President Sharon Smith.

Other items in the collection include a pike used by abolitionist crusader John Brown in an attack on the arsenal at Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia; an officer’s slouch hat with a bullet hole, worn by Union commanding Gen. George Gordon Meade at Gettysburg; and an original “wanted” poster for John Wilkes Booth and other Lincoln assassination conspirators.

The Philadelphia museum also donated its extensive collection of flags, including one used by Gen. George Custer at Gettysburg, along with portraits of Lincoln by David Bustill Bowser and Meade by Thomas Hicks.

Confederate items include a scarf worn by Col. John Singleton Mosby, a partisan ranger, as well as flags from the captured CSS Florida.

As part of the agreement, the Gettysburg museum will lend items to the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, with hopes of setting up an exhibit on the constitutional legacy of the Civil War and passage of constitutional amendments after the war to abolish slavery, to give blacks the right to vote, and to address a host of Reconstruction-related matters.

The Civil War Museum of Philadelphia’s books, documents and other archival material will be placed in the Heritage Center at the Union League of Philadelphia.