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Civil War 'Death, Mourning and Memory' on display at Huntington Library

Civilians & Soldiers, Chattanooga
Civilians & Soldiers, Chattanooga
The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens

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The American Civil War raged mercilessly for four years, from 1861 to 1865, and even today, 151 years after the start of the war, its legacy is still palpable throughout the country. It was also one of the first wars to be covered by photography.

This weekend marks the last chance visitors to the Huntington Library will be able to see the  exhibit Strange And Fearful Interest: Death, Morning, and Memory In The American Civil War. The exhibit is based solely on imagery of the war, from the gruesome battlefields to the funeral of Abraham Lincoln.  

The American Civil War was the bloodiest war in history, and thanks to new photo technology, it was the first time in history that American homes could see the actual devastation of the battlefield.

"This is the very first war in which American battle-dead are shown," Watts told Patt Morrison. "Antietam occurs, [where] you have 23,000 casualties, and one of the photographers at the time is able to get onto the battlefield and show the human devastation. For people to see this type of carnage was truly horrifying ... I think to be able to show this graphically, photographically, was such a shock [to families]."

According to Watts, approximately 750,000 Americans died during the Civil War, more than all other major conflicts from the Revolutionary War to the present, and the equivalent of 7-million Americans today.

"That's one of the reasons why the Civil War is such a powerful moment," Watts said. "It affected everyone. It didn't matter if you were slave or free, union or confederate, death touched every single person in this country."