BY RUTH RICE
Western Pennsylvania’s role in the Civil War will come to life in a traveling exhibit.
“The Civil War in Pennsylvania” will be on display Jan. 5 through March 5 in the second floor gallery at Heritage Discovery Center, 201 Sixth Ave. in the Cambria City section of Johnstown.
The discovery center is hosting the new traveling exhibit as part of the commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the Civil War and in partnership with the statewide Pennsylvania Civil War 150 effort.
The exhibit was created by the Senator John Heinz History Center, an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution and the largest history museum in Pennsylvania presenting American history with a western Pennsylvania connection, for its affiliate program members.
“This exhibit was developed to travel to our affiliates, which is more than 120 historical sites,” said Brady Smith, communications manager at Heinz History Center. “It’s scheduled to travel to about 40 sites in four years. Johnstown will be the 10th site of the exhibit.”
Smith said the exhibit had a trial run for one weekend only at Heinz History Center and will return to Pittsburgh from June 15 through Oct. 7.
“This will be a neat perspective and an opportunity to see something from our own backyard,” said Shelley Johansson, director of communications and marketing for Johnstown Area Heritage Association.
Johansson said there is an enormous interest and fascination with the Civil War and its 150th anniversary, and she is delighted to have the traveling exhibit in Johnstown.
“Obviously, Pennsylvania’s Civil War history is dominated by the central and eastern parts of the state and sites like Gettysburg,” said Richard Burkert, president and CEO of JAHA.
“What we find so appealing and relevant about this exhibit is that it focuses on the Civil War from a western Pennsylvania perspective.”
“The Civil War in Pennsylvania” will feature five lifelike museum figures, artifacts, previously unseen photographs and large museum panels describing Pennsylvania’s contributions to the Civil War.
The five figures are:
Strong Vincent, an attorney from Erie who rallied Union troops in the fierce battle at Little Round Top by saying, “Don’t give an inch!”
Martin Delany, a Pittsburgh abolitionist who was one of the first African-Americans admitted to Harvard Medical School and later was the highest ranking African-American in the Civil War.
Kate McBride, a young worker at the Allegheny Arsenal who represents the women and children who toiled on the home front to support the Union efforts.
Tillie Pierce, a 15-year-old Gettysburg native who hauled buckets of water for thirsty soldiers, tore cloth into bandages to aid physicians and comforted the wounded after Confederate troops overran her hometown.
Dog Jack, a brown-and-white mixed bulldog, was mascot of the Niagara Engine Company, following the men when they enlisted in Company F of the 102nd Pennsylvania Volunteers.
Smith said the explosion at the Allegheny Arsenal at Lawrenceville, Allegheny County, was the worst civilian disaster of the Civil War.
The exhibit also will feature several artifacts that illustrate Pennsylvania’s role on the battlefield and the home front.
These include a Civil War-era cannonball cut in half to show its cross section, along with a Civil War-era Enfield rifle, and Civil War paper cartridges and a collection of minie balls similar to what was created at the Allegheny Arsenal.
Issues related to slavery, the efforts on the home front, the importance of women, the role of Pittsburgh as the “Arsenal of the Union” and the impact of the Battle of Gettysburg will be addressed in the exhibit.
“What is exciting is that each institution can add other Civil War memorabilia,” Smith said. “It’s an opportunity to localize.
“We’ve had positive feedback at every stop. This will be an ongoing, four-year effort.”
Using Civil War-era artifacts from its own archive, JAHA will be able to bring the conflict even closer to home.
These items include:
Samuel Masters’ Army pay allotment certificate.
Masters was a veteran of the 54th Pennsylvania Army Regiment, Company H. He was struck in the wrist by a canister at the Battle of Lynchburg, an injury that resulted in the amputation of his left arm.
After the war, Masters was hired by the Cambria Iron Co., where he rose to the position of assistant superintendent of houses and lands.
Memorabilia from the Dwight Roberts Collection.
Roberts, a survivor of the 1889 Johnstown flood, collected Civil War memorabilia. His collection, which was donated to JAHA by his niece, Mary Adair, includes Civil War photographs, letters and other items.
Cyrus Elder’s poem, “The Regiment That Has Gone Forward.” This 1905 poem, which is part of the Dwight Roberts Collection, was read at the 32nd reunion of the 10th Regiment, Pennsylvania Reserve Volunteer Corps.
Its author was a veteran of the 10th Regiment and later became attorney and chief counsel for Cambria Iron Co.
He was the only member of the South Fork Fishing & Hunting Club from Johnstown at the time of the 1889 flood.
Memo book of Sgt. Elisha C. Bennett who served in Company C, First Battalion, 19th U.S. Infantry.
“I like that this is set up so we can augment the exhibit from our own collection,” Johansson said.
“These items have not been widely shown. We don’t have a lot because the war wasn’t in this area. There were some rumors that Johnstown would be invaded, but it wasn’t. We did have volunteers from
Johnstown, and that made an impact.”
What: “The Civil War in Pennsylvania.”
When: Jan. 5 through March 5.
Where: Second floor gallery at Heritage Discovery Center, 201 Sixth Ave. in the Cambria City section of Johnstown.
Admission: Free to JAHA members or with museum admission.
Information: 539-1889, www.jaha.org or www.heinzhistorycenter.org.
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