A COLLECTION of American Civil War memorabilia including a signed request by Abraham Lincoln has gone on display at the National Library of Scotland to mark the 150 anniversary.
The display, titled ‘Yankee Cries and Rebel Yells: The American Civil War’, features rare letters, political pamphlets, newspapers, and memoirs from the war.
One of the highlights is a request for the release of a Confederate prisoner of war signed by US President Abraham Lincoln.
Many of the items mention the Scots who fought on both sides of the war and including the son of the famous explorer and missionary David Livingstone. Robert Livingstone lied about his age to enlist in the Union Army in 1863. The teenager died the following year in a Confederate prison after being wounded in battle.
The display includes a letter to David Livingstone from his sister-in-law Harriette about Robert’s fate before it was known he had died. “From all I can learn I conclude that Robert must be a prisoner – if so I pity him. The tender mercies of the Rebels are cruel – they are trained to the practice of cruelty from their cradles,” she writes.
The display also includes the remarkable claim that the Scots literary giant Sir Walter Scott was in part responsible for the war, even though he died 30 years before it began.
Sir Walter Scott’s historical adventures such as Ivanhoe were very popular in America and have been seen by some as having a major influence of Southern values of birth, rank and honour.
In his travelogue Life on the Mississippi, the writer Mark Twain declared: “It was Sir Walter that made every gentleman in the South a Major or a Colonel, or a General or a Judge […] Sir Walter had so large a hand in making Southern character, as it existed before the war, that he is in great measure responsible for the war.”
US and Commonwealth Curator Dora Petherbridge, who curated the display said: “150 years after its close, the American Civil War still inspires fascination and debate.
“Many people encounter the conflict through novels and Hollywood films. The cultural legacy of the war is immense. I hope the original documents in the display will offer visitors perspectives on the era that they may not have encountered before.”
Other highlights in the collection include the deed of sale of slave-woman Lettice and her child Whinny for $278 in North Carolina in 1829. There is also a pocket diary of a Union soldier fighting in Confederate Virginia in 1862 and letters from Charles Paine who rose from Union captain to brigadier general writing about the progress of the war.
The display also includes a rare signed first edition of the novelGone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell which has been credited with doing more to shape understanding of the war than historical studies. The book was published in 1936 and became one of the most popular novels in US history selling up to 50,000 copies in a day. More than 30 million copies have been sold overall and the book was made into a film which remains one of the most successful in box-office history.
Entry is free for Yankee Cries and Rebel Yells: The American Civil War and runs until 22 March at the National Library of Scotland.