Gallery show features Civil War photos, soldier’s letters

Grove City College highlights the Civil War with a new exhibit this month in The Pew Fine Arts Center Gallery.

The gallery show features a collection of photographs of people and places that define the nation’s most traumatic conflict and letters home from a soldier that were recently donated to the College.

Many of the Civil War photos on display in the exhibit are photos on loan from Scott Brasseur of Gallery BFA. Originally, the photos belonged to the Medford Historical Society in Medford, Mass. They are produced from Civil War glass plate negatives that had been donated by both a Civil War veteran and Medford Mayor Samuel Crocker Lawrence.

The Medford Collection has been supplemented with photos of significant figures and battles from the Mathew Brady National Portrait Gallery and Brady Civil War Collection through the Library of Congress. Known as the father of photojournalism, Brady and a team of photographers captured soldiers and scenes throughout the conflict and some of the major leaders of the era, including iconic images of President Abraham Lincoln.

Gallery visitors can also get a look at a collection of letters written during the war by Alexander McFarland, who served in the Union Army in many of the war’s pivotal battles. McFarland wrote over 40 letters home describing his experiences, including his sadness and loneliness over losing comrades and his faith in the grace of God. He died in 1864 after being wounded in the Battle of Spotsylvania Courthouse, which also cost Confederate Gen. Stonewall Jackson his life.

An immigrant from Ireland, McFarland came to the U.S. in 1860 and served in place of his brother-in-law, a Crawford County, Pa., farmer. That farmer’s great-great-grandson, Daniel Stewart, recently gave the letters to the College.

Stewart is familiar with Grove City College because his in-laws and three of his children are alumni. He wanted McFarland’s letters to go to a place that not only had a similar faith to his but a would share the story with the public and not hide it in a private collection, according to Director of College Archives and Galleries Hilary (Lewis ’09) Walczak, who with students in her Gallery Studies class, curated and installed the exhibit. 

“The Civil War Through a Collection of Photos and Letters” runs through March 28. The Pew Fine Arts Center Gallery is open from 4 to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday and 1 to 5 p.m. Saturday.

Gallery show features Civil War photos, soldier’s letters

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