New exhibit in Harrisburg museum extols state's Civil War role
By Tony LaRussa
Published: Saturday, April 13, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
In anticipation of this summer's 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg, the state museum in Harrisburg is opening a new exhibit that focuses on Pennsylvania's role in the Civil War.
The centerpiece of the exhibit, which opens on Friday evening with a free reception, is the famed painting by Pennsylvania artist Peter F. Rothermel titled “Battle of Gettysburg: Pickett's Charge,” which first was displayed in 1870 at the Academy of Music in Philadelphia.
While the 16- by 32-foot painting has been on view at the museum since 1965, the new exhibit will showcase it against period-style draperies and display cases made of dark mahogany.
“ ‘Pickett's Charge' will be surrounded by four other Rothermel paintings in a display that evokes the original setting in which the artist's works would have been displayed,”said Howard Pollman, director of external affairs for the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission.
“Rothermel could not have imagined a sterile environment and LED lighting, so there is definitely some benefit to taking into account the surroundings in which paintings or artifacts are displayed,” said Michael Kraus, the curator at Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall & Museum in Oakland.
Kraus has a degree in fine arts and is a painter.
The exhibit will feature artifacts from the museum's collection that have not been on public view for decades, including a chair from Union Gen. George Gordon Meade's headquarters in Gettysburg and a musket used by John L. Burns, a 69-year-old Gettysburg resident who joined Union troops in the fight.
“He became quite a celebrity after the war,” Pollman said. “People loved the idea of this old guy who just grabs his musket and joins the fight.”
Some artifacts belonged to Western Pennsylvania soldiers, including:
• The dress uniform, saddle and pistol of Union Gen. John Geary, a native of Mt. Pleasant, Westmoreland County, and governor of Pennsylvania.
• A presentation cane owned by Col. Orpheus S. Woodward, who commanded the 83rd “Erie Regiment.”
• A carved musket owned by Pvt. John Rivers of Butler County.
• A presentation sword owned by Col. Hugh McNeil, commander of the 42nd Pennsylvania “Bucktails” regiment.
• The badge worn by Pittsburgh native Cpl. Edward Stewart, who enlisted in the 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment, one of the first official black military units.
Gettysburg is less than 40 miles from Harrisburg. Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee had sought to capture Gettysburg, but after Union forces under Meade crossed the Potomac, he reversed course.
“There will be a lot of people going to Gettysburg this year for the anniversary who might not even realize that there is so much more to Pennsylvania's role in the Civil War,” Pollman said. “There's multiple stories to be told, and we've tried to include some of them along with items that soldiers kept because they had meaning, such as Pvt. George Linn's ‘kepi' (cap), who continued to wear it after it was pieced by a bullet.”
Tony LaRussa is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412 -320-7987 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Emergency responders should carry drug that counteracts opiates, lawmaker argues
- Bill would let local police use radar guns
- W.Va. man dies in Greene County ATV crash
- Family of curlers sets sights on ’18 Olympics
- $1.5M grant will pay for Presque Isle sand
- Retired Pa. Game Commission chief to get $220K severance payment
- Penn State trustee resigns, regrets Paterno vote
- Penn State on pace for record number of applications
- Philly, state leaders hopeful for pope visit in 2015
- Pennsylvania plans experimental program to allow inmates computer tablets
- GOP says privatizing LCB could aid budget