“Your True Friend and Enemy”: Princeton and the Civil War

Civil War exhibition reveals sectional fissures within college and town.

“Your True Friend and Enemy”: Princeton and the Civil War, a new exhibition at Princeton University’s Seeley G. Mudd Manuscript Library, examines life at the college and within the town of Princeton against the backdrop of the War Between the States. Through the eyes of students, faculty, and townspeople—including women and African Americans—the exhibition provides a local view of this watershed event in American history. It opens on September 17, 2012, the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Antietam, after which President Abraham Lincoln issued the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation.

“Each case features something related to Abraham Lincoln,” said Dan Linke, the head of the Mudd Manuscript Library and one of the four exhibition curators. “We have student accounts of his pre-inaugural speech in Trenton and then his funeral train, as well as an alumnus soldier’s diary noting the assassination. Perhaps the most significant item is the three-page handwritten letter sent by Lincoln to the college president accepting an honorary degree. It is one of the University’s treasured possessions and what a former dean called ‘among the title deeds to our Americanism.’”

Letters and documents drawn from the University Archives at the Mudd Manuscript Library and from other units of the Department of Rare Books and Special Collections, as well as the Historical Society of Princeton, demonstrate how sectional differences affected student life and how the bonds of friendship transcended the national conflict. The exhibition also illuminates how Princetonians and the university have commemorated the war and preserved the memory of fallen student and alumni soldiers.

Mudd Library staff members Christie Lutz, Brenda Tindal, and Kristen Turner also curated the exhibition. “This exhibit shows how both local communities—the College of New Jersey and Princeton—grappled with the impact of the Civil War and responded to the crisis in a variety of ways.” said Turner. “The story is more nuanced and complicated than you may remember from your history books.”

“Your True Friend and Enemy”: Princeton and the Civil War is free and open to the public in the Wiess Lounge at the Mudd Manuscript Library, 65 Olden Street, until June 1, 2013. The exhibition is open from 9 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. Monday through Friday. An open house will be held at Mudd Library from 10 a.m. until noon on Saturday, October 20, 2012. A behind-the-scenes tour will start at 10:30 a.m.

For more information, call 609-258-6345 or email mudd@princeton.edu.

 

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