The exhibit, “Your True Friend and Enemy: Princeton and the Civil War,” makes clear that friends on both sides of the divide struggled to remain friends. It shows that faculty members edged carefully around provocative discussions. It underscores how individuals who might have arrived through the Underground Railroad took up positions of prominence in town, even as Southern students left the campus in droves.
Using diaries, books, old photographs and letters, the exhibit provides a subtler take on the War Between the States as it was experienced far from the front lines.
It also showcases one of the university’s proudest possessions: a handwritten letter from President Abraham Lincoln graciously declining to attend a ceremony awarding him an honorary degree.
“This exhibit shows how both local communities — the College of New Jersey, the name of Princeton University at the time, and the town of Princeton — responded to the crisis in a variety of ways,” said Kristen Turner, one of several exhibit curators. “The story is more nuanced and complicated than you may remember from your history books.” Read more