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Civil War Token

National Museum of American History
This Civil War Token depicts a portrait of General G. B. McClellan on the obverse and the Knickerbocker Currency logo on the reverse. Knickerbocker Currency was stuck by William H. Bridgens, the same man who was the die-cutter for Lindenmueller Currency.

Civil War Token, 1864

National Museum of American History
Although most Civil War Tokens were made out of copper, like this specimen, they were struck in other materials as well. Tokens made out of brass, silver, lead, and rubber are known to numismatists.

Civil War Token, 1863

National Museum of American History
This particular Civil War Token depicts a patriotic theme. The obverse, front of the coin, depicts a profile image of George Washington while the reverse, back, shows two hands shaking between laurel sprigs and the words “PEACE FOREVER.” One hand is labeled as the North and the other hand is labeled as the South.

Civil War Token, 1863

National Museum of American History
In the beginning of 1862, citizens went on a hoarding frenzy as high inflation plagued the market after the outbreak of the Civil War. Their target: coins of gold, silver, and copper. The hoarding problem was so extreme that the government halted the minting of coined money and by the end of 1862 there were hardly any metallic coins in circulation. This was acutely felt by business men and customers alike since coinage in small denominations was most commonly tendered at that point in time. In order to alleviate the situation, merchants and tradesmen sought alternatives to government issued small change. Privately issued tokens, typically one cent and made of copper and similar in size to government issued coinage, were used instead and by late 1862 these Civil War Tokens were circulating in Cincinnati and New York. This particular token’s text, “FOR PUBLIC ACCOMODATION,” reflects the pecuniary problem that was happening at that time.

United States Civil War Portrait Album

National Museum of American History
The struggle between North and South was followed with great interest at home and abroad. Portraits of the leading players helped those far from the action imagine the individuals they read about in newspapers. This album was kept by Karl Schenk, who became president of Switzerland in 1865. It contains small portraits known as cartes-de-visite because they were about the size of calling cards people presented at the door when visiting fashionable residences. Introduced in the late 1850s, when a process was devised for making multiple prints from a single glass negative, they functioned mainly as collectables to be preserved in albums.

Civil War Token, United States, 1861

National Museum of American History
One (1) Civil War token

United States, 1861

Obverse Image: Man with a large hat, bandanna around his neck, and a shirt decorated with stars.

Obverse Text: I AM READY / 1861

Reverse Image: Approximately forty (40) stars.

Reverse Words: THE UNION MUST & SHALL BE PRESERVED

Edge: Smooth

There are numerous examples of Civil War Tokens that display sentiments in favor of the Union. Many of the patriotic series Civil War Tokens were issued in New York. The lack of tokens in the South has been attributed to the fact that the majority of private minters were located in the North. This token depicts a pro-Union stance: “I AM READY” and “THE UNION MUST & SHALL BE PRESERVED.” Once these tokens were circulated, they would remind their user of the Union’s justifications for war and buoy up nationalist spirits.

Civil War Token, New York, 1863

National Museum of American History
Approximately one million pieces of Lindenmueller Currency were struck during the course of the Civil War Token’s short lifespan. Tokens were generally used for buying goods and fares on trains. Since Civil War Tokens could not be redeemed for U.S. currency, the system had inherent flaws. This was evident when New York’s Third Avenue Railroad requested that Lindenmueller redeem his tokens which they accepted as payment for fares. Lindenmueller laughingly declined to pay out the Third Avenue Railroad who then took their issue to the Federal Government. In 1864 Congress passed an act that forbade any private businesses or individuals to produce money. This act essentially shut down the production of Civil War Tokens.

Civil War Token, United States, 1863

National Museum of American History
Numismatists, people who study or collect coins, generally categorize Civil War Tokens into three themes: patriotic, store cards, and sutler tokens. As with this coin, patriotic themed coins displayed patriotic slogans and images. Advertisements were not printed on these tokens. This specific token has an image of the Union flag with the words, “THE FLAG OF OUR UNION” on one side and another popular patriotic statement on the other side, “IF ANYBODY ATTEMPTS TO TEAR IT DOWN/SHOOT HIM/ ON THE SPOT.”

Civil War Soldier

Smithsonian American Art Museum

Civil War Soldier

National Museum of American History
Photographs can be powerful connections to the past. Soldiers, for example often had their portraits made before going off to war so that loved ones would have a rememberance of them in the event they did not return. This decorative mat is unusual and suggests the pride the owner may have felt about his status as a fighting soldier.

Ambrotypes were most popular in the mid-1850s, and, therefore, are less common than other formats for portraits of Civil War soldiers. Ambrotypes are cased collodian negatives backed by dark cloth, paper, or varnish. In this example, pink coloring has been applied to the subjects's cheeks to make the portrait feel more warm and human.

Civil War Pardon

National Museum of American History

Civil War Soldier's Mess

National Museum of American History
Physical Description

Small metal box to protect matches, two-piece lantern, metal frying pan, and cup. Hardtack.

General History

A match safe, lantern, frying pan, and cup would have been part of a soldier’s equipment. Hardtack is the name given to a thick cracker made of flour, water, and sometimes salt. While it has been called by several nicknames, the Union Army of the Potomac referred to the ration as hardtack, and the name stuck. When stored properly, hardtack would last for years. Because it could be prepared cheaply and would last so long, hardtack was the most convenient food for soldiers. The army furnished hardtack by weight, but in most units the biscuits were doled out by number, with a ration generally being nine or ten.

Henry Mosler Civil War diary

Archives of American Art
Diary : 37 p. : handwritten, ill. ; 15 x 8 cm. The diary contains records of sketches Mosler made for Harper's Weekly, a narrative of his activities during 1862, financial notes, poems, names and addresses, and several sketches.

Civil War Draft Wheel

National Museum of American History
Wooden draft wheel used during the Civil War. The names of men eligible for the draft were written on slips of paper and dropped into this wheel. An official pulled out names to fill the ranks of the Union army.

Transfer from the War Department, 1919

Civil War-Era Powder Flask

National Museum of American History

Civil War Battle Project

SI Center for Learning and Digital Access
Teacher-created lesson in which students focus on one battle of the war and design their own version of the events.

Reclining Civil War Soldier

Smithsonian American Art Museum

Reclining Civil War Soldier

Smithsonian American Art Museum

Civil War Battles

Smithsonian Magazine

The Civil War

Smithsonian Magazine

Civil War baseball

National Museum of American History

Civil War Ballooning

National Air and Space Museum
Tom Crouch, Senior curator in the National Air and Space Museum's Aeronautics Division, discusses Thaddeus Lowe and the birth of American aerial reconnaissance during the Civil War. This presentation was recorded on May 11, 2011 on the National Mall.

Civil War Ballooning

Smithsonian Magazine
The story of how Thaddeus Lowe reinvented reconnaissance at the encouragement of President Lincoln.

Confederate Civil War Patriotic cover

National Postal Museum
CSA patriotic cover with flag on staff waving to right over cannon pointed to left. The twelve-star constellation represents the number of states in the Confederacy at the time. Design in black, Dietz Type CN-1.

The cover is addressed, but it does not appear to have been postally used. It was privately carried to its destination, per the illegible inscription "in the care of ...."
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