Civil War ends, but life isn’t easy for soldiers
Final stage of Lincoln Presidential
Library’s ‘Boys in Blue’ exhibit opens May 23, looks at soldiers’
lives after the war
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[May 22, 2014]
SPRINGFIELD – The struggles of
Civil War soldiers didn’t always end with the war. Many soldiers
faced more troubles or risked their lives in new ways when they got
home, a reality highlighted in the upcoming exhibit “Boys in Blue
IV: In Memory of Heroes” at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library
The free “Boys in Blue IV” exhibit opens at the
presidential library on Friday, May 23. Visitors are welcome seven
days a week, 9 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Through pictures, artifacts and original documents, it explains how
Illinois soldiers created the Grand Army of the Republic to speak
out on issues affecting veterans nationwide. It includes the
assassination of Abraham Lincoln, as well as anti-war riots in
It also tells the dramatic stories of two Illinois veterans, one a
future governor accused of desertion and the other an activist for
newly freed slaves.
The future governor was Joseph Fifer, who served in the 33rd
Illinois Infantry. He was wounded and went home to recuperate but
was listed as a deserter. Despite that, Fifer defeated several
former generals in the governor’s race of 1888 by campaigning as
“Private Joe.” Fifer fought for years to have his named cleared,
finally succeeding in 1923.
Henry H. Pope, a teacher from Taylorville, also served in the 33rd
Illinois Infantry. He liked the South so much that he settled in
Louisiana after the war and was elected sheriff of St. Mary’s
Parish, where he worked with Judge Valentine Chase to find
employment for recently freed slaves. On October 17, 1868, the
Knights of the White Camellia (an “aristocratic” version of the Ku
Klux Klan) gunned them both down. Pope was brought back to Illinois
by his wife and infant son and buried in Pana.
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The exhibit includes photographs, letters, newspapers and
numerous artifacts pertaining to the Grand Army of the Republic.
The GAR was founded in Decatur by Springfield physician Benjamin
F. Stephenson, who served as surgeon of the 14th Illinois
Infantry during the war. He founded it to give former soldiers
and sailors a voice in veterans’ affairs. The organization
flourished for 70 years and wasn’t dissolved until 1956, when
the last Civil War veteran died.
In addition to material owned by the presidential library, the
exhibit will showcase Illinois Historic Preservation Agency
staff who had ancestors serving in the Civil War. Several of
them have provided artifacts, photographs and letters for this
More than 142,000 people visited the first three “Boys in Blue”
exhibits, which explore the experiences of Illinois troops
during the Civil War. The exhibits are part of the state’s
efforts to mark the 150th anniversary of the war.
[Text received; CHRIS WILLIS,
ILLINOIS HISTORIC PRESERVATION AGENCY]