Friday, April 15, 2011

The Last Full Measure at the Library of Congress

The Library of Congress web site ( is quickly becoming my favorite place to find primary sources. It is simply amazing how much historic information on almost any subject in America's past can be found over there.

Their Civil War photograph collection has always been top notch, and a first place stop for historians to find illustrations to their texts. But, there has been an recent addition to this fine collection. On exhibit now, not only in their Washington D.C. facilities, but also online, is The Last Full Measure, the Liljenquist Family Collection of Civil War era photographic portraits. The following is the description that the Library of Congress provides about the collection:

The Last Full Measure: Civil War Photographs from the Liljenquist Family Collection

The Last Full Measure: Civil War Photographs from the Liljenquist Family Collection presents a stunning array of Civil War-era ambrotype and tintype photographs that associates human faces, often startlingly young, with statistics on both sides in this wrenching conflict. This exhibition features portraits of enlisted men in uniform—both Union and Confederate—and serves as a memorial to those who lost their lives during the war by displaying images of 360 Union soldiers in uniform—one for every thousand who died—and 52 rare images of Confederate soldiers—one for every five thousand casualties. More than 620,000 Union and Confederate soldiers died in the Civil War, a greater number of deaths than occurred in all other American wars combined through Vietnam.

Surrounding visitors to the exhibition, these portraits invite quiet contemplation of the human costs of the war and the courage and determination that characterized the people on both sides. The names of most of those pictured have been lost during the passage of time. As it preserves these portraits, the Library of Congress is also using the power of electronic media to recover as much information as possible about these individuals and to add details about their uniforms, hats, guns, swords, belt buckles, canteens, musical instruments, and the other items that surround them. A digital comment book at the end of the exhibition allows visitors to post their thoughts about individual photos and to reflect on the Civil War.

The Last Full Measure also tells the story of the family that has built the powerful collection of Civil War portraits, now numbering more than 700 images, from which this exhibition is drawn. As they continue adding to the collection, Tom Liljenquist and his sons Jason, Brandon, and Christian seek to inspire in others an interest in the amazing personal stories that are at the heart of all history. The Last Full Measure marks the beginning of the Library’s sesquicentennial commemoration of the Civil War, in which three million Americans donned uniforms and countless others provided support on and off the field of battle—each person making a contribution to this defining chapter in the continuing story of the United States of America.

Take a few minutes to browse through this treasure trove of history. The faces of these men and women, both black and white, both Union and Confederate, are the faces of a generation that experienced the most trying time in America's history.

Here's the link:

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