NEW HAVEN – History buffs likely won’t want to miss a new exhibit at the Knights of Columbus Museum, “Answering the Call: Service & Charity in the Civil War,” which focuses on religious ministry and medical care provided to Civil War soldiers.
The museum is marking the 150th anniversary of the end of the Civil War (1861-65) with the exhibition, which features profiles of Catholic soldiers, chaplains and women religious who primarily served as nurses.
"We wanted to do something to commemorate the end of the Civil War," said museum curator Bethany Sheffer, "and our first supreme knight, James T. Mullen, was a veteran with the 9th Connecticut Infantry, so we wanted to acknowledge that regiment."
According to Ms. Sheffer, both Confederate and Union soldiers and officers in the combat included Catholics. While many priests ministered as battlefield chaplains, women religious tended to the wounded in hospitals and prisons.
Among the 22 religious congregations recognized in the exhibit are the Sisters of Mercy, Daughters of Charity, Sisters of the Holy Cross and Sisters of St. Joseph, as well as the Dominican, Ursuline and Carmelite religious communities.
The show centers on wartime struggles and hardships as well as acts of bravery, charity and compassion in the midst of battle.
"What we're trying to do is showcase what life was like as a soldier and the hardships they faced," she said. "And also what chaplains and nurses faced, and the amazing things they did to help a lot of people despite hardships."
The exhibit includes a history of the 9th Connecticut, a volunteer infantry regiment whose members were predominantly of Irish ancestry, many of whom were from New Haven, including Sgt. Mullen, who later became the first supreme knight of the Knights of Columbus.
Many soldiers who took up arms were immigrants, mostly from Ireland, who fought not only to prove their allegiance to their new country and loyalty to the regions in which they lived, but also for the security of their families.
"Answering the Call" includes references to battles and military campaigns, with emphasis on conditions in military encampments and the aftermath of combat, such as medical care and spiritual needs of the wounded and dying.
The exhibition, which runs through Sept. 20, includes a Civil War timeline; Civil War uniform and swords; more than 150 images, from period photography to modern artwork; letters from the battlefield; a reproduction shelter tent and tent chapel; and interactive displays with biographies, monuments, battle stories and a quiz.
The museum gift shop is also making available copies of Memoirs of a Chaplain Life, by Union chaplain William Corby, which offers insight into the life of the Irish Brigade; and the book, The Civil War, a Visual History (2011), produced by the Smithsonian for the 150th anniversary ($32).
The following are complementary Civil War presentations: April 25, "Tunes & Tales from the American Civil War Period," by Tom Callinan, Connecticut's official state troubadour; May 23, "To Bind Up Their Wounds: Catholic Nuns in the Civil War," by Sister of Mercy Dolores Liptak, adjunct professor at Holy Apostles College in Cromwell; June 20, "Civil War Naval Campaigns: History, Strategy & Myth," by Navy Lt. (Ret.) Geoffrey McLean; July 18, "A Match Not Made in Heaven, and Other Causes of the Civil War," by George Burke, adjunct professor at Mount St. Mary College in New York; Aug. 22, "Strong in Their Patriotic Devotion: Connecticut's Irish in the Civil War," by author Neil Hogan; and Sept. 19, "New Haven's Civil War Hospital"; by author Dr. Ira Spar.