Museum honors northern Minnesota Civil War volunteers from 150 years agoA student-designed exhibit on 18 volunteers from the region who volunteered to fight in the American Civil War opened at the Depot in Duluth this week.
By: Forum Newspapers, Lake County News Chronicle
A student-designed exhibit on 18 volunteers from the region who volunteered to fight in the American Civil War opened at the Depot in Duluth this week.
“A lot of people know some things about the Civil War – Gettysburg, Abraham Lincoln, slavery,” said college history major Roxanne Backowski. “We have a local tie here. This is a way to learn local history.”
Backowski, a senior at the College of St. Scholastica, and Lauren Lundberg, a University of Minnesota Duluth sophomore also majoring in history, researched and prepared the exhibit, called “The 18,” guided by Veterans’ Memorial Hall program director Dan Hartman. The exhibit examines through text and artifacts the lives and influence of 18 Duluth men who volunteered to fight in the Civil War. It is the museum’s third intern-designed exhibit.
“With its 150th anniversary coming up, we chose to do the Civil War this time,” Hartman said.
The Civil War began April 12, 1861, when Confederates attacked Fort Sumter in South Carolina. It ended after Gen. Robert E. Lee surrendered at Appomattox Court House in Virginia April 9, 1865. It is America’s deadliest war, claiming more than 600,000 soldiers – including four of region’s 18 volunteers.
At the time, about 350 settlers lived in St. Louis County. The exhibit examines the lives, accomplishments and influence of the 18 who joined the Union forces. They included Robert Jefferson, the first white man to locate a claim on the site of Duluth; Joshua Culver, Duluth’s first postmaster; Joshua B. Culver, Duluth’s first mayor; and Leonidas Merritt, co-discoverer of iron ore on the Range.
“It’s a good way, as you follow the men, to follow the growth of Duluth and St. Louis County,” Lundberg said. “We were amazed by all the history at that time and how involved they were in it.”
While Hartman suggested the exhibit’s theme, he let Backowski and Lundberg shape the exhibit. “We went in kind of blind, but Dan was there for guidance,” Lundberg said. “He let us work a lot out on our own.”
Backowski and Lundberg researched and wrote the exhibit’s narration, told with text, photos, and paintings.
“They did a fabulous job,” Hartman said. “The narration is fabulous. It’s an incredibly interesting story, a lot of it people have probably never heard or known of before.”
The exhibit is composed of eight panels, which will allow it to be moved to other locations. For its Depot run, the exhibit is augmented with artifacts from the St. Louis County Historical Society’s collection: a fragment of a Civil War cannon ball, swords used by Confederate and Union officers, medical equipment, and a 156-year-old white pine cradle used by several early area families – the Merritts, Wheelers, Elys, Abbotts and Jeffersons.
“There are some really amazing pieces, pieces I wanted to show off for years,” Hartman said.
The Depot museum complex is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 1-5 p.m. Sundays.