Library of Congress shows diaries from Civil War

Associated Press Modified: November 24, 2012 at 1:00 pm •  Published: November 24, 2012

While some still debate the root causes of the war, for Benjamin Tucker Tanner in 1860, the cause was clear, as he wrote from South Carolina in his diary.

"The country seems to be bordering on a civil war all on account of slavery," wrote the future minister. "I pray God to rule and overrule all to his own glory and the good of man."

A personal letter from Mary Todd Lincoln in 1862 was recently acquired by the library and is being publicly displayed for the first time.

In the handwritten note on stationery with a black border, Mary Lincoln reveals her deep grief over the death of her son Willie months earlier. Krowl said Mary Lincoln's grief is also evident in the new movie, "Lincoln."

"When you read this letter ... you just get a palpable feeling of how in the depth that she's been and she's now finally coming out of her grief, at least to resume public affairs," Krowl said.

All the documents in the exhibit are original. They include a massive map Gen. Stonewall Jackson commissioned of Virginia's Shenandoah Valley to prepare for a major campaign.

The library also is displaying personal items from Lincoln, including the contents of his pockets on the night he was assassinated, and the pocket diary of Clara Barton who would constantly record details about soldiers she met and later founded the American Red Cross.

Some of the closing words come from soldiers who lost their right arms or hands in battle and had to learn to write left-handed. They joined a left-handed penmanship contest and shared their stories.

"I think this exhibition will have a lot of resonance for people," said exhibit director Cheryl Regan. "Certainly soldiers returning home from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are going to be incredibly moved by these stories."

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Civil War in America: http://myloc.gov/exhibitions/civil-war-in-america/

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