Friday, December 17, 2010

A human face on a national tragedy

The latest issue of American History magazine features an article on the Liljenquist Family Collection of Civil War photographs at the Library of Congress. Nearly 700 photographs depicting mostly young and unknown Union and Confederate soldiers were donated to the Library of Congress by Tom Liljenquist and his three sons (Jason, Brandon, and Christian) of McLean, VA.

As the Civil War nears its 150th anniversary, the passage of time and the magnitude of the suffering (more than 600,000 killed) can obscure the individual human sacrifice and commitment from each of the combatants. These photographs have a shocking immediacy to them. They're just ordinary young men, most about the same age of our students, the same age as (if not younger than) the men and women who are currently serving our country.

The Library of Congress is planning to open an exhibit, "The Last Full Measure: Civil War Photographs From the Liljenquist Family Collection," in April to mark the sesquicentennial. Until then, you can view most of the images at

(Photograph from the Liljenquist Collection at the Library of Congress)

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