Preserving The Nation

Exhibit Information
  • Clock60 minutes
  • agesApproved for most ages
  • calendarPermanent Exhibit
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A New Birth of Freedom

1861-1890
The Preserving the Nation Gallery gives visitors an understanding of the Army’s part in the defining American event of the 19th century, the Civil War. This gallery also documents the Army’s role in westward expansion, including the Lewis and Clark expedition, the Indian Wars and the Mexican War.

Artifact Highlights

Unique Artifact

54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment National Color Flag Fragment -The Federal color of the African-American 54th Massachusetts Infantry was carried in the July 18, 1863 attack on Battery Wagner on Morris Island, S.C. Sgt. William H. Carney retrieved the flag from the fallen color bearer and continued the charge. He returned from the disastrous assault shouting, “The Old Flag never touched the ground!"

Unique Artifact

General Grant’s Forage Cap -Forage caps, also known as kepis, with their exaggerated height in the back and sloping front visors, became popular headgear for Soldiers in the Union Army. When Ulysses S. Grant was appointed commanding general of the Army on March 10, 1864, he was promoted to the rank of lieutenant general.

Unique Artifact

Bartolomeo Girandoni Repeating Air Rifle -This air rifle was used by Capt. Meriwether Lewis during the expedition to explore the Louisiana Purchase. Lewis used the Girandoni’s power and rate of fire to impress American Indian tribes encountered on the route across the continent.

Unique Artifact

M1872 Artillery Dress Helmet -In 1872, all mounted troops were issued a new dress helmet, possibly based on Prussian headgear of the time, consisting of a high-crowned, plumed felt helmet with cords in the color of the branch of service -- yellow for cavalry, red for light artillery and orange for signal corps.

Unique Artifact

Regimental Color, 12th Infantry Regiment, Corps d’Afrique -This flag was carried by the 12th Infantry, Corps d’Afrique organized at Port Hudson, La. in September 1863. In April 1864, the regiment became the 84th Infantry, U.S. Colored Troops.

Unique Artifact

Hat, Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman -General Sherman wore this hat during the final campaigns of the Civil War.

“A double purpose induced me and most others to enlist, to assist in abolishing slavery and to save the country from ruin.”

Sgt. Maj. Christian Fleetwood

Soldier Profiles

Soldier Profiles
Sgt. William Crawford Smith

Smith lived in Nashville, Tenn., when the Civil War began, but returned to his birthplace…

Soldier Profiles
Sgt. Maj. Christian Fleetwood

The 4th U.S. Colored Infantry was organized in Baltimore in July 1863, and Fleetwood, a…

Soldier Profiles
Pvt. Francis E. Brownell

In May 1861, Brownell and his regiment, known as the 11th Fire Zouaves—because they were…

Soldier Profiles
Sgt. Maj. Robert C. Rathbone

Rathbone, an insurance executive and volunteer firefighter in New York, was the sergeant major of…

Soldier Profiles
Chief Trumpeter Charles W. Reed

Reed was a talented artist who filled several sketchbooks depicting the everyday life of average…