Special Exhibits

Kalamazoo for the Union!

Kalamazoo for the Union!

Oct. 18, 2014 - May 17, 2015

From April 1861 to April 1865, the Civil War had tremendous impact on Kalamazoo County. To mark the 150th anniversary of the end of the war, the Kalamazoo Valley Museum has organized an exhibit entitled Kalamazoo For the Union!

Kalamazoo For the Union! is not the military story. It depicts how the war affected one community. Newspaper stories recount the patriotic fervor when the war started. Photographs depict the men who served. Letters home share their stories of military life.

Artifacts flesh out the exhibit. The lottery box used for the October 1863 draft and George Munger’s rifle used to capture Jefferson Davis are two examples.

Women contributed as well. The Ladies Soldiers Aid Society collected food, clothing, and bedding for the men. In 1864, the Society sponsored the Michigan Sanitary Fair which raised money for needed supplies. A piano that was sold at the Fair will be on display.

The exhibit explores daily life. Baseball games were played. Stores advertised holiday gift ideas. Horse races were run at the National Driving Park, located at Portage and Stockbridge, when soldiers were not training there.

In Northern cities, life went on. Only the absence of loved ones – husbands, sons, and brothers – reminded Kalamazoo residents of the war. A recreated front parlor, though, reminds us that not all those men returned.

After it ended, veterans preserved the memory of the war. Life had changed in Kalamazoo. This is the story told in Kalamazoo For the Union!

Photo Credit: Battle-scarred flag carried by the 2nd Regiment Michigan Volunteer Infantry. The regiment included many men from Kalamazoo who participated in 34 engagements, including two Battles of Bull Run and the Siege of Vicksburg.