By Debby Woodin
Missouri fought the Civil War on two fronts: the official clash of Union and Confederate soldiers, and the unofficial but brutal forays of guerrillas and outlaw gangs.
That is one of the aspects explored in a traveling exhibit that will open Thursday at the Joplin Museum Complex focusing on Missouri’s role in the war. The exhibit also features a number of rare pieces from the collection of Joplin resident Allen Shirley.
An opening ceremony will be at 3 p.m. Thursday at the museum in Schifferdecker Park.
The Missouri History Museum and the Missouri Humanities Council have sent “The Civil War in Missouri,” a traveling exhibit that will be on display in Joplin until Nov. 21.
The complexity of the war on the frontier and the importance of events in Missouri often receive less attention than events back East, Geoff Giglierano, executive director of the Humanities Council, noted in a statement about the exhibit.
The exhibit centers around three issues: slavery, conflicting loyalties and beliefs of residents, and the impact of guerrilla warfare.
Interactive screens tell the timeline of the war as it developed in the state and detail significant battles.
The roles of William Quantrill and William “Bloody Bill” Anderson, along with the participation of figures such as Jesse and Frank James, are described in the exhibit.
A flag from the war that is part of the Joplin museum’s own collection is included in the exhibit, as are a number of Shirley’s key pieces from his private collection. His displays include newspaper pages that relayed the original text of the 1863 Gettysburg Address and others that told of area battles.
One newspaper, The New York Herald, printed a front-page dispatch explaining the events of the Civil War in Missouri and Arkansas with a map depicting southern Missouri and northern Arkansas. Carthage, Lamar, Cassville, Nevada City and the Granby Mines all are depicted on the map, but not Joplin because Joplin was not incorporated until nearly a decade later, in 1873, Shirley said.
Visitors to the exhibit also may view three framed pieces that Shirley bought from Christie’s Auction House in New York that hold strands of hair from Abraham Lincoln and Mary Todd Lincoln, along with pieces of the wood from the gallows where those accused in the plot to assassinate Lincoln were hanged.
“These are items we want the public to know about because you’re not going to find them except in the Smithsonian or someplace like that,” Shirley said.
There also is a photograph of Lincoln’s second inauguration in which his assassin, John Wilkes Booth, can be seen standing in the audience.
“I love collecting things that are historically significant and actual pieces,” Shirley said.
“With what the state brought, we feel we have a pretty nice display.”
State legislators are scheduled to attend the opening ceremony Thursday.
“THE CIVIL WAR IN MISSOURI” traveling exhibit is a condensed version of a larger exhibit displayed at the Missouri History Museum in St. Louis. The traveling exhibit also will be shown May 25-July 21, 2013, at the Bushwhacker Museum in Nevada, and Jan. 31-March 29, 2015, in Neosho.
COMMUNITIES that want to display the exhibit may apply to the Missouri Humanities Council by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.