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Civil War Hits Home for Hoosiers with New IHS Exhibit

Sept. 1, 2017

INDIANAPOLIS—The Indiana Historical Society (IHS) invites guests to experience the battle that changed the course of the Civil War with its newest exhibit, You Are There 1863: Letter Home from Gettysburg. The exhibit opens Sept. 23 and runs through Jan. 19, 2019, at the Eugene and Marilyn Glick Indiana History Center, located at 450 W. Ohio St. in downtown Indianapolis.

You Are There 1863: Letter Home from Gettysburg is based on the largely unknown eyewitness account of Captain David Enoch Beem of the 14th Indiana Infantry Regiment. In a letter dated July 5, 1863, Capt. Beem wrote of his experiences at Gettysburg, the deadliest battle of the war, which resulted in more than 50,000 casualties.

As visitors enter the exhibit, they will join Capt. Beem's wife Mahala in the parlor of the home she shares with her in-laws in Spencer, Indiana. Mahala will share this highly anticipated letter with guests and prompt a multimedia experience that brings her husband's words to life.

Following the film, visitors may speak with Mahala about the letter and the support she has received from friends and neighbors. Visitors may also meet other characters, such as her in-laws Levi or Sarah Beem, who are experiencing life on the home front in different ways.

In another section of the exhibit, guests can explore additional Indiana ties to the Civil War, such as Gov. Oliver P. Morton's call for volunteers and Capt. Beem's 14th Indiana Infantry Regiment. Also, visitors will find out what happened to Capt. Beem and his family following the war.

You Are There 1863: Letter Home from Gettysburg is supported in part by Daniel P. Carmichael, Craig and Jill Dunn, the Arts Council of Indianapolis and the City of Indianapolis, and The Penrod Society.

For more information about this exhibit, collection or related programs, call IHS at (317) 232-1882 or visit www.indianahistory.org.

The Battle of Gettysburg and Its Impact

The Battle of Gettysburg is recognized as one of the chief forces that turned the tide of the Civil War in the Union's favor. The battle took place two years into the war, when Confederate General Robert E. Lee led his Army of Northern Virginia into Pennsylvania as part of an overall strategy to shift the fighting into Northern territory.

On July 1, 1863, the two armies met at Gettysburg, beginning one of the bloodiest battles in American history. While Confederate troops found early success, the Army of the Potomac eventually fought the rebels to a standstill, which Lee tried to end with a large-scale assault. The Union soldiers triumphed, and the Army of Northern Virginia retreated to Virginia. It was the first time a Union army had defeated General Lee.

The Beem Family Collection

The letter describing Capt. Beem's experiences at Gettysburg is one of 192 letters in the Beem Family Collection in IHS's archives. The collection also includes Civil War documents relating to his service and the 14th Indiana Infantry Regiment; his essays and speeches, including those written during his schooling at Indiana University; and family letters, court records, deeds, receipts and other legal documents relating to Owen County life (1821-1912).

The Beem Family Collection is housed in the William H. Smith Memorial Library, on the second floor of the History Center. The library is free and open to the public during the History Center's regular operating hours of 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday. Capt. Beem's Civil War correspondence can be viewed through IHS's online digital collection at images.indianahistory.org.

About the Indiana Historical Society

Since 1830, the Indiana Historical Society has been Indiana’s Storyteller™, connecting people to the past by collecting, preserving and sharing the state’s history. A private, nonprofit membership organization, IHS maintains the nation’s premier research library and archives on the history of Indiana and the Old Northwest and presents a unique set of visitor experiences called the Indiana Experience. IHS also provides support and assistance to local museums and historical groups; publishes books and periodicals; sponsors teacher workshops; produces and hosts art exhibitions, museum theater and outside performance groups; and provides youth, adult and family programs. IHS is a Smithsonian Affiliate and a member of the International Coalition of Sites of Conscience.