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Highlights Archives

Rare Civil War Broadsides Shared Online

Partial detail of an illustrated broadside listing the members of Company K of the 47th Wisconsin Infantry, February 1865

The Society recently added three dozen rare broadsides to its growing digital collection of original documents about Wisconsin in the Civil War. Broadsides are single-sheet fliers and handbills brought back by troops or printed on the homefront. They were intended to be temporary, like leaflets posted today on kiosks and light poles, so comparatively few survived the war or were preserved in libraries.

Some of the Civil War broadsides just published online are appeals for funds to help refugees, announcements of meetings or political propaganda. Four broadsides contain lyrics to songs, including one from a veterans' reunion in 1914 titled The Old Camp Randall Days.

An 1863 flier printed by the Appleton newspaper announces the men who had just been drafted. Another, from early 1865, proclaims, 2000 Army Horses Wanted! by federal officials.

Perhaps the most noteworthy are two different broadsides publicizing the Emancipation Proclamation that freed the slaves on January 1, 1863. The Great Event of the Age! Negro Emancipation Proclaimed! announces one from Newburyport, Massachusetts. Another, issued in Chicago, was printed in color and backed with linen by a previous owner who recognized its historical value.

Other rare and ephemeral documents, including additional broadsides and more than 100 pamphlets about Wisconsin in the Civil War, will become available online this spring.

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