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The history, the people and the stories of the Upper Midwest



Upcoming Lectures


Envisioning Emancipation: Black Americans and the End of Slavery

Friday, June 11  |  Noon  |  Presenter: Dr. Barbara Krauthamer  |  Watch on Facebook

Dr. Krauthamer’s presentation draws upon her work on the history of African American photography in the Civil War era.  By looking at historical images and understanding the circumstances under which they were produced, we can better understand the lives and aspirations of African American women and men in the 19th Century United States.  This talk will feature both works by African American photographers and images of African American subjects to illuminate the intellectual and artistic richness of African American communities in the 19th Century.

Click here to learn more

Dr. Barbara Krauthamer is associate professor of history and associate dean of the Graduate School at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. She is the author of Black Slaves, Indian Masters: Slavery, Emancipation, and Citizenship in the Native American History. She has received awards and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities, Stanford University, Yale University, University of Texas at Austin, the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, and the Association of Black Women Historians.


German-American Soldiers in the Civil War: A Military and Social Overview

Friday, July 9  |  Noon  |  Presenter: Christian B. Keller  |  Watch on Facebook

German-born immigrant soldiers aggregately composed 12% of the Union armies and their sons and immediate offspring made up another sizable percentage. Significant not only in sheer numbers, they also participated in all the major campaigns and were concentrated in a “German division” in the East in 1862, which later became the 11th Army Corps. Subject to nativistic prejudice and skepticism from their Anglo-American comrades, these soldiers faced an uphill struggle for acceptance in greater Northern society, culminating in the aftermath of the Chancellorsville Campaign. Following that climactic event, German-Americans began to unify in common indignation against the accusations hurled against them and started a national process of ethnic reinforcement at the expense of Americanization. This led to a postwar boom in German-American cultural and political unity that was only shattered by the advent of WWI.


The Notre Dame Chaplains

Friday, August 13  |  Noon  |  Presenter: Father Robert Miller  |  Location: Civil War Museum

Football fans know of Notre Dame’s “Fighting Irish” but they may not know the original “fight Irish” Civil War chaplains! Notre Dame was a fledgling young school in northern Indiana when the war broke out, but founder Fr. Edward Sorin quickly realized the need for chaplains for the Catholic Irish troops. Several of his priests got drawn into the Irish Brigade, but others quickly volunteered to serve the Midwest Union troops.

More About Father Robert Miller

Fr. Robert Miller has specialized in the role of religion in the Civil War. He is a Catholic priest, former President of the Chicago Civil War Roundtable, a pastor on the Southside of Chicago, founder of a faith-based housing corporation, and the author of six books. His latest book is Both Prayed to the Same God – Religion and Faith in the Civil War.


Click here to watch past lectures and the Coffee & Hardtack series on YouTube



Virtual Programs

Juneteenth Performance: Caroline Quarlls – My Independence Day

Saturday, June 19  |  1pm  |  Free Zoom program – advance registration required  |
Register Here by June 18

During this first-person theater performance, meet Caroline Quarlls, an enslaved 16 year old girl who left the slave state of Missouri and began a journey that took her to Milwaukee. There she met a number of people who assisted with her escape to freedom in Canada. The audience will meet Caroline in 1880 after she just received a letter from Mr. Lyman Goodnow, one of the people that helped her travel the Underground Railroad from Wisconsin to Canada in 1842. The powerful performance recounts their harrowing experiences and is based on the responses Caroline wrote to questions in Goodnow’s letter.



I’ve Heard of Her Programs

Once a month museum staff lead a discussion on remarkable women, exploring their lives and roles in history – the good, the bad, and the in between.


Billie Jean King

Thursday, June 17  |  Noon  |  Presenters: Caitlin Manwaring & Samantha Machalik  |  Location: Civil War Museum

We’re talking sports and gender equality. Arguably one of the greatest tennis players of all time, Billie Jean King changed the sport for women. King won the infamous “Battle of the Sexes” match against Bobby Riggs in 1973. She has been a major advocate for gender equality throughout her life, and in the 1980s she became one of the first major athletes to publicly come out as being in a same sex relationship.


Sandra Day O’Connor

Thursday, July 15  |  Noon  |  Presenters: Caitlin Manwaring & Samantha Machalik  |  Location: Civil War Museum

Forty years ago, on July 7, 2981, Sandra Day O’Connor became the first woman to be appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court. Facing discrimination in the law field after graduating third in her class at Standford Law, she practiced in Germany before returning the U.S. to serve as the Assistant Attorney General and later State Senator in Arizona. Learn how she was a champion for women’s rights, an unpredictable voter in the Supreme Court, and how she continues to use her influence even after retirement.



Thursday, August 19  |  Noon  |  Presenters: Caitlin Manwaring & Samantha Machalik  |  Location: Civil War Museum

It’s commonly said that Cleopatra was the beautiful lover of two of the most powerful men of the time, and that she killed herself using a snake.  But is it all true? Learn what her life was like before Julius Caesar came to Alexandria in 48 BCE, and if she really married her brother, as we sort the myth from the truth.


Click here to watch past I’ve Heard of Her programs on YouTube



Black History Book Club

Third Thursday of the Month  |  6 – 7pm  |  Free but registration required  |  Location: Civil War Museum
Register here through the Kenosha Public Library

Join the Civil War Museum and Kenosha Public Library for a book club celebrating Black history. Choose any book that relates to the monthly theme, and come prepared to discuss.\

July 15 – The Big Six civil rights leaders that organized the first March on Washington

August 19 – Black LGBTQIA+/Queer history

September 16 – Plays written by Black playwrights




This monthly program is for individuals living with early to mid-stage memory loss and their care partners. Participants are engaged in lively conversations, storytelling and other multi-sensory activities.

Please register for the free program at [email protected] or 262-653-4141.


You Are the Soldier

Friday, June 18  |  2pm  |  Held Virtually via Zoom (a link will be emailed after registering)

Learn about the uniforms, equipment and personal items of the Union soldiers. Create your own virtual knapsack by making choices about the items you would pack if you were a Civil War soldier.


Civil War People and Personalities

Friday, July 16  |  2pm  |  Location: Civil War Museum

Hear the stories of several people who rose to prominence both on and off the battlefield, during and after the Civil War.


Civil War Medical Care

Friday, August 20  |  2pm  |  Location: Civil War Museum

Compare the modern medical system to that used during the Civil War, and discover the similarities and differences.



Great Lakes Civil War Forum: Immigrants and the Civil War

Saturday, September 11  |  9am – 4pm

In-Person Option: $55 ($70 non-member price) includes live in-person presenters, coffee breaks and boxed lunch
Register Here for In-Person  |  Limited to 30 participants

Virtual Option:  $35 ($50 non-member price) includes all presentations streamed live via Zoom
Register Here for Virtual by September 8

By the close of the Civil War, nearly 25% of the Federal Army was composed of foreign born soldiers who immigrated to the United States. The 2021 Great Lakes Civil War Forum presents four programs that examine the experiences of some of these groups in the Union Army as well as Abraham Lincoln’s official policies towards immigrants.

Presentations Include:


Polish Participation in Civil War America

Presented by Dr. James Pula

One of the major themes in antebellum America was the rise of immigration. Much has been written about Irish and German immigrants in the Civil War, but studies of smaller groups are rare except in ethnic-oriented journals. Using photographs and other original materials, this presentation will explore the role of Polish immigrants in the anti-slavery movement and the resulting Civil War to identify key players—both North and South—and their contributions to the historical events of the times.


Blood of the Blood: Abraham Lincoln’s Lifelong Defense of the Immigrant

Presented by Dr. Jason Silverman

Long before he spoke about the evils of slavery, Abraham Lincoln spoke about the need for free labor, and he consistently articulated an economic philosophy that relied heavily upon immigrant labor. From his earliest speeches on, Lincoln saw immigrants as the farmers, merchants, and builders who would contribute mightily to the economic future of the United States.

Before the Civil War, Lincoln saw America as “comparatively a new country” in which immigrants should be welcome. “If they can better their condition by leaving their old homes,” Lincoln said, “there is nothing in my heart to forbid their coming; and I bid them all God speed.” As the war dragged on, Lincoln saw the immigrant as a crucial source of labor and lobbied Congress to encourage immigration. Lincoln’s signature on the Act to Encourage Immigration, July 4, 1864 allowed employees to bring foreign workers to America under contract and to deduct transportation costs from future wages. Lincoln later urged Congress to guard against frauds under this law and proclaimed immigrants “one of the principal replenishing streams . . . appointed by Providence to repair the ravages of internal wars and its wastes of national strength and health.”

Before the Statue of Liberty welcomed newcomers to American shores with the words of Emma Lazarus, Abraham Lincoln, unlike most of his contemporaries, perceived the United States as a hospitable home for immigrants where they would be treated as equals.


Faces of Immigrant Soldiers in the Civil War: An Album

Presented by Ronald S. Coddington

In April 1862, a year into the Civil War, essayist Ralph Waldo Emerson proclaimed “America is another word for Opportunity.” Among those who could attest to Emerson’s words were families who arrived in the United States during the decades immediately preceding the war, and who sent their husbands, brothers and sons off to fight for their adopted country. This presentation is an album of rare portraits of representative soldiers from all walks of life who served, and their stories.


The Bonds of War

Presented by Diana L. Dretske

When curator Diana L. Dretske discovered that the five long-gone Union soldiers in a treasured photograph in the Bess Bower Dunn Museum were not fully identified, it compelled her into a project of recovery and reinterpretation. Utilizing an impressive array of local and national archives, as well as private papers, the author’s micro-historical approach records events that often go unnoticed, such as a farmer enlisting in the middle of a crop field, a sister searching her brother’s face for signs of war, and an immigrant dying in an effort to become a good American citizen.

This book, the most intensive examination of the 96th Illinois Volunteer Infantry since the regiment’s history was published in 1887 centers on immigrants from the British Isles who wished to be citizens of a country at war with itself. Far removed from their native homelands, they found new promise in rural Illinois. These men, neighbors along the quiet Stateline Road in Lake County, decide to join the fighting at its most dangerous hour. The bonds of war become then the bonds of their new national identity.

The Bonds of War uncovers the common soldier from the cataclysm that is the American Civil War by offering a collective biography of five soldiers of the 96th in the Western Theater. The human drama of their lives unfolds before the reader on battlefields such as Chickamauga and within the high pine stockades of Andersonville. Their lives argue that those who seem to matter least in military history are the very ones who can tell us the most about the experience of war and the reasons for remembering.


2021 Corinth/Shiloh Tour

Shiloh: Conquer or Perish  |  Sunday, October 17 – Wednesday, October 20  |  Click here for details

Join the museum as our annual campaign tour travels to Corinth, Mississippi, and Hardin County, Tennessee, to study the tactics, soldiers, and events of the Battle of Shiloh.