Civil War Blog

A project of PA Historian

Army Heritage Center Digitized Collections

Posted By on February 21, 2012

The United States Army Heritage Education Center (USAHEC) and Military History Institute (MHI).

The post today presents information on a good resource for the study of Pennsylvania military regiments of the Civil War.  The United States Army Heritage Education Center is a federal facility located in Carlisle, Pennsylvania.  To partially show what is  available at the Center, James A. Beaver will be researched through the on-line resources of USAHEC.


James A. Beaver (1837-1914) was the 20th Governor of Pennsylvania, serving from 1887 to 1891.  In a prior post, it was noted that a a fellow Civil War veteran, William Alexis Stone, was removed from a federal position by Pres. Grover Cleveland for campaigning for Beaver while Stone was a federal employee.  Beaver’s connection with the state and national G.A.R. was evident through his activity in that organization and its involvement in Republican Party politics in the latter part of the 19th century.

Beaver was born in Perry County, Pennsylvania, across the Susquehanna River from the Lykens Valley.  He studied law in Bellefonte, Pennsylvania, and early-on joined a local militia which was then commanded by Capt. Andrew G. Curtin, later to become Pennsylvania’s Civil War governor.  When the war began, Curtin’s call for volunteers led to Beaver’s enlistment in one of the first regiments to go to Washington to defend the capital.   Beaver then became Lieutenant Colonel of the 45th Pennsylvania Infantry and saw action in South Carolina.  In 1862 he was commissioned Colonel of the 148th Pennsylvania Infantry which was recruited heavily from the area around his home.  During the Battle of Chancellorsville, Beaver was wounded.  Still wishing to remain active, he was appointed by Gov. Curtin as head of Pennsylvania’s recruiting for the war and was, for a time, in command of Camp Curtin in Harrisburg.  As soon as he was well enough to return to the battlefield, he did so, and during a campaign around Petersburg, Virginia, his right leg was shattered and had to be amputated.  Since he could no long have an active command, he became Pennsylvania’s “Brigadier General of Volunteers.”

Finding portraits of James A. Beaver is relatively easy.  The portrait at the head of this post is from the Capitol Preservation Committee at Harrisburg.

One source not previously mentioned on this blog and now mentioned as an excellent source of military portraits, particularly of officers, is the United States Army Heritage Education Center, located in Carlisle, Pennsylvania (across the Susquehanna River from Harrisburg).  According to the web site:

The U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center (USAHEC) is the United States Army’s preeminent museum and research complex. We are dedicated to educating and preserving the legacy of the men and women who have served their nation as soldiers.

The Military History Institute, located at USAHEC,  has the following goal:

Our mission at MHI is to preserve the Army’s history and ensure access to historical research materials. We serve as the primary facility where researchers study Army history. USAMHI holdings include books, manuscripts, photos, and maps. Both official and unofficial (or public) patrons are welcome. We give highest priority to Army users. There is no fee to enter the Institute. A fee-for-service is charged for providing copies of holdings to unofficial patrons.

Fortunately, for researchers, much of the photo collection pertaining to the Civil War, is available on-line.  Accessing the catalog of information is easy.  First, go to the main page:

Then click on the “Search UAAHEC Collections” button:

Then click on the “Digitized Material” button.

Then click on the “Photographs” button.

After clicking on the “Search” button on that page, a search box comes up.  Into that search box, type the word “beaver” (searching for photographs of James A. Beaver)

A list of available photographs for James A. Beaver comes up.  Downloading these pictures is relatively easy.  Simply save as a “pdf.”   The following pictures resulted from the search:

Below, James A. Beaver is cropped out of the reunion photo:

Other portraits from various stages in James A. Beaver‘s military career are shown below:

For those who wish to visit the U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center, a reference set of all the Civil War photographs is available in the research room.  Copies of the photographs are available on request at the main research room desk.  While this collection is best used for finding pictures of officers, occasionally pictures of enlisted men can be found.  The searching capability of the web site is excellent to identify whether or not a specific photo is in the collection, but not all photos are digitized and available on line.

Other than photographs, there are many useful items in the collection.  By using another web page, the entire catalog can be searched.

There are also several exhibits – indoor and outdoor – pertaining to the Civil War and these are available to view free of charge at the center.



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