RoNeisha Mullen/The Detroit News

The Henry Ford Museum is offering an extensive look at the Civil War beginning Saturday through Sept. 5. A preview will be Thursday. (David Coates/The Detroit News)

Dearborn— Booming cannons shattered the still of morning just before sunrise on April 12, 1861. Southern Confederate forces had unleashed a barrage of fire against the Union-held Fort Sumter in Charleston, S.C.

The Civil War had begun.

Now, 150 years later, the Henry Ford Museum will commemorate the historic event with its “Discovering the Civil War” gallery.

The extensive exhibit is composed of letters, photos, petitions, receipts and artifacts from the Civil War holdings of the National Archives.

The 6,000-square-foot gallery features touch-screen interactives, enlarged copies of documents and videos.

A preview of the exhibit will be Thursday. The gallery opens to the public Saturday and runs through Sept. 5.

Among the artifacts will be the original Emancipation Proclamation.

Issued by President Abraham Lincoln on Jan. 1, 1863, as the nation approached its third year of the bloody Civil War, the emancipation declared all persons held as slaves were free.

The document, a landmark in American history, will on display at the museum from June 20-22. Until it arrives, a replica will hold its place.

The Henry Ford will stay open around the clock and offer free admission while the document is on display.

“We’re expecting a healthy visitation,” said Brian Egen, special programs manager at the museum. “This is a unique experience for us. We’re treating it like a vigil.”

Performers will read the document at the top of each hour, while actors re-enact battles and scenes from the war.

In addition, the original copy of the final 13th Amendment will be on display next to the Emancipation Proclamation.

Ratified by the states on Dec. 6, 1865, the 13th Amendment formally abolished slavery.

Passing over the traditional chronological approach, the exhibit tells the story of the war in 12 themes.

Within the themes, guests will discover artifacts such as a telegram from a Southern governor rejecting Lincoln’s call for troops, a “substitute book” listing names of men who were paid $300 to replace draftees and the original Louisiana ordinance of secession.

The exhibit will highlight “everyday people of the war,” Egen said.

One panel tells the story of Sarah Emma Edmonds Seelye, a Michigan woman who portrayed herself as a man so she could fight in the war.

Others tell the stories of women on the home front and the experiences of African-Americans in the war.

“A lot of what’s been taught is about the leaders and the battles,” Egen said.

“This exhibit puts a human face on these events that are 150 years old. It brings to the forefront the everyday people of this battle.”

The war ended with the surrender of the Confederates on April 9, 1865, in Virginia.

Carrie Nolan, media relations manager for the museum, said the story of the Civil War is still relevant.

“It was such an instrumental turning point in our history,” Nolan said. “It’s the story of our country.”

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If you go

The Henry Ford Museum is open 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday through Saturday. Admission is $15 for adults; $14 for seniors and $11 for children ages 5 and older. Children under 4 are free. Entrance to “Discovering the Civil War” is free with admission.
On June 20-22, the museum will exhibit the original Emancipation Proclamation. The museum will be open around the clock and admission will be free while the document is on display.