Pritzker Military Museum and Library - Chicago

I was in Chicago last week, found a few unexpected hours in my schedule, and decided to make the best of that time. The weather was cool and windy (imagine that in Chicago), so I wasn’t really interested in one of the boat or bus tours. I’ve often wanted to visit the site of the Battle of Fort Dearborn from the War of 1812, so I decided to walk south on Michigan Avenue toward Roosevelt; even though the actual site is debated, the most likely option is that spot, or a location about a mile farther south. At the very least I’d get the lay of the land, so to speak. (I should note that this event is sometimes referred to as the Fort Dearborn Massacre, though I personally hesitate to ever use the term “massacre” when referring to a battle during wartime.) I was starting from the actual site of Fort Dearborn in downtown Chicago near the Wrigley Building on Michigan Avenue, and decided to grab a quick bite before heading south. 

While having lunch I looked through a Chicago map and brochure that I had picked up at my hotel, just to be sure that I knew the best route to my destination. In a moment of serendipity, I also discovered something else. Listed among nearby attractions was the Pritzker Military Museum and Library and, to further my luck, it was shown as being on Michigan Avenue, along my route toward the battlefield site. I wasn’t exactly sure what I’d find there - never heard of it before - but I knew I had to take a look. I accidentally walked past the entrance on my way south, but discovered on the way back north that it was actually well-marked - on the corner at Monroe, practically across from Millennium Park. 
The museum actually lies on the second and third floors of the building, and is accessible by elevator and stairs. Upstairs I was greeted by a lady who gave me a great description of what they had, and where I’d find it. Of particular interest to me was an exhibit regarding Major Erasmus Corwin Gilbreath, a career soldier who served in the 20th Indiana Regiment during the American Civil War, through the Indian Wars, and ending with the Spanish-American War, when he died from disease in Puerto Rico. The Pritzker Museum has apparently just published his journals, and the exhibit was a complement to the book: Dignity of Duty: The Journals of Erasmus Corwin Gilbreath, 1861-1898. 
The Pritzker is indeed a museum and library, with a great collection of books, periodicals, and magazines. With large windows to allow in light, and comfortable chairs throughout, I can see how this place could easily become a historian’s hangout. I noted a list of upcoming speakers, which looked very intriguing, and included Douglas Mastriano speaking on his recent biography of Sergeant Alvin York. 

While the museum side of things was somewhat limited, what they had on display was interesting, including various artworks, Vietnam War photography, a Medal of Honor exhibit, a great U.S. flag commemorating the USS Maine, and some original, early art by Howard Chandler Christy. With plenty of room and always something else of interest along the way, I spent an enjoyable couple hours there. I should also note that the book selection seemed to be very comprehensive, and would be an asset to plenty of scholars. 

Sometimes you luck into things, and I consider the Pritzker Military Museum and Library a lucky find. I’m unclear whether I actually stood on the Fort Dearborn battlefield, but what I found along the way was even better. If you’re ever in Chicago, it’s absolutely worth the $5 admission and a couple or three hours of your time. I’ll certainly return. 

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