Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Museum of the Confederacy, Appomattox, Virginia

The place in Appomattox, Virginia that I most wanted to visit was the new annex of the Museum of the Confederacy that just opened in March 2012. The Museum of the Confederacy is a Civil War museum that has been located in the city of Richmond, Virginia next door to what is known as the White House - the house occupied by the president of the Confederacy, Jefferson Davis. That building is also part of the musuem. It is difficult to visit the Richmond museum as parking is either on the street or in an indoor garage at a hospital complex next to the museum - and there is no where really to park an RV, even a Roadtrek. This new museum in Appomattox has its own outdoor parking lot with free parking and is an excellent presentation of the events that took place just before and at Appomattox that led to the final conclusion of the Civil War - or War Between the States as it is still known in the South.

The new museum is housed in its own building adjacent to the National Historic Park that is the site of the surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia by General Robert E. Lee to the Army of the Potomac under the command of General Ulysses S. Grant. This museum is the first to present artifacts of that event.

The museum looks large from the outside but the exhibit area is only half of the building inside. The other half holds an auditorium for programs and conferences. As you enter, the admission desk is ahead of you, the gift shop is to the left, and the exhibition halls are to the right. Admission to the museum was $10 for adults, $8 for seniors 62+, and $6 for children 7 - 13. I hesitate to give actual prices because these are always subject to change. The museum is open 10 am to 6 pm daily. There is a $20 package admission that also includes the Museum and White House of the Confederacy in the city of Richmond, which is quite some distance east of here.

As you enter the first exhibit hall you are presented with what led up to the surrender - the retreat from city of Petersburg, the problems encountered in not finding food that was supposed to be delivered to a starving army, and the battles that took place along the way as the army was chased by Northern troops. All along in the display cases are uniforms of both the officers and the enlisted men and items that they had with them. Much has been given or lent to the musuem by the families of the men who fought for the South.

Most significant in the collection and on permanent display is the sword that Robert E. Lee wore to the surrender. As noted in the musuem, contrary to popular belief, Robert E. Lee did not surrender his sword but kept it. The photo to the right is that sword and its scabbard.

Also on display is the uniform worn by Robert E. Lee and his gloves worn at the surrender. Shown in the photo on the right.  Lee made sure to wear his best uniform to his meeting with General Grant - who was wearing a dusty and worn uniform - not as elegant as portrayed in portraits of the event.

Perhaps I should note - and not surprisingly as this is the Museum of the Confederacy, that what is on display in this museum is one sided. You are seeing this event from the side of the South. There were no artifacts of the North on display.It is noted that the terms of the surrender agreement offered by General Grant were far more generous than General Lee expected. And General Grant demanded that the government in Washington following the assassination of President Lincoln honor those terms exactly as offered.

As you go along through the exhibit galleries there are displays of weapons, surrender flags, and remembrances of the event. We spent the entire afternoon at the museum and did not have time to visit the National Park site of the actual house that the surrender took place in, as I had anticipated for the day. We had to be moving on so that we could arrive at the campground we had reservations at in Charlottesville, Virginia while the office was still open, so we left Appomattox and moved on - as I detailed in part II of my article about this summer vacation trip. When we come back to Appomattox in the future, there is a campground right across from the National Park and this museum.

We spent time looking at each display in each display case and reading the accompanying descriptions. If one finds this only marginally interesting, one could walk through the entire museum just glancing at what there is to see in fifteen minutes - but then why would you come here in the first place.

If you are interested in Civil War history, I recommend this musuem. I have also been to the National Park site in the past, and I highly recommend that to see as well.

The Museum of the Confederacy - Appomattox is located at 159 Horseshoe Road, Appomattox, VA 24522. The road that this museum is on is the same road that the National Park entrance is on and is just west of that entrance. The phone number at the Visitor Services Desk at 434-352-5791 or toll-free (855) 649-1861, ext. 201. There is a website.

1 comment:

  1. Hate to dissapoint you my friend, the McLean house at Appomattox Va is not original (the surrender house), the one that stands there now is a reproduction. The original was removed after the war to be rebuilt in Washington DC and was never reasssembled, lost to time.