09.23.2014  |   | Subscribe  | Contact us

All News & Blogs

E-mail Alerts

Civil War museum eyeing Spotsy
Richmond's Museum of the Confederacy looks to partner with Spotsylvania

Date published: 9/5/2007

By DAN TELVOCK

Imagine combining the world's largest Civil War collection with two of the war's major battlefields.

Museum of the Confederacy President Waite Rawls and Spotsylvania County officials already have.

The museum in Richmond plans to announce today that it wants Spotsylvania to become a partner in a system of museums statewide to relocate some of its artifacts. Spotsylvania is home to all or part of four Civil War battlefields--Chancellorsville, Court House, Wilderness and Fredericksburg.

"I think the idea of bringing artifacts to the battlefields is a wonderful concept," said Civil War Preservation Trust President Jim Lighthizer. "Spotsylvania is ground zero for the American Civil War. More happened in that county than anywhere in the country."

Richmond's museum officials have been searching for a new home since October. Dwarfed by Virginia Commonwealth University hospital, the museum has seen its business drop by half since 1991--to about 45,000 visitors in 2006.

Relocating artifacts, Rawls said, would take the collection to the visitor, "rather than trying to get the visitor to come to us."

Spotsylvania and Appomattox counties are named as the top locations to begin the system of museums. Rawls hopes to open new sites by 2011, the 150th anniversary of the start of the Civil War.

But his plan is contingent on financing and local approval.

The Richmond museum will remain open for at least five years. After that, its future is uncertain, Rawls said.

There are no plans to change the operation of the museum-owned White House of the Confederacy next door, he said.

The Museum of the Confederacy's collections include uniforms, battle flags and soldiers' personal possessions. Rawls said one of the items he'd like to re- locate to Spotsylvania is the famous 1869 painting "The Last Meeting" of Gens. Robert E. Lee and Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson at Chancellorsville.

"If there is any iconic image of the Confederacy, it's that painting," he said.

The Mullins Farm off State Route 3 is the site of fighting on the first day of the Battle of Chancellorsville. Several sources close to the discussions said supervisors are eyeing this site to house the artifacts.


1  2  Next Page  

THE ARTIFACTS

The Museum of the Confederacy has the largest collection of Civil War artifacts in the world. Some that have direct ties to Spotsylvania County include:

The 1869 painting of Gens. Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson and Robert E. Lee. "The Last Meeting" depicts the two Confederate legends devising strategy for an attack on Union forces at Chancellorsville.

A map Jackson and a staff officer created to thwart federalists from crossing the Rappahannock River. The map has two bullet holes. The staff officer was killed and Jackson was mortally wounded. The museum also has Jackson's blood-stained uniform.

A handkerchief used to stanch Jackson's blood.

Jackson's sword.

Two bullets fired at Spotsylvania Court House, near the Mule Shoe, that hit head on and melded together.

A letter from a soldier at Spotsylvania Court House informing his parents of his "horribly mangled shoulder" and the realization he may die soon. The letter is stained with his blood.

"This all can be within several hundred yards of where it happened," said Waite Rawls, the museum's president.

"The museum system is an interesting idea that many major museums have adopted," said Charles F. Bryan, president and CEO of the Virginia Historical Society. "All have been concerned that the Museum might leave Virginia, which would be a great loss to the commonwealth. The system will keep the collection in Virginia, which allows the sharing of the Museum of the Confederacy's resources with many historical organizations while also playing an important role in the Richmond community."

"The idea of combining artifacts with battlefields will bring new life to both," said Civil War Preservation Trust's President Jim Lighthizer. "It will provide visitors a glimpse into the stories of the war, which is the most defining conflict in American history. It's the perfect marriage."