Wednesday, August 19, 2015

The Confederate White House

After spending time in our nation's capitol city, the next stop on our tour was Richmond, Virginia and the White House of the Confederacy.

Front of the Confederate capitol

Rear view
Why is it that so many southern houses are more elaborate at the back?

Of course, pictures were not allowed inside the home, which is too bad, because this house was chock full of original artifacts - not just "items of the period" but items actually used by Jefferson Davis and his family.  In addition to the house being a residence, it also served as Davis' office during the Civil War.

The dining room contains a large portrait of George Washington, which I found a bit odd.  But, as father of our country, Davis respected him and it was common practice for many homes of the period to contain a likeness of him.  Other portraits pointed out in the house was the only surviving one of Jefferson Davis - he was quite a handsome man!  And there was a painting of the angel Gabriel that was six hundred years old!

I also found it unusual that the house contained decent sized closets throughout.   One was even large enough to have been turned into an office for Davis's secretary.

Next door to the White House is the Museum of the Confederacy.  This was one of the most fascinating museums I have seen to date, mostly because of the artifacts it contains.  While we, as a nation, generally ignore the effects from the south, the south, as a whole, has done a fantastic job of preserving artifacts from the Civil War.

Non-regulation wool battle shirt
This shirt was worn by a Pvt Kennedy Palmer and was made for him by his sister.  Pvt Palmer survived the battle and the war.  The museum contained a lot of different types of garments worn by soldiers and one, in particular, I remember even had a bullet hole in it.   Whoever had the foresight to save these kinds of things could not have known how much they would mean to us today!

Body armor worn by a Federal soldier.
Although the breastplates are made of iron, the soldier wearing them was shot in the back and died.  Soldiers on both sides could purchase this armor, but generally didn't, because of its weight and the ridicule of other soldiers. 

War time effects of Major J.E.B. Stuart

Robert E. Lee's headquarters tent
Lee was very conscious of the comfort, or lack thereof, of his soldiers and never wanted to be more comfortable than them.  All the items in this display were used by Lee on a daily basis.

Rebel jewelry
William Davies spent 40 years collecting from notable Confederate Army and Navy uniforms then had them made into this jewelry he called "Rebel Brass."  The buttons come from J.E.B. Stuart, R.E. Lee, James Longstreet, "Stonewall" Jackson and others.

Hand sewing machine
This machine was purchased before the war by Evalina Dulaney.  Although most uniforms were sewn by hand, Confederate women used machines when they were available.

Sketch of surrender meeting
Artist J.E. Taylor, travelling with Sherman's army, sketched this scene of Generals Sherman and Johnston discussing terms of surrender outside the Bennitt farmhouse.

"Stonewall" Jackson's sword and cap
Having heard of this general my whole life, it was amazing to me to see his personal items.

Twisted rail
Sometimes called "Sherman's neck-ties," rails from the lines around Atlanta were heated until red hot, then twisted around trees to prevent the rail from being repaired.

In part because he's from Texas and in part because of all the recent controversy over the Confederate flag, Sid was bound and determined to purchase a flag before they are all obliterated from our history.  The museum gift shop had plenty and now we are proud owners of a Confederate battle flag.  Don't know what we'll do with it, but some years down the road (like when our children are our age!), it may be a rarity to have one.

The museum and home are tucked away on a residential street of Richmond, near downtown, and would be very easy to miss.  But if you're ever in Richmond, I strongly urge you to take the time to tour these two places.  I feel we are very fortunate to be able to view these items that take history from a book and make it very real to us some 150 years later.

Until next time...

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