Official Name - The Museum of the Confederacy
How The Confederate Museum Began
In 1889, the City of Richmond announced that they were planning to demolish the building used as the Executive Mansion, when Jefferson Davis served as President of the Confederacy, from 1861 to 1865.
When Isobel (Belle) Stewart was elected the LHMA president, in 1890, she suggested that the Ladies Hollywood Memorial Association should not only save the White House of the Confederacy, but that they should use it as a museum. This would be the repository for artifacts of the Confederacy, such as clothing, guns, books, records, maps, flags, etc. With her husband’s assistance, the LHMA was able to obtain the property. However, in order to meet city requirements, to make them eligible to receive the property, they were required to form another society to hold title. Thus, on May 31, 1890, the Confederate Memorial Literary Society (the Society) was chartered.
In 1892, an appeal when out for Civil War items to be displayed in the Society’s newly organized museum. Their idea was to create a place that would represent, not just Richmond, and Virginia, but the entire South. As items arrived, they were placed in the room designated for that state. The Society had contacts in each of the former States of the Confederacy, who helped by collecting items for their state. The Confederate Museum opened its doors on February 22, 1896.
As time passed, the Confederate Museum’s collections of Civil War mementoes grew, and the number of visitors increased. During the 1960s, it was evident that something must be done to better preserve, and protect, their priceless collection. So, the Society members made organizational changes, hired personnel, and decided to build a modern building to house and display the extensive collection the Confederate Museum had accumulated. In addition to the new building, they decided to restore the White House to the era when Jefferson Davis and his family resided there. And in 1970, the Confederate Museum changed its name to The Museum of the Confederacy. In 1976, after the completion of the building, which is located next door to the White House, the exhibits were moved to the new facility. Once everything was moved, it was time to begin the restoration work on the White House. Finally, in June 1988, the White House opened and welcomed the public to visit the restored stately mansion.
Visit The Confederate Museum
The Confederate Museum is almost hidden from view by the tall buildings of downtown Richmond. But it is here that you will find one of the most respected and complete collections of artifacts from the Confederacy. The Museum of the Confederacy has evolved a long way from its humble beginnings to its current level. It is located at 1201 E. Clay Street, and there is free parking available at a nearby parking deck. (Just bring your ticket with you to be validated.) The Confederate Museum hours are: Monday - Saturday: 10:00 am to 5:00 pm and Sunday: Noon to 5:00 pm. Sunday summer hours are10:00 am to 5:00 pm. When planning your visit to The Museum of the Confederacy, you can visit their website (www.moc.org) to check ticket prices, calendar of events, and get helpful driving directions.
In the spring of 2012, the new ‘Museum of the Confederacy-Appomattox,’ which is currently being built in Appomattox, Virginia, will open. It is the first of several sites that will be opened in the future to display more of the artifacts from the Civil War that the Confederate Museum has.
What’s Happening Today at the Confederate Museum
My most recent trip to the Confederate Museum was, again, a very educational experience. There are three floors of exhibits, which cover many aspects of the Confederacy. Some of my favorites are:
Seeing an exhibit, with a replica of General Robert E. Lee’s field tent, including his actual cot, table, chair, saddle, boots, and other personal effects, was very interesting. I also enjoyed seeing some of General J.E.B. Stuart’s personal effects, such as his famous hat, fire arms, etc.
The child’s doll, which had part of the inside carved out, so drugs could be smuggled behind the line for the troops, was quite interesting as well. In fact, it had been taken it to the Medical Center, next door, and an x-ray had been made of the doll to show the body cavity.
The two bullets that hit each other, exploded, and welded together, is quite remarkable.
The Confederate Museum has so many flags, that they are displayed on a rotation schedule. While all the flags are beautifully designed, and mostly homemade, one of my favorites is the one that has the pictures of the men in the unit hand painted on it.
Especially enjoyable were the Civil War re-enactors, who set up a makeshift camp outside the Confederate Museum. They explained about the items the militia carried, how the items were used, and how they had to improvise with what they had. Other Civil War re-enactors were on each floor, inside the Confederate Museum, to answer any questions one might have.
As would be expected, there are many displays of uniforms, coats, caps, etc., worn by the troops. There are also clothing items worn by the women and children during wartime. One interesting little bit of information, about this period of time, that I learned on this visit to the Confederate Museum, was that little boys would be clothed in dresses until they were about five years old. Since the clothing did not reflect whether the child was a boy or a girl, the way to determine this was by the part in their hair. Boys’ hair was parted on the side, while girls’ hair was parted in the middle. Another tidbit, since leather was not plentiful during the war, some shoes were made with wood soles and sometimes cloth uppers.
The Confederate Museum also has many pieces of unique jewelry on displayed. Some were even made from hair and beef bones.
The art collection at the Confederate Museum is large and magnificent. One of the most stunning paintings is The Last Meeting of Lee and Jackson, painted by Everett B D Julio. Plus, the large collection of photographs, intermingled within the exhibits, helps to tell the story of the Civil War and its participants. Another fascinating piece is the Currier & Ives Three-Way Portrait.
The information furnished about this picture is:
"Currier & Ives Three-way Portrait
American printmakers Currier and Ives created this “slat”, or three-way portrait, as an optical illusion. The three portraits reveal themselves one after the other as the viewer changes position. Look directly at it, and you will see a portrait of Confederate President Jefferson Davis. Look at it from the right, and an image of General Robert E. Lee become visible. The view from the left is a profile of General Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson.”
There are so many exciting artifacts in the Confederate Museum that I could not even begin to list them all, and by my listing a few, I do not mean to do an injustice to the others not mentioned. May I suggest that you place the Confederate Museum on your list of ‘must see places.’ While in the Court End neighborhood in Richmond, visit some of these other historical sites that are close by: The Virginia State Capitol, The Executive Mansion, John Marshall House, Wickham House, Valentine Richmond History Center, just to name a few. If you have more time in Richmond, you might also want to visit the Civil War Visitor Center at Tredegar Iron Works, the Virginia Historical Society, the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, and St. John’s Episcopal Church. Richmond is a city full of history and other interesting attractions.
I hope you enjoyed this brief visit to the Confederate Museum, and that you will visit Richmond, again soon, to explore more of its past as well as its future.
The Museum of the Confederacy