THE AMERICAN CIVIL WAR MUSEUM
GRAND OPENING ON THE WATERFRONT | IN SEARCH OF ELLEN MCGINNIS | IN THEIR OWN WORDS
LETTER FROM THE CEO
CHRISTY S. COLEMAN Chief Executive Officer JOHN M. COSKI Editor TALLY BOTZER Editorial Assistant PENELOPE M. CARRINGTON Magazine Design
As we settle into our new normal, I can’t help but reflect on the journey thus far. There are moments I will always cherish because of the valuable lessons learned; however, one experience stands out right now. During the summer of 2015, we were approaching two years since publically announcing the consolidation of the two museums. Staff was still trying to adjust to new teams, changing duties, and evolving visions for the future – all while still managing four museum sites (the White House, The Museum of the Confederacy, Historic Tredegar, and Appomattox). To help us along this journey, we engaged a firm to help us navigate it the complicated path and think strategically about the future of the organization.
BOARD OF DIRECTORS Christy S. Coleman (ex officio) Edward L. Ayers Ph.D. J. Gordon Beittenmiller* U. Bert Ellis Jr.* Claude P. Foster George C. Freeman III Bruce C. Gottwald Sr. Bernard C. Grigsby* Monroe E. Harris Jr. D.D.S. Elizabeth Cabell Jennings* Richard S. Johnson Donald E. King* Leigh Luter Schell Johnathan Mayo John L. Nau III Lewis F. Powell III S. Waite Rawls III (ex officio) Walter S. Robertson III* O. Randolph Rollins Kenneth P. Ruscio Ph.D.* Thomas A. Saunders III S. Buford Scott* John Sherman* Daniel G. Stoddard Ruth Streeter W. Hildebrandt Surgner Mario M. White Elisabeth S. Wollan Ph.D.
E. Bryce Powell Jeffrey L. Wilt
The firm led us through interesting visioning exercises. One in particular asked each member of the management team to imagine headlines and quotes from leading publications when the new museum opened. In all, our team generated 18 “headlines,” but the top vote getters included the following:
KIM BRUNDAGE PHOTOGRAPHY
ACWM FOUNDATION BOARD OF DIRECTORS S. Waite Rawls III President (ex officio)
elcome to all new and returning members and donors! We’re glad to have you back to enjoy the remarkable accomplishment of getting our new facility and exhibits at Historic Tredegar open. Our flagship exhibition, A People’s Contest, and our temporary exhibit, Greenback America, have been extremely well received. To paraphrase a character from a classic television series, “We love it when a plan comes together!”
“…engaging and relevant displays encourage visitors to look at this pivotal time…”
“…the place that defines for Americans and the world what the American Civil War was all about, and why it remains important today.” Why is this coming to mind now? Over the past three months, the Museum has generated amazing headlines and stories from media outlets around the nation. What’s even more amazing is our team wasn’t far off from what they have said about our work… “From beginning to end, the war is framed as a defining conflict for American democracy, a struggle for freedom whose outcome had worldhistorical implications.” [New York Times, 5/16/19] “…the American Civil War Museum is an audacious effort to show what [a more complete historical backdrop] looks like.” [Washington Post, 4/27/19] While all of this is wonderful, we also care what visitors and members are telling us. The wonderful messages, emails, and social media posts have been a pleasure to read. I’ve also enjoyed watching guests navigate through the galleries clearly moved by what they’re seeing and experiencing. I hope those of you who’ve not yet had the opportunity to visit will do so soon. I also hope you will encourage friends and family to join us as well. In addition to the great facility, we offer fascinating programs, book talks, and lectures with leading and emerging scholars for you to enjoy. This is just the next step in what will be a continuing journey…to be the preeminent center for the study and exploration of the American Civil War. Thank you for being along for the ride! Best,
Christy S. Coleman, CEO 2 FA L L 2 0 1 9
‘The architect for this building is a genius the way he blends the new with the old.’ CHARLES V. Ogden, Utah
‘...interesting is the rise of Cain and Abel to symbolize the fratricidal war.’ ROBERTO52BRUNO
QUOTES: TRIP ADVISOR
‘All the way from Texas to see this museum... We were not disappointed. Many great exhibits done in a different way from those we’ve visited in the past.’ EMBAY
‘We all (ages 9 to 76) enjoyed this museum and learned some new things. We shall return.’
VISITOR VOICES ‘This is a great teaching museum. It doesn’t just show artifacts, it brings the atrocities we inflicted on each other right out front. It is about insuring that we don’t ever do it again.’
HOPSMCM Sewickley, PA
DORISC1364 Pigeon Forge, TN
‘I was pleasantly surprised with the exhibits... I was concerned that they would have totally eradicated the Museum of the Confederacy and so much of it was still there. I was really appreciative that they didn’t try to erase and rewrite the history just yet.’ NANCY J. Beaverdam,VA
‘This museum was the most comprehensive collection we encountered during our weeklong trip.’ SARGE197 Tennessee
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CONTENTS FA LL 2019
LIBRARY OF CONGRESS
TAKING HISTORY OUTSIDE THE COLLEGE CLASSROOM
IN SEARCH OF ELLEN BARNES MCGINNIS
IN THEIR OWN WORDS: RECOLLECTIONS OF FORMERLY ENSLAVED PEOPLE
Formerly enslaved people who gathered on April 8, 1937, at Southern Pines, N.C., for the annual event, Old Slave Day, where they shared their recollections. 4 FA L L 2 0 1 9
ON THE WATERFRONT
PENELOPE M. CARRINGTON
02 LETTER FROM THE CEO
30 LETTER FROM THE PRESIDENT
03 VISITOR VOICES
31 PLANNED GIVING You’ve Helped Us Preserve Their Legacy...Will You Instill Your Own?
EVENTS 08 CALENDAR 17 PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT Educator Open House & Myth Workshops
SHOP 28 BOOKS & BELT PLATES 32 HOME GOODS
21 BOTTIMORE LECTURE David Blight & Frederick Douglass’s ‘Composite Nation’ COVER PHOTO: Museum gala event on May 2, 2019. ACWM Board Chairman Edward Ayers, ACWM Founding Director Bruce Gottwald, Sr., ACWM CEO Christy Coleman, ACWM Foundation President Waite Rawls, and Nancy Gottwald. BY PENELOPE M. CARRINGTON T H E A M E R I C A N C I V I L WA R M U S E U M 5
Museum’s grand opening weekend, May 2 - 5, featured a host of T heprograms and events. Tony-Award wining actress Faith Prince (right
with microphone) kicked off the festivities as master of ceremonies for the gala, From Goundbreaking to Breathtaking. Guests enjoyed guided tours of the new flagship exhibit, A People’s Contest, and Greenback America in the temporary gallery. Members and donors also enjoyed early access to the exhibits along with a chance to get up close to artifacts not on display. mquis, sem. Nulla
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RECAP GRAND OPENING & GALA
PHOTOGRAPHS BY PENELOPE M. CARRINGTON
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CALENDAR OF EVENTS
we arm students with media literacy skills to counter myths? How can fostering empathy help us understand historical figures - iconic and lesser - known as well as our role in history? Space is limited. Registration required. In partnership with the Virginia Museum of History & Culture.
OCT SEPT BOOK TALK “Too Much for Human Endurance:” The George Spangler Farm Hospitals and the Battle of Gettysburg September 21 @ 1 p.m. Historic Tredegar, RVA. Included with admission. Free to members. Discover the untold stories of the Spangler family, their farm, the medical workers who labored to save lives, and the men who suffered and died there during the Battle of Gettysburg. With author Ronald Kirkwood. Teacher Workshop: Countering Myths in the Classroom September 25 @ 5-7 p.m. Historic Tredegar, RVA. Free. Workshop d ifferent strategies for tackling complicated history with ACWM educators and historian and educator Kevin Levin, author of Searching for Black Confederates: The Civil War’s Most Persistent Myth. How can 2 SPRING 2019 8 FA L L 2 0 1 9
Searching for Black Confederates: The Civil War’s Most Persistent Myth October 1 @ 6 p.m. Virginia Museum of History & Culture 428 N. Arthur Ashe Blvd., RVA. $10. Free for ACWM or VMHC members More than 150 years after the end of the Civil War, claims persist that anywhere from 500 to100,000 free and enslaved African Americans fought willingly as soldiers in the Confederate army, persist. What factors contributed to the evolving myth of Black Confederates? Space is limited. No pre-registration. In partnership with the Virginia Museum of History & Culture. Bottimore Lecture Frederick Douglass’s ‘Composite Nation’ 150 Years Later October 10 @ 7:30 p.m. International Center Commons, University of Richmond. Free. The 2019 Elizabeth Roller Bottimore Lecture will feature historian David Blight speaking about “Frederick Douglass’s ‘Composite Nation’ 150 Years Later,” based on his book, Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom, which received the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for biography.
BOOK TALK Meade and Lee at Bristoe Station October 18 @ Noon. Historic Tredegar, RVA. Included with admission. Free to members. Delve into the problems that generals Robert E. Lee and George G. Meade faced in the three month period between the battle of Gettysburg and their encounter at Bristoe Station. What decisions did each man make in an attempt to gain the advantage and secure victory?
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BOOK TALK War Memoranda: Photography, Walt Whitman and Memorials October 24 @ 6 p.m. ACWM - Appomattox Included with admission. Free to members. Fee without admission, $5. Journey through Civil War memory and meaning as photographer Robert Schultz explores how his work and that of collaborating photographer Binh Danh, paired with the poetry and prose of Walt Whitman, creates a striking War Memoranda for today.
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HHH: The Role of Community Activism in Combatting Segregated Education November 12 @ 6:30 p.m. Third Street Brewing, 312 W. Third St., Farmville. Free. From the end of the Civil War to the beginning of the Civil Rights Movement activism played a pivotal role in changing policy. Uncover key moments that lead to the dismantling of the “Separate but Equal” education system established after the Civil War. With Cainan Towsnend, Moton Museum.
Legacies of Emancipation October 25 @ 7 p.m. Virginia Museum of History & Culture, 428 N. Arthur Ashe Blvd. $20; $15 ACWM or VMHC members; $10 for students & educators The Civil War resulted in the emancipation of 4 million enslaved African Americans. Explore how the choices and events from that transition from enslavement to freedom continue to shape the lives of Americans over 150 years later. Limited space. Reservations strongly encouraged. Speakers: Ta-Nehisi Coates, author; Manisha Sinha, University of Connecticut Moderator: Christy Coleman, ACWM CEO. With the Virginia Museum of History & Culture.
BOOK TALKGrant’s Campaign that Broke the Confederacy: Vicksburg November 5 @ 6 p.m. Historic Tredegar, RVA. Free. The surrender of Vicksburg, Mississippi on July 4, 1863 was the decisive victory of the Civil War. Grant’s conquest opened the Mississippi to Union commerce and severed the Confederacy. Discover how the Campaign ignited a social
revolution in Mississippi and eastern Louisiana that culminated in the violent overthrow of plantation slavery. With author Donald Miller. In partnership with Fountain Books. BOOK TALK Targeted Tracks: The Cumberland Valley Railroad in the Civil War, 1861 - 1865 November 9 @ 1 p.m. ACWM - Appomattox. Free. The Cumberland Valley Railroad played a strategic role connecting Hagerstown, Maryland to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Its location enhanced its importance during some of the Civil War’s most critical campaigns. Learn the remarkable, littleknown story of this line that was significant to the Union war effort. With author Scott L. Mingus, Sr. HHH The Dogs of Belle Isle November 11 @ 6:30 p.m. Bottom’s Up Pizza,1700 Dock St. Free. Dogs frolic freely on Belle Isle today, but they played into the story of the prison camp, too. Just what happened to the camp commandant’s beloved bulldog and what can the variations on the Dog Story tell us about the infamous prison camp. With John Coski, ACWM.
FOUNDRY SERIES I mpacts of Life in Temporary Camps November 21 @ 6 p.m. Historic Tredegar, RVA. $10, $8 members From POW camps and contraband and refugee camps, the Civil War featured temporary communities with expanding populations. How did the experiences of people living in these places compare? What were the impacts of living in make-shift environments? Featuring Amy Murrell Taylor, Ph.D., University of Kentucky.
DEC HHH: A mbrose Burnside and the Battle of Fredericksburg December 9 @ 6:30 p.m. Triple Crossing Brewery, Free. Ambrose Burnside is remembered for some doozies, but nothing quite stacks up to his ill-fated leadership during the battle of Fredericksburg. While he does deserve some of the blame, the U.S. Army’s loss there wasn’t entirely his fault. With Chris Mackowski, EmergingCivilWar.com.
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o to class. Read (a lot!). Write essays, give presentations, and take exams. The typical activities of college history majors are pretty straightforward. History students don’t usually wrestle with a laser level — or go shopping for just the right-sized glass bowl for an interactive display — or figure out how to edit old photographs into 3D format. Yet a group of eight Virginia Tech students did all those things and more this past year, as they created an exhibit for the American Civil War Museum – Appomattox. Enacting Freedom: Black Virginians in the Age of Emancipation explores how African Americans put their own stamp on the meaning of freedom following the Civil War. None of the students had ever worked on a professional exhibit before. nor had the three professors (including me) who advised them. Rather than faculty teaching students, it was a case of us
Taking history outside the college classroom BY PAUL QUIGLEY PHOTOGRAPHS BY JOHN LEGG 1 0 FA L L 2 0 1 9
all figuring it out together. We learned by doing, by reading, by looking at other exhibits, and, most importantly, by listening to the guidance of our ACWM collaborators. The number one lesson: we had to think about and write history in fundamentally different ways. Our prose had to be concise —really concise! The goal was to provoke visitors’ ideas, not provide comprehensive coverage. We had to blend narrative, artifacts, images, and quotations in ways that would resonate with many different visitors.
Dr. Paul Quigley (third from right above) and his students at the opening of Enacting Freedom.
Focusing on African Americans made the project at once more meaningful and more difficult. More meaningful, because we knew we were uncovering stories that are still too often marginalized in Civil War-era history. More difficult, because of the relative paucity of artifacts. Though we had access to the Museum’s outstanding collection, items relating to black Virginians were scarce. Without the right artifacts, how could we build an exhibit? As is often the answer to such a vexing question, we got creative. In some cases, we deployed white artifacts in imaginative ways. Thus we displayed a pen and inkstand used in the Confederate Treasury Department to get visitors thinking about the power of literacy for white and black southerners. We also found ways to convey stories without artifacts, such as by printing the recollections of Fannie Berry, a formerly enslaved woman from Appomattox Dr. Paul Quigley (above, right) spoke with a County, on silhouette-shaped visitor at the opening of Enacting Freedom boards scattered round the exhibit. while others (below) took in the exhibit. Seeing the exhibit in physical form is a wonderful reward for our hard work. Even more consequential is the experience we gained worwking as a team, alongside museum professionals, as we developed not only new knowledge about African American experiences but also new skills in presenting history to the public. Visit the exhibit. Let us know what you think — and double check whether we were using that laser level correctly! Dr. Paul Quigley is the James I. Robertson, Jr. Associate Professor of Civil War Studies at Virginia Tech and author of the award-winning 2011 book, Shifting Grounds: Nationalism and the American South, 1848-1865.
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In a beautiful portrait photograph taken by J.H. Pope of Baltimore, Ellen Barnes McGinnis appears as a well-dressed, biracial lady with carefully coiffed hair and a serene disposition. Who was this woman who spent the last year of the War working in the Confederate White House as a maid to Varina Davis and as a nurse to her last child Varina Anne, “Winnie”? Most importantly, was she enslaved or free?
n Search of Ellen Barnes McGinnis BY KELLY HANCOCK 1 2 FA L L 2 0 1 9
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The correspondent confirmed Varina’s account that Ellen came ashore at Fort Monroe because her husband made her, but he did something else: he asked Ellen “if she would like to return to [Mrs. Davis], and be again a bond-woman.” Ellen responded, “Oh, no, Sir, I never want to go South again as a slave - I would rather be free, much rather. Mrs. Davis was good to me, but I don’t want to be her slave, for all that.” These candid words helped breathe life into Ellen Barnes McGinnis. hat is the question that has loomed largest among Museum staff since the restored Confederate White House opened in 1988.
Ellen’s words also inspired a search to discover more information. What else was there to learn about this strong woman?
What staff did know was that Ellen maintained a lifelong The Papers of Jefferson relationship with Varina after the War and that she Davis, edited by Lynda accompanied Varina and her children on their flight from Crist and published by Richmond in the spring of 1865. She was with the family the Louisiana State when they were surrounded by U.S. cavalry troops outside University Press were of lrwinville, Georgia, on May l0. In fact, it was Ellen whom Varina sent with a bucket to accompany Jefferson Davis as he attempted to make his escape. Varina wanted it to appear that two women had gone to fetch water, but the ruse failed, and Davis was captured and transported to Ellen Barnes Fort Monroe in Hampton,Virginia. McGinnis
“Oh, no, Sir, I never want to go South again as a slave I would rather be free, much rather. Mrs. Davis was good to me, but I don’t want to be her slave, for all that.”
Upon arriving at Fort Monroe, the U.S. officers in charge gave Ellen and the other servants the option of coming ashore if they did not want to go to Savannah, Georgia, where Varina was to be taken and placed under house arrest. According to Varina, Ellen’s husband Charles Barnes “forced her” to come ashore. That Ellen had a husband led many at the Museum to assume Ellen was free, since marriages between enslaved couples were not legally recognized. However, just a few years ago a newly digitized interview with a reporter from the New York Times on July 2, 1865, shed new light on Ellen. The correspondent reported that Ellen was the “chattel of Peter W. Grubbs, druggist of Richmond” and that she had lived in the Grubbs household until she was hired out to work for the Davises on January 2, 1864. Ellen was enslaved - not free, as Museum staff had assumed.
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a good place to start, but one of the letters only begged more questions. In her letter to Jefferson Davis
written on April 7, 1865, after she left Richmond, Varina related how each member of the party was worried or “exercised” about something left behind. Jeff Jr. was “exercised about his pony” and Maggie “about her saddle.” In Ellen’s case, it was not something but someone: Varina wrote that Ellen was “exercised about her child.” So, this woman who was a nurse to baby Winnie had a child of her own, but who was that child? A boy? A girl? How old? In the mid-l980s, the Museum staff took great pains to track down every scrap of information related to the Davises, their time in the house, and the servants both free and enslaved who worked in the home to write an interpretive plan for the restored house at 12th and Clay. Because of this, every person associated with the Confederate White House has a file in the Museum’s archives.
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(Above photo) Ellen Barnes and Winnie Davis. (Right) Margaret “Maggie” Davis as a young woman.
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Reviewing Ellen’s file caused one particular letter to stand out. In a letter to Varina Davis dated July 18, 1865, Ellen’s husband Charles wrote that “Mary Ann also sends her love to Maggie.”
Sketch by William L. Sheppard from the Davis Memorial Volume.
Could Mary Ann have been the child Ellen left behind? Indeed, the 1870 U.S. Census held the answer to this question. Listed in the household of Ellen and her second husband Frederick McGinnis (more on that later), now living in Baltimore’s 11th Ward, was a fifteen-year-old daughter named Mary A. What is striking about this information is that Mary Ann was Maggie Davis’s age. These two girls from very different backgrounds connected on some level. At least, they were close enough that Mary Ann sent her “love” to Maggie. The relationship that existed between Ellen and Varina is equally intriguing. In spite of Ellen’s desire to be free, she formed a lasting bond with Varina. The separation that occurred when Ellen went ashore to join her husband Charles at Fort Monroe did not last long, for by 1866,Varina was allowed to visit and then move in with her own husband. She brought with her a formerly enslaved man, once a body servant of P.G.T. Beauregard, named Frederick McGinnis. We do not know exactly how or when Charles Barnes died, but on May 7, 1867, Frederick and Ellen were married at Fort Monroe in Carroll
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(Photo below) Carroll Hall, in which President Davis was confined as a prisoner and where Ellen and Frederick McGinnis were married.
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Hall (where Jefferson Davis spent the last year of his imprisonment).Varina and Jefferson Davis attended the wedding - as did Mary O’Melia, the Irish widow who served as the Davis’s housekeeper during the War. After Jefferson Davis was released on bail in May of 1867, Ellen and Frederick accompanied the Davises to Canada. The McGinnises spent only about six months there before moving to Baltimore, where they lived the rest of their lives. Despite the physical distance from the Davises, they remained in contact. Ellen could neither read nor write, so just as with her first husband Charles, it was Frederick who maintained the correspondence, relaying messages from Ellen and news of their life in Baltimore. In October 1878, Frederick wrote to express their condolences upon the death of Jefferson Davis, Jr. Addressing them as “My Dear Friends,” Frederick wrote, “[Y]our loss is equally our loss ...You have our prayers my good, good friends.” After directing the Davises to look to God for comfort, he ended the letter with a bit of good news, “We have a little daughter Emma Elizabeth who will be four years old next month.” Marriage announcement of Frederick McGinnis and Mary Ellen Barnes McGinnis from the Chicago Tribune on May 17, 1867.
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It was also Frederick who relayed the news of Ellen’s final illness. In a letter dated December 13,1890, he told Mrs. Davis, “I am very sorry to say that Ellen will not be able to come to you for some time yet. She is quite sick and has been sick for three weeks with the same complaint as when you was here.” Frederick did not know it, but Ellen would die later that day. According to the death certificate, she died from rheumatism and acute endocarditis (an inflammation of the heart lining and valves). Although Ellen Barnes McGinnis never learned to read or write, her daughter Emma Elizabeth went on to become a teacher in Washington, D.C., as did her granddaughter Ellen (Mary Ann’s child). These two half-sisters made their home together for a time. We may never know the full story of Ellen Barnes McGinnis, but we know more now than we did. She is no longer just a person who worked in the Confederate White House but someone whose life embodied all the complexities, struggles, and promise of this transitional period. Kelly Hancock is the Museum’s Public Programs Manager. She has been leading tours of the restored White House of the Confederacy since 1998.
Educator Open House & Myth Workshops THE MUSEUM CONTINUES to expand how it helps educators feel more comfortable and confident with teaching the Civil War era through professional development sessions. This fall, preview offerings for educators at the new Museum at a special open house, October 16. On September 25, join fellow educators and historian and
PHOTOGRAPHS BY PENELOPE M. CARRINGTON
educator Kevin Levin for a workshop about countering historical myths in the classroom. The September workshop is free, but registration is required. Held in partnership with the Virginia Museum of History & Culture. If you can’t make these events or if you’re interested in having an ACWM educator do a professional development session at your school, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Educators explored Richmond’s past as a slave trading center in this summer’s Civil War 101 workshop. The walking tour included stops at the Reconcilliation Triangle (above photos), the Slave Trail and Brown’s Island (below).
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The Museum’s new building at Tredegar Iron Works is not only a world-class destination in itself, but also the de facto headquarters for the other important Civil War sites on Richmond’s historic waterfront. The Museum’s tours and programs highlight the connections between Tredegar and some of those other sites. This article is the first in a projected series of magazine articles about those connections. If you leave the American Civil War Museum parking lot, turn to your right, and walk along the James River for 1/4 mile, you come to a curious, undulating footbridge suspended from the highway bridge over the James. The path provides pedestrian access to Belle Isle, the jewel in the crown of the city’s James River Park System.
ON THE W ATERFRO N BELLE ISLE
B Y JO H N M . COSKI
PHOTO: PENELOPE M. CARRINGTON
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he largest island at the falls of the James River, Belle Isle is large enough and close enough to be integral to the city. But, because it is surrounded by rapids, it was also isolated enough to serve as a “hermitage” for its original English owner, William Byrd, or as a prison camp for Federal enlisted men – as it did during the American Civil War.
HUMAN SKELETONS “The authorities are debating the propriety of removing all of the Yankee prisoners from the tobacco factories to Belle Isle in the James river,” announced the Richmond Daily Dispatch on July 9,1862. “It is thought that the location would suit for the purposes indicated admirably. The temptation to escape would not be enhanced by the change in position, while fewer men would serve as a guard. The river is of considerable depth around the shores of the island.” Thus began Belle Isle’s most historically famous role. The Belle Isle prison was more infamous than most people today realize. The first images of living skeletons that appeared in the Northern press – images that most people associate with Andersonville – were taken of Belle Isle survivors released early in 1864 after suffering from exposure and disease during a famously cold winter. Andersonville, Georgia, the most deadly and notorious of all Civil War prison camps, was the destination of the thousands of Belle Isle prisoners who survived the winter. Unlike the prison at Andersonville, Belle Isle was not surrounded by a tall stockade. Because it was on an island, a low earthen wall and a corresponding trench were adequate to demarcate the camp’s perimeter. Located on an exposed flat plain T H E A M E R I C A N C I V I L WA R M U S E U M 1 9
that faces Tredegar. The construction of the new highway bridge abutments that loom overhead (and from which the access bridge is suspended) in the late 1980s scraped clean the site of the camp, leaving virtually no archaeological evidence.
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Even before the construction of the bridge, however, evidence of the camp’s existence was lost to the intensive industrial activity that flourished there for the century after the War, the relics of which are still visible today.
The first images the Northern public saw of emaciated former prisoners came not from Andersonville, Georgia, but Belle Isle.
that occupied the island’s eastern side, the camp was secured by a thin gray line of Confederate guards and dominated by several pieces of artillery placed on the hill that occupied most of the island’s 60 acres and frowned down upon the plain. Prisoners on the island could look across the James River and see the Virginia State Capitol building (also serving as the Confederate capitol), downtown Richmond, and – directly across the river – Tredegar Iron Works and Hollywood Cemetery. Richmond citizens who cared to do so could gaze across the river to glimpse a sea of Sibley tents and watch the activity on a pestilent human anthill. Since the early 1850s a railroad bridge had connected Belle Isle to the south side of the river, but not to the Richmond side. Confederate prison authorities transported supplies to Belle Isle on boats launched from a landing at the foot of Tredegar Iron Works. Occasionally, Confederate authorities launched something else fromTredegar: artillery shells. On November 18, 1862, the Confederate Navy’s ordnance department fired a 7-inch Brooke rifle (similar in appearance to the heavy gun now sitting directly in front of the American Civil War Museum) at a target placed at the base of the hill on Belle Isle. This occurred during a months-long period when there were no prisoners on Belle Isle. But, according to the diary of a New York prisoner, test firings continued in the summer of 1863 and on one occasion a stray shot passed through an unoccupied tent. Visitors to Belle Isle today see little or no evidence of the infamous prisoner of war camp that once occupied the plain
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Two decades before the incorporation of Tredegar Iron Works in 1836, the Belle Isle Manufacturing Company began operations on the southern shore of the island. The swiftlymoving water that later made the island an ideal prison site also provided power for an iron manufactory. Rhys Davies, one of the Welshmen who established Tredegar, also helped build a new rolling mill on Belle Isle in 1838. Davies was on Belle Isle attending to that project when a fellow worker stabbed him to death for reasons unexplained. The Belle Isle Manufacturing Company evolved into the Old Dominion Iron and Nail Works, which became one of the nation’s premier nail suppliers on the eve of the Civil War. In 1860, it had approximately 175 employees, some of whom lived on the island with their families. Also among its employees were eight enslaved African Americans, whom the company owned. Located south and west of the prison camp, Old Dominion continued to operate during the War, and sold thousands of kegs of nails to the Confederate government. Many prisoners believed that the “red hot furnaces” and belching smokestacks they saw to their left as they marched to the camp were part of Tredegar. An aged brick wall hidden in the woods is all that remains of the original iron manufacturing plant. More visible to the modern visitor is the iron skeleton of an elongated building that served as one of Old Dominion’s turn-of-the-century puddling mills. A tall skeleton that visitors see first as they cross the pedestrian bridge is the remains of the “Chrysler Building,” so named because it produced tank hatches for the Chrysler Corporation during World War I. By World War I, the thriving nail works that had been nestled on the island’s southern shore sprawled northward to cover the footprint of the Civil War prison camp. At its height, Belle Isle was home to the Iron and Nail Works with its multiple puddling and rolling mills, the Richmond Forgings Corporation, the Richmond Pipe and Foundry Works, a “marshalling yard” for the Southern Railroad, a hydroelectric plant that produced electricity for the city’s streetcar system, and a rock quarry –
The low-lying plain that the prison camp had occupied became crowded with multiple iron factories, as seen in the photograph below published ca. 1908 by the Detroit Publishing Company.
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Richmond citizens... could gaze across the river to glimpse a sea of Sibley tents and watch the activity on a pestilent human anthill.
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and, later, a radio tower and billboard located on the top of the hill. The island’s intensive industrial use also brought an extensive human presence. Old Dominion Iron and Nail grew to a workforce of approximately 1,000 people – African Americans, European immigrants, and native born whites – many of whom lived in quarters on the island. At various times the Belle Isle community boasted a chapel and a mission school (which had existed since before the Civil War), and a baseball team.
for airplane refrigeration systems, had suffered a catastrophic fire and all but ceased operations. The city already was negotiating with the two corporate owners of the island to acquire it for recreational use.
vision for Belle Isle’s future emphasized its natural resources: hiking trails, bird watching, and white water rapids in the heart of downtown Richmond. The opening of the new footbridge in April 1991 made that vision a reality.
As early as 1909, the Virginia Electric and Railway Company (the ancestral organization of Dominion Energy), which owned most of the island’s
Just as Belle Isle’s heavy industry wound down, so, too, did the Tredegar Iron Works. In 1957 Tredegar moved its iron-making operations to suburban Chesterfield County and sold the riverfront property to the Albemarle Paper Company, which later merged with the Ethyl Corporation. In the early 1970s, Ethyl determined to restore surviving ruins at the Tredegar site. Its chairman also championed the reinvigoration of Richmond’s historic waterfront.
Swiftly-moving water attracted industry to Belle Isle, but bridges over the water transformed the island into a booming industrial center. In the early 1870s, the Tredegar Company erected a railroad bridge that finally connected the island to the city. That bridge burned in 1909, but a one-way road and pedestrian bridge was built on the stone piers, and a new railroad trestle stood until 1948.
Both Tredegar and Belle Isle are most famous (or infamous) as important Civil War sites, but they served much longer as civilian industrial sites. Today they are recreational and historical destinations for local citizens and tourists from around the globe. JOHN M. COSKI
On the ground where Federal prisoners struggled for their lives during the War, postwar industrial laborers staged multiple strikes for higher wages. Where prisoners suffered from cold and disease, workers suffered appalling accidents that killed or maimed dozens. acreage suggested transforming the “high part” into a “pleasure park” for city residents. In the late 1960s, planners envisaged a park with modern facilities accessible by a monorail or cable cars. An alternative
John M. Coski is the Museum’s historian. He is researching a book on the history of Belle Isle.
In 1972 Hurricane Agnes brought record flooding that destroyed the bridges linking Belle Isle to Tredegar and to the south side. For the first time in 120 years Belle Isle was effectively isolated. Even before the hurricane, the last industrial plant on Belle Isle, a manufacturer of sheet metal and parts Dr. Evan Kutzler’s 2015 ACWM Belle Isle tour visited the ruins of a rolling mill that stood near the eastern edge of the former POW camp.
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PENELOPE M. CARRINGTON
NEW ACQUISITION: Prison Hospital Illustration
e will never know just how many prisoners died on Belle Isle. Only 210 bodies were reinterred from the island’s grave yard to the National Cemetery in the years after the War. But most men who died from their imprisonment at Belle Isle did not die on Belle Isle. The sickest prisoners were transferred to the Military Prison Hospital (known also as General Hospital #21 or Gwathmey Factory Hospital) located at 25th and Cary streets. The men who died there were buried in Oakwood Cemetery and later moved to the National Cemetery. Belle Isle prisoners make up an unknown
percentage of the 3,200 unknown Union dead buried there. Donated in 2016 and published here for the first time, this pencil and ink sketch shows the interior of the Military Prison Hospital. Drawn by J.[or D.] A. Shaffer, it mimics the style of popular wartime and postwar prints, featuring cartouches, Confederate second national flags (adopted May 1863), a shield, a rough sketch of the Belle Isle prison camp, and lists the names of Surgeon in Charge Maj. J. J. Wilkins, and assistant surgeons Capt. Sterling B. Simmons and Emile T. Sabal, to whom the artist presented his drawing.
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THE MEMORIES of formerly enslaved
people, as told in their own words, form the centerpiece of a multimedia presentation in the Museum’s new permanent exhibit, A People’s Contest. “Struggle for Freedom” explores the breadth of African American wartime experiences by combining text from eight firstperson accounts with archival and modern imagery. Six of the people whose quotations are dramatized were previously enslaved. Their reflections help convey to visitors the brutal nature of slavery, the difficulties encountered by running away, their vital contributions to the U.S. military, the variety of ways they learned they were free, and their reactions to that momentous news.
In Their Words: Recollections of Formerly Enslaved People BY CATHERINE M. WRIGHT
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Frederick Douglass is by far the best known of the six featured formerly enslaved people. His long career as a writer, orator, and statesman provided him with ample opportunities to share stories of his life in bondage with the wider world. In developing the exhibit, the Museum wanted to introduce visitors to other people who experienced slavery and emancipation – people who did not give speeches or write memoirs and who may have been illiterate. Even with such obstacles, the stories of ordinary freedpeople have survived. Identifying and sharing their stories also draws our attention to the organizations and individuals who preserved and collected them.
Octave Johnson U.S. Secretary of War Edwin Stanton established the American Freedmen’s Inquiry three months after the Emancipation Proclamation went into effect in 1863. Commissioners were to interview newly freed people and U.S. military commanders in the southern states and make recommendations as to how to best support the transition to freedom.
Lila Nichols and Daniel Waring In 1935, as millions of Americans struggled to find gainful employment with the Great Depression dragging on, the Roosevelt administration created the Works Progress (or Work Projects) Administration (WPA). A subdivision of the WPA called the Federal Writers’ Project sent field workers to 17 states to record the oral histories of former slaves. Between 1936 and 1938, they interviewed more than 2,000 formerly enslaved people. The transcripts were deposited at the Library of Congress (LC), then compiled and released in 1941 as Slave Narratives: A Folk History of Slavery in the United States from Interviews with Former Slaves (now available on the LC website as the Born in Slavery collection.)
Lila Nichols, born circa 1848, was living in Cary, North Carolina, when interviewed on May 18, 1937. She described her early life in slavery as a difficult one, with scant food, poor clothing and housing, physically exhausting work, and physical abuse from her owners. She recalled the arrival of U.S. soldiers with mixed feelings: they stole or destroyed nearly everything and insulted black and white Southerners alike, but Lila and her family were finally free to leave the plantation.
PHOTOS CENTER & RIGHT: LIBRARY OF CONGRESS
Twenty-threeyear-old Octave Johnson was serving as a corporal in Company C, 15th Regiment Corps d’Afrique, when he provided testimony to the Commission in 1864. His succinct and matter-of-fact deposition is incredibly powerful. Born in New Orleans, he worked as a cooper until one morning when, facing the threat of being whipped, he ran away. Hiding with other runaways in the Louisiana swamps for a year and a half, Johnson endured hunger and eluded slave hunters and their dogs before finally reaching a U.S. fort. He eventually joined the Corps D’Afrique, one of the U.S. Army’s first all-black regiments. His unit later became the 99th U.S. Colored Infantry.
Daniel Waring was born in Fairfield, South Carolina, in 1849. He was 14 years old when news came of the Emancipation Proclamation. “We didn’t know where to go or what to do,” he (Photo, above) told the interviewers, “and so we stayed right Lila Nichols, age 89. where we was...” Then his family moved to (Photo, center) Columbia, South Carolina, where he took Formerly enslaved people who up odd jobs and received scant assistance gathered on April 8, 1937, at from the Freedmen’s Bureau. Southern Pines, N.C., for the
Hamp Santee When historian Dr. George Rawick began compiling and
annual event, Old Slave Day, where they shared their recollections. (Photo, opposite page) Frederick Douglass T H E A M E R I C A N C I V I L WA R M U S E U M 2 5
editing the WPA slave narratives for publication, he discovered the additional narratives that the LC never released, as well as WPA interviews in various repositories that were never sent to the LC. He included these previously overlooked narratives in his comprehensive series The American Slave: A Composite Autobiography, published 19711979 and spanning 41 volumes. One of these previously overlooked narratives was that of Hamp Santee, who in 1865 was only six years old and living in Leaksville, Mississippi. He recalled U.S. soldiers temporarily camping on his owner’s plantation and stealing his family’s hogs. When Confederate surrender finally made emancipation a reality, it stamped his memory with the overwhelming joy expressed by the new freedpeople.
Laura Smalley After the WPA Federal Writers’ Project stopped collecting former slaves’ oral histories, the Library of Congress continued the work on a much smaller scale. Having received a grant to purchase a portable audio recorder in 1942, Dr. John Henry Faulk traveled through Texas to document the memories of formerly enslaved people. His unfamiliarity with the technology resulted in only a few successful recordings.
LIBRARY OF CONGRESS
One of these surviving interviews was with Laura Smalley of Hempstead, Texas, who was about 10 years old in 1865. Despite her youth, she clearly recollected violence against enslaved people by slaveholders. Beyond her owner’s long absence while serving as a Confederate soldier, she described being largely unaware of the War. She recalled that, after his return, he did not tell his enslaved workers they were free until the arrival of U.S. troops in June 1865. The challenging circumstances and choices confronting enslaved people during the War and the uneven process of emancipation become intensely personal and meaningful for Museum visitors when heard through the words of formerly enslaved people. By featuring a few of their stories in our new exhibit, theMuseum is privileged to facilitate a new audience in discovering the power of these unique narratives. Catherine Wright was a Curator in the Museum’s Collections Department, 2008 - 2019, and was the principal researcher and writer for “A People’s Contest.” She now lives in Edinburgh, Scotland.
Patsy Moses, a formerly enslaved woman living in Waco, Texas, was interviewed and photographed on November 15, 1937, for the WPA’s Federal Writers’ Project.
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David Blight & Douglass’s ‘Composite Nation’
Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom (Hardback) Item #153851 $37.50; Members $33.75
As a young man Frederick Douglass (1818–1895) escaped from slavery in Baltimore, Maryland. He was fortunate to have been taught to read by his slave owner mistress, and he would go on to become one of the major literary figures of his time. His very existence gave the lie to slave owners: with dignity and great intelligence he bore witness to the brutality of slavery.
he American Civil War Museum and the University of Richmond Department of History are pleased to present Dr. David W. Blight, Sterling Professor of History and Director of the Gilder-Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition at Yale University, to deliver the 24th annual Elizabeth Roller Bottimore Lecture. Blight’s talk, Frederick Douglass’s ‘Composite Nation’ 150 Years Later, is based on his book, Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom, which received the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for biography. David Blight is no stranger to the Museum, the University
PENELOPE M. CARRINGTON
“Absorbing and even moving…a brilliant book that speaks to our own time as well as Douglass’s” (The Wall Street Journal)
Center, and spoke often for the Center and for the University of Richmond’s Jepson School of Leadership Studies about Frederick Douglass and leadership.
– or to Frederick Douglass. Blight delivered the 1999 Bottimore Lecture on the subject of his work then in progress, which became the award-winning and influential 2001 book, Race and Reunion:The Civil War in American Memory. He served on the advisory board of the American Civil War
With his Pulitzer-winning book, Blight returned to the subject that he noted “is in some ways the product of my entire professional career.” His first book, published in 1989, was Frederick Douglass’s Civil War: Keeping the Faith in Jubilee. In the preface to his 1989
book, Blight noted his “three major interests in American history: the black experience, the Civil War, and intellectual history.” Those interests – along with his work on the history of Reconstruction – are evident in his long career as a high school history teacher, as one of America’s leading research scholars at Harvard University, Amherst College, and Yale University, as frequent consultant to museums, historical sites, and teachers institutes, and as commentator on documentary film projects.
2019 BOTTIMORE LECTURE Thursday, Oct. 10 @ 7:30 p.m.
University of Richmond, International Center Commons Free. Seating is limited. Reservations strongly recommended. Reserve your seat at acwm.org.
Initially mentored by William Lloyd Garrison, Douglass spoke widely, using his own story to condemn slavery. By the Civil War, Douglass had become the most famed and widely travelled orator in the nation. In his unique and eloquent voice, written and spoken, Douglass was a fierce critic of the United States as well as a radical patriot. After the war he sometimes argued politically with younger African Americans, but he never forsook either the Republican party or the cause of black civil and political rights. In this “cinematic and deeply engaging” (The New York Times Book Review) biography, David Blight has drawn on new information held in a private collection that few other historian have consulted, as well as recently discovered issues of Douglass’s newspapers.
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Spying on the South: An Odyssey Across the American Divide by Tony Horwitz follows the trail of landscape architect and New York Times correspondent Frederick Law Olmsted as he traveled through the slave South in the 1850s. Item #153734
onfederates in the Attic: Dispatches from the Unfinished Civil War by Tony Horwitz is the classic study of how the War still affects us today, and showcases Horwitz’s signature blend of humor, history, and hard-nosed journalism.
Paperback, Item #1269 $17; Members $15.30
$30; Members $27
Dixie’s Daughters: The United Daughters of the Confederacy and the Preservation of Confederate Culture by Karen L. Cox is a history of the UDC’s first two generations that also illuminates the role of southern women in the development of Confederate memory. Paperback Item #20472 $24.95; Members $22.45
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of one of the U.S. Army’s most accomplished young officers. Volume 1 Item #153844 $58; Members $52.20 Volume 2 Item #153845 $58; Members $52.20
BUCKLE UP Gen. Robert E. Lee
Licensed by the Museum, this brass reproduction is the only one ever made from Lee’s Dress Sword Belt Plate. Cast in solid brass. Item #2792
The Calculus of Violence: How Americans Fought the Civil War by Aaron Sheehan-Dean is the recipient of the Museum’s 2018 Jefferson Davis Award as the outstanding narrative work. Sheehan-Dean emphasizes how our often uncivil war could have been much worse and the factors that restrained the level of violence.
$115; Members $103.50
Hardcover Item #153846 $35; Members $31
American Oracle: The Civil War in the Civil Rights Era by David Blight explores how Americans at the time of the Civil War Centennial made sense of the War’s meaning through a survey of four contemporary writers: Robert Penn Warren, Bruce Catton, Edmund Wilson, and James Baldwin. Paperback Item #454 $20; Members $18
Licensed by the Museum, this is the only reproduction ever made from the belt plate Stuart wore as commander of the Army of Northern Virginia cavalry. This model is numbered and cast in solid brass. Item #2793 $98.50: Members $88.65
Confederate States Navy Correspondence of Major General Emory Upton, Vol. 1, 1857 – 1875 and Vol. 2, 1875 – 1881 edited by Salvatore G. Cilella, Jr., received the Museum’s 2017-2018 Founders Award for excellence in editing of primary source documents. Editor Cilella brings together letters from dozens of collections, decodes Upton’s famously illegible handwriting, and adds annotations that shed light on the wartime and postwar careers
This CSN belt plate is cast from the original worn by Lt. William Pinckney Mason, CSN. Item #2133 $98.50; Members $88.65 T H E A M E R I C A N C I V I L WA R M U S E U M 2 8
AN UPDATE FROM THE FOUNDATION Dear Members and Friends,
AMERICAN LEGACY CAMPAIGN
As we close our fiscal year and look back, we share with you a great sense of accomplishment and confidence for the future. The top of the list of accomplishments is certainly the opening of the new building and exhibits. The national press has praised it. The leading Civil War magazine, America’s Civil War, states that the Museum “allows history to speak honestly for itself, free of ideology or presentism.” Smithsonian adds that the Museum “literally brings visitors face-to-face with the past.” The Washington Post took special notice of the colorized photographs with “The result is surprising, like seeing modern people cast back into historical settings.” The New York Times made the same observation with different words: “You see these historical actors as actual individuals who experienced the world not unlike yourself.”
66%, as many people joined after seeing the new building and the experiencing the exhibits. Many of you who were members before the opening had faith and renewed your membership for three years - a great vote of confidence for which we thank you. And to those of you who are new, a hearty welcome. You make a real difference by supporting our efforts to bring credible history to life for thousands of people. Please welcome the two newest additions to our development team. Chris Pence joins us from the Development Department at his alma mater, James Madison University. A native of Bridgewater, VA, Chris will be handling grants from foundations, corporations, and public entities. Kathryn Lewis joins us from the Advancement Department at the Virginia
Thousands of visitors from around the world, have already come through the building; and we think the greatest testament to their reactions (See page 3) has been that hundreds of them have signed up as new members. We could not have made these strides without the support of those of you who have contributed to our capital campaign. Several years ago, we set a goal of $48 million to expand our facilities, exhibits, and digital reach. While some thought that goal was overly aggressive, others saw the crisis we have in dealing with American history and helped us commit to doing something about it. We are nearing the completion of this campaign, having raised $46.2 million toward our goal. The building is open and the exhibits are vibrant, but it is not too late for those of you who want to be recorded in history as one of our supporters.You can call me (804-649-1861, ext. 130) or Patrick Daughtry (ext. 145), our Director of Development, to discuss the possibilities.
Museum of Fine Arts. Many of you will get to know Kathryn in her role as our Membership Coordinator. A graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University, Kathryn hails from Falls Church,VA. With our strong foundation of board, staff, and new facilities and exhibits, and with the support of members like you, we look forward to continuing our work and making that difference.
Speaking of members and supporters, another great accomplishment of the year has been in our membership. We have seen our membership swell by S. Waite Rawls III Foundation President 3 0 FA L L 2 0 1 9
You’ve Helped Us Preserve Their Legacy… Will You Instill Your Own? BY KATHRYN LEWIS
he American Civil War Museum works tirelessly to preserve the more than 15,000 artifacts under its care so that future generations will be able to learn from and about one of the most divisive times in American history. It is within the walls of our museum buildings, on our website and online catalog, and through the work of our Education Department that we tell the stories of people who experienced the Civil War people who never could have imagined that their lives, words, and possessions would be relevant more than 150 years later. As members of the American Civil War Museum, you understand that your gifts help the Museum preserve the legacies of those people. But did you know that including the ACWM in your will or estate plans can also be the beginning of your own legacy? A planned gift (such as a bequest, life insurance policy or charitable gift annuity) helps us continue to plan for the long term and ensure our future.
PENELOPE M. CARRINGTON
Bequests often provide essential boosts to the health of non-profit institutions. The most significant gift this Museum received in its early years was a bequest, realized in 1922, from Ellen “Nellie” Nalle Palmer, a child of the War and widow of a Confederate veteran. More than 80 years later, highway engineer, “Civil War buff,” and Museum member Charles Owen left a generous
bequest that enabled the Museum to jump start a longterm planning process. These are just two examples of the power of planned giving, demonstrating the impact of your gift into the unknowable future. We hope you will consider making a planned gift, or, if you have already included the ACWM in your planned giving, that you share those plans with us. Anyone who makes a planned gift will be invited to join The Regents Circle, a group created to recognize, honor, and thank our supporters who have remembered the ACWM in their estate planning. As a Regents Circle participant, you will receive invitations to selected events and programs, and with your permission, you will also be acknowledged in our yearly Annual Report. If you are interested in learning more about creating your legacy at The American Civil War Museum, please contact Kathryn Lewis at email@example.com. Kathryn Lewis is the Museum’s Membership Coordinator.
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490 Tredegar Street, Richmond, VA 23219
PHOTOGRAPHS BY PENELOPE M. CARRINGTON
Discover handmade products by Henderson’s Redware & Whetstone Woodenware @ acwm.org.