Our CWRT made a field trip to the National Civil War Museum in Harrisburg on Saturday January 26. Spearheaded by Claire Kukielka and Barry Arnold, we met at the museum when it opened at 10:00am and received a brief orientation from CEO Wayne Motts and Educator Dane DiFibo.
For the next ninety minutes, we were treated to a behind-the-scenes tour of archival material. First seen were some of the museum’s vast collection of Civil War era documents. Examples of items seen were: promotion certificates signed by President Lincoln, telegraphed requests for information from field staff, orders prohibiting the sale of liquor in Gettysburg on June 30, 1865, photos of young soldiers and sailors, envelopes from soldiers on the lines bearing postage stamps from both the union and confederacy, and many more.
We then traveled downstairs, and after donning white cotton gloves, we entered the extensive collections area, where the sign on the door reads, “Center of the Universe.” What a fantastic and eclectic collection of Civil War memorabilia. Among the treasures were: a pistol owned by William Quantrell , a spoon from US Grant, a top hat owned by Joshua Chamberlain. a diary with a bullet embedded in it, ceremonial swords, field desks, boot strap pulls, a bloody Bible, a general’s uniforms, and more and more.
(The museum requested that pictures of items not on public display not be posted to the web, and so if you’d like to see them, join us before the February round table dinner for a slide show of all the days pictures.)
Following this tour, we ate our lunches together, and then spent the remaining time before a 2:00pm lecture, walking through the public exhibits at the museum, reading histories, looking at artifacts and watching numerous videos. The museum is a gem and does a fine job explaining the causes, battles, and aftermath of the war.
At 2:00pm we were treated to a lively public presentation from Jeff Wert about his newest Civil War book (#10) entitled, “Civil War Barrons… The Tycoons, Entrepreneurs, Inventors, and Visionaries Who Forged Victory and Shaped a Nation.”
Following the lecture, we headed home more enlightened and edified than when we arrived.
The photos below are of the museum and its public collections. As stated above, we were requested not to share on social media the pictures from our “behind-the-scenes” tour.