A Tour of the National Civil War Museum

Today I took a Members’ Tour of the archives and collection held in the National Civil War Museum in Harrisburg, PA. Curator Brett Kelley conducted the tour and gave us a wonderful inside view of what visitors don’t usually get to see.

Our first stop was a set of artifacts from an Ohio soldier who was a cobbler. His wife was a dress maker. Their family recently donated these artifacts to the museum, and the museum is in the process of cataloging the artifacts and researching their background. The last photo is of his military gear, which includes his knapsack on the bottom shelf, his holster, his belt, canteen, bayonet, and other accouterments.

Also included in the initial displays we saw was this replica Henry Rifle from the Henry Rifle Company.

This is Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain’s commission as a Major General of Volunteers.

The archives includes this copy of a famous photograph of former camp slaves at a United Confederate Veterans reunion. The guy with the funny hat and the confederate flag is Steve Perry, aka Steve Eberhart. He was a real character.

Also included was this hand-drawn map prepared for and actually used by Robert E. Lee in 1864.

The museum has a number of photographs in its archives, including this of a 10-year-old Union soldier,

and this photo of Johnny Clem, the famous “Drummer Boy of Shiloh.”

The museum also has this original telegram from Lt. General Ulysses S. Grant promoting Joshua L. Chamberlain to brigadier general.

And speaking of Chamberlain, this is a letter Chamberlain wrote to his wife, Fanny.

There is also this letter from Robert E. Lee to George E. Pickett. There were a number of documents we viewed, including letters from George A. Custer and George G. Meade.

From the archives we went into where the artifacts were stored.

This is me holding Marcus Reno’s revolver.

And this is Reno’s camp box, with the pistol in its place. You can see his flask, his pipes, and an ink blotter among the contents.

We also saw George Pickett’s sash and Jefferson Davis’ valise.

This is Alexander Hays’ sword and George Crook’s camp desk.

They even have George A. Custer’s boot pullers.

And this is George Sears Greene’s uniform coat.

The tour was really great. We had a wonderful time and it was very special to hold actual items from history in our hands. My thanks to Brett Kelley and Museum CEO Wayne Motts for making this opportunity available.

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