Museum of the Confederacy

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Museum of the Confederacy
Museum of the Confederacy and the White House of the Confederacy.jpg
Museum of the Confederacy (left) and the White House of the Confederacy (right)
Museum of the Confederacy is located in Virginia
Museum of the Confederacy
Former name Confederate Museum
Established May 3, 1866 (1866-05-03)
Location Richmond, Virginia
Appomattox, Virginia
Type History museum
Key holdings uniform and sword of Robert E. Lee
Collections Confederate documents, battle flags
Visitors 51,000
Director Eric App
President S. Waite Rawls III, Christy Coleman
Curator Cathy Wright
Nearest parking VCU Medical Center

The Museum of the Confederacy encompasses museums in Richmond and Appomattox, Virginia as well as the historic home which served as the White House of the Confederacy adjacent to the Richmond museum. It maintains a comprehensive collection of artifacts, manuscripts, Confederate imprints (books and pamphlets), and photographs from the Confederate States of America and the American Civil War (1861–1865).

In November 2013, the museum's governance was merged with the American Civil War Center at Historic Tredegar.[1] In January 2014, it was announced that the new combined institution would be called the American Civil War Museum.[2]

Richmond museum[edit]

The museum was founded 25 years after Lee's surrender in Appomattox in the historic home that served as the White House of the Confederacy when the Ladies Hollywood Memorial Association saved the home from destruction two blocks north of the Virginia State Capitol. Opened as the Confederate Museum on February 22, 1896. The historic home was named a National Historic Landmark in 1963 and Virginia Historic Landmark 1966. The growing collection was moved to a new building in October 1976 adjacent next door and a 12-year restoration of the historic home began. Today the museum's location in Richmond maintains a collection of flags, weapons, documents and personal effects over 3 floors and operates tours of the home restored to its wartime appearance. The museum and home are surrounded by the VCU Medical Center and shares parking with the hospital. In 2006, museum officials announced that neither the museum nor the home would be moved.[3][4]

The museum houses more than 15,000 documents and artifacts along with 500 original, wartime, battle flags from the failed Confederate States of America. Among the thousands of other important pieces found there are items owned by Jefferson Davis, Robert Edward Lee, Joseph E. Johnston, John Bell Hood, Thomas Jonathan Jackson, Simon Bolivar Buckner, J.E.B. Stuart, Joseph Wheeler, Wade Hampton, Lewis Armistead, and Raphael Semmes. The provisional Confederate Constitution and the Great Seal of the Confederacy are also housed there.

Anchor of the CSS Virginia

A newer building to better preserve and exhibit the museum's collections was built and opened in 1976 immediately adjacent to the White House, on its remaining 3/4 acre (3,000 m²) property. The anchor of the first ironclad warship, CSS Virginia which fought the USS Monitor in the Battle of Hampton Roads on March 9, 1862, is prominently displayed in front of the Museum.

The White House was closed in 1976, to be fully restored to its wartime appearance. The restoration project was completed in 1988, gaining high marks from the preservation community for its accuracy and richness of detail. Reopened for public tours in June of that year, the White House featured extensive reproduction wall coverings and draperies, as well as significant numbers of original White House furnishings from the Civil War period.

Notable past and present exhibitions include: The Confederate Years: Battles, Leaders, and Soldiers, 1861–1865; Women in Mourning; Before Freedom Came: African-American Life in the Antebellum South; Embattled Emblem: The Army of Northern Virginia Battle Flag, 1861 – Present; A Woman’s War: Southern Women, Civil War, and the Confederate Legacy; R. E. Lee: The Exhibition; The Confederate Navy; and Virginia and the Confederacy: A Quadricentennial Perspective.


The Museum of the Confederacy was founded by Richmond's society ladies, starting with Isabel Maury who was later joined by Ann Crenshaw Grant, and Isobel Stewart Bryan. Isabel Maury was the founder of the Museum of the Confederacy but she also was the first Regent of the Confederate Memorial Literary Society (CMLS). The Isabel Maury Planned Giving Society continues the work of Mrs. Isabel Maury, daughter of Robert Henry Maury, who, with the Relics Committee, was instrumental in securing much of the Museum's current collection.

Mrs. Isabel Maury was a cousin to Matthew Fontaine Maury, the naval officer and scientist credited as the father of modern oceanography. Matthew Fontaine Maury lived in Robert Henry Maury's house in the early part of the American Civil War and would walk the two blocks to the White House of the Confederacy on a daily basis. It was in this house that Matthew Fontaine Maury first worked with burning underwater fuses for torpedoes in a tub of water. Today there are old and new plaques on the building that testify to this. Mrs. Grant was the sister of Lewis Crenshaw, who owned the house just prior to the war, and was married to James Grant, a wealthy tobacconist who also lived within the neighborhood. Mrs. Bryan was the wife of Joseph Bryan, a wealthy businessman and publisher, whose family is still associated with the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

By the centennial anniversary of the Civil War, the museum's governing board determined that it wanted to see the museum evolve from a shrine to a more modern museum. In 1963, the CMLS hired its first museum professional as the executive director, and in 1970, changed the name of the institution to "The Museum of the Confederacy." Visitors peaked at 91,000 per year in the early 1990s but was down to around 51,000 in the early 2000s [3]

White House of the Confederacy[edit]

White House of the Confederacy, 1865, Library of Congress

The White House of the Confederacy is a gray stuccoed neoclassical mansion built in 1818 by John Brockenbrough, who was president of the Bank of Virginia. Designed by Robert Mills, Brockenbrough’s private residence was built in early nineteenth century on East Clay Street in Richmond's affluent Shockoe Hill neighborhood (later known as the Court End District), and was two blocks north of the Virginia State Capitol.

President of the Confederate States of America Jefferson Davis, his wife Varina, and their children moved into the house in August 1861, and lived there for the remainder of the war. President Davis maintained an at-home office on the second floor of the White House due to poor health.

The house was abandoned during the evacuation of Richmond on April 2, 1865. Within twelve hours, soldiers from Major General Godfrey Weitzel’s XVIII Corps seized the former Confederate White House, intact. During his tour of Richmond, President Abraham Lincoln, visited Davis' former residence, and it was where Union officers held a number of meetings with local officials in the aftermath. During Reconstruction, the White House of the Confederacy served as the headquarters for Military District Number One (Virginia), and was occasionally used as the residence of the commanding officer of the Department of Virginia.

When the city announced its plans to demolish the building to make way for a more modern school building in 1890, the Confederate Memorial Literary Society was formed with the sole purpose of saving the White House from destruction.

Appomattox Court House museum[edit]

Death mask of Robert E. Lee, on display at the Appomattox museum

An annex to the museum opened on March 31, 2012, in Appomattox Court House, Virginia adjacent to the Appomattox Court House National Historical Park, The museum houses Robert E. Lee's sword, his uniform that he wore to the surrender, a pen used in the signing the surrender, his death mask, and various other artifacts belonging to both famous and common soldiers.[5][6]

Future expansion[edit]

The museum announced plans in September 2007 to build a system of new museum sites around the state of Virginia. Citing diminishing returns on visitation to the original site, the concept for the "Museum of the Confederacy System" is to exhibit its vast collections in strategically located, high-traffic, tourist destinations that are also significant Civil War sites. The plans are to build museums in Spotsylvania County, Virginia, near the Chancellorsville Battlefield and in Hampton, Virginia, “inside the moat” at Fort Monroe. The White House of the Confederacy will remain in the care of the museum, and will be interpreted at its current site. The museum plans to maintain a corporate headquarters and its research and preservation facility in Richmond, perhaps at the current site of the museum. While museum officials recognize that the plan for implementing this new initiative is aggressive, they plan to complete the bulk of it during the sesquicentennial (150th) anniversary of the Civil War, between 2011 and 2015.

Connections to scholars[edit]

Several prominent Civil War historians have had connections to the museum. Douglas Southall Freeman, the biographer of George Washington and Robert E. Lee, started his career at the museum. William C. "Jack" Davis, Emory M. Thomas, and Harvard University President Drew Gilpin Faust have all done research there. James I. Robertson, Jr., of Virginia Tech, Edwin C. Bearss, Historian Emeritus of the National Park Service, and William J. Cooper of LSU, have each served as members of the museum’s governing board.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Calos, Katherine (November 17, 2013). "Civil War center, Confederacy museum join forces". Richmond Times-Dispatch. Retrieved 14 March 2014. 
  2. ^ Boyd, Scott C. (February–March 2014). "‘American Civil War Museum’ Is The Name For Richmond Civil War Entity". Civil War News. Retrieved 14 March 2014. 
  3. ^ a b Tucker. "Swept Away By History". Washington Post. 
  4. ^ "The Extended History - Museum of the Confederacy". 
  5. ^ "Museum of the Confederacy". 
  6. ^ Goodwin, Bill (2012). Frommer's Virginia (11th ed. ed.). Hoboken, N.J.: Wiley. p. 125. ISBN 1118118057. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]