The Virginia Museum of the Civil War, New Market, Virginia

James N.

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The Virginia Museum of the Civil War is located on and an important part of New Market Battlefield State Historical Park, located right between I - 81 (which unfortunately bisects the battlefield) and U.S. 11 (the Valley Turnpike at the time of the Civil War) at the town of New Market. The museum is administered by the Virginia Military Institute in memoriam to its cadets who fought and died here in the battle fought May 15, 1864. It contains the large gallery seen above with exhibits on the war in Virginia in general and the battle of New Market in particular; as well as a smaller theater where a film, The Field of Lost Shoes (NOT the theatrical version, but a special and very good shorter one created especially for the museum) is shown hourly.

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The museum had its genesis during the Civil War Centennial of 1961 - 65 when the Virginia Civil War Centennial Center was opened for the duration in downtown Richmond. Once the Centennial war over, however, the exhibits which had been crafted especially for it were placed in storage and its circular building demolished. During the 1970's as interest in the war reawakened, the museum here was built in a similar style and the old exhibits once again found a home. Two of those original displays remain today, the life-size diorama above depicting Maj. John Pelham at Fredericksburg and the HO-scale diorama below of Railroads in the War. Other displays are of recent vintage and have been re-worked many times over the intervening years.

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As might be expected, the true glory of this institution lies in its wonderful collection of uniforms and personal items pertaining to the 1864 battle fought here; the VMI Cadets are especially well-represented. The case above includes an original cadet uniform, a hospital corps stretcher from the battle, a pictorial journal kept by one of the cadets, the saber of a cadet officer, and a saber bayonet; plus photos of Union commander Maj. Gen. Franz Sigel at left, Confederates Col. George S. Patton (grandfather of the WWII commander and later killed at Winchester) and Brig. Gen. Gabriel Wharton at top right, and Elizabeth Clindenst Crim who helped care for the wounded and despite her own young age was known to the boys as Mother Crim. Below are photos, the dress frock coat, kepi, and sword of Lt. Col. Scott Shipp who was Commandant of Cadets during the battle.

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Above, a fine example of a regulation Confederate frock coat as worn by a lieutenant colonel.

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Other regulation Confederate frocks are those of a major of cavalry, above; and below, another major, this time of artillery at left. The one at right is for a company-grade infantry officer of unknown rank.

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One of the more unusual items is this breastplate, seen at left below, worn beneath his uniform by a Federal soldier and recovered from a Virginia battlefield. These were sold through mail-order advertisements in newspapers and magazines like Harper's Weekly but soon proved unpopular with their wearers due to their weight and discomfort in Virginia's hot and humid climate! At right is a moth-eaten but otherwise complete Federal mounted greatcoat.

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The museum building below, as seen from the battlefield.

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James N.

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Asst. Regtl. Quartermaster Antietam 2021
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This Civil War Centennial attraction in Richmond featured several of the displays and exhibits and its design likely influenced that of the New Market Museum.

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The John Pelham Fredericksburg artillery diorama was a highpoint of the old exhibition as featured in this period postcard:
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bankerpapaw

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My wife and I visited here last year. Very impressive. However it is disturbing that the Interstate roars right through the middle of the battlefield.
 

James N.

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What happened to the original Civil War Centennial Building in Richmond.
As far as I know it was never intended to be permanent and some time around or after the end of the Centennial in 1965 it was removed. I saw it in 1964 and it was already looking a bit shabby, but the next time I visited Richmond many years later it was long gone. Likely, its displays had been put in storage somewhere, making them available to this museum when it was created.
 
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