Townspeople Reenact An Early Civil War Battle… On Twitter

There are a number of Civil War commemorations happening this year, most notably Gettysburg’s big 150th anniversary. But even if making it out to watch a reenactment of a battle isn’t in the cards, there is still an option to get in on the action. Tonight and tomorrow, more than 30 people will be “live-tweeting” William Quantrill’s 1863 raid on Lawrence, Kansas — one of the bloodiest events in Kansas history that left nearly 200 people dead and much of the town burned. Tweeters have created accounts for figures integral to the battle — townspeople, Union soldiers and proslavery leader William Quantrill — that will be used to recreate the act of terrorism minute-by-minute. Follow the hashtag #QR1863 to be transported to another time and place. I guess you can call it Twitter time travel!

Gettysburg’s American Civil War Wax Museum Is For Sale

Civil WarA favorite destination in America’s most famous Civil War battlefield faces an uncertain future as its owners are retiring and putting the building up for sale.

The American Civil War Wax Museum at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, was opened in 1962 and is selling for $1.7 million, the Evening Sun reports. Being a popular tourist attraction, the current owners say they are confident someone will buy it and keep it open.

The museum features more than 300 life-sized wax figures like these of Confederate Generals Joseph Johnston and Robert E. Lee shown here courtesy Flickr user cliff1066. Many of the figures are arranged into scenes of important moments in the Civil War.

In addition to the museum and a large gift shop, visitors can see reenactors demonstrating Civil War-era weapons and equipment most weekends from April through October.

Remarkably, the museum was founded by a Polish immigrant named C.M. Uberman, who moved to the United States shortly after World War II. This demonstrates the fascination this era of American history has for people all around the world. Here in Spain, history buffs ask me about the Civil War more than all other periods of American history combined. Hopefully if they make it to Gettysburg they’ll find the American Civil War Wax Museum alive and well.

Civil War New York Subject Of New Exhibition

Civil War
During the Civil War, New York was the wealthiest and most populous state on either side of the conflict. A new exhibition at the New York State Museum in Albany examines the important role New York played in preserving the Union.

“An Irrepressible Conflict: The Empire State in the Civil War” features more than two hundred artifacts, documents and images centering around the themes of Antebellum New York, the Civil War, and Reconstruction and Legacy. Artifacts on display include a Lincoln life mask from 1860, the earliest photograph of Frederick Douglass, and the only known portrait of Dred Scott. There’s also a slave collar from c.1806 to point out the often-overlooked fact that slavery was once common in this northern state.

The exhibition examines various aspects of the war and home front and has a section dedicated to the Elmira Prison Camp, dubbed “Hellmira” by the Confederate soldiers interned there. Nearly 25 percent of them died from malnutrition, exposure and disease.

In a press release, the museum stated that the exhibition’s title was inspired by an 1858 quote from then U.S. Senator William H. Seward, who disagreed with those who believed that the prospect of war between the North and South was the work of “fanatical agitators.” He understood that the roots of conflict went far deeper, writing, “It is an irrepressible conflict, between opposing and enduring forces.”

“An Irrepressible Conflict: The Empire State in the Civil War” starts today and runs until September 22, 2013.

[Photo of noncommissioned officers' mess of Co. D, 93d New York Infantry courtesy Library of Congress]

Civil War Ballooning Revived This Memorial Day Weekend

Civil War
During the Civil War, the clashing armies used many new technologies to try to gain an advantage.

One military innovation was the balloon. Although the first balloon ascent had taken place in France in 1783 and the French army had already used them in battle as early as 1794, military aviation was still in its infancy and the United States and Confederacy became the second and third countries to use it.

Balloons were handy for spying on enemy movements. Observers would send back information either with signal flags or via a telegraph wire leading to the ground. The more industrial North had an edge in ballooning, but the South used them effectively too. Despite their best efforts, neither side was able to shoot these daring aviators out of the sky.

Now these early experiments are being re-enacted in Virginia. On Saturday, May 26, there will be a Civil War Balloon Observation Exhibit at the Yorktown Battlefield. There will be presentations on how balloons were used by both sides. It’s part of a weekend of lectures and re-enactments.

On Memorial Day, Monday, May 28, at the Gloucester Main Street Center, there will be a Civil War re-enactment featuring a 45-foot diameter replica of the Union’s balloon Intrepid. Re-enactors will portray Union and Confederate balloonists. Those who prefer more recent military history can meet special guest Richard C. Kirkland, who flew 103 combat missions in World War II and whose 69 helicopter rescues in Korea inspired the movie and TV series “M*A*S*H.”

[Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons]

National Portrait Gallery Opens Two Civil War Exhibits

National Portrait Gallery, Civil War
The National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C., is commemorating the Civil War with two new exhibits.

The Confederate Sketches of Adalbert Volck” looks at the work of a rebel dentist who became one of the Confederacy’s leading political cartoonists. Unlike most German immigrants, who sided with the Union, Volck was an active rebel who not only fought the Union with his pen, but also smuggled much-needed medical supplies to the South. The exhibit runs until January 21, 2013.

More famous is photographer Mathew Brady, whose portable photographic studio is shown above. “Mathew Brady’s Photographs of Union Generals” make up the second exhibition. Numerous high-quality images of the Union’s leading and lesser-known generals will be on display. The exhibit runs until May 31, 2015.

The exhibitions are part of a continuing series at the National Portrait Gallery marking the Sesquicentennial of the Civil War.

Photo courtesy Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.