New Civil War museum at Appomattox features General Lee’s sword and uniform

Civil War, Robert E. LeeAs we reported a year ago, a new Civil War museum has been under construction at Appomattox, Virginia. It is a branch of Richmond’s Museum of the Confederacy and will commemorate the surrender of General Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia and the aftermath of the Civil War.

Now the Museum of the Confederacy-Appomattox is almost complete and will open March 31. Among the displays are General Lee’s uniform and gold ceremonial sword — the very same he wore and carried on April 9, 1865 when he met General Ulysses S. Grant to surrender.

More than 450 items will be on display in an exhibition space spanning 11,700 square feet. It’s located near Appomattox Court House National Historical Park, which includes the McLean House where Grant and Lee met.

The Museum of the Confederacy is planning more regional museums in order to make their large collection more accessible. Satellite museums are planned for Fredericksburg and Hampton Roads, Virginia.

Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

Six new Virginia tourist attractions to visit in 2012

Demonstrations by skilled artisans, Civil War attractions, an amazing new treehouse, and a historic home that will make you feel (or at least sing) “crazy;” visitors to Virginia in 2012 will find several new vacation experiences. Throughout the next year, here are some of the new reasons to travel to the state.

Heartwood
Abingdon, Virginia
Billed as “Southwest Virginia’s Artisan Gateway,” this new facility adjacent to I-81 is home to regional artisans working in music, crafts, food and wine. There are also galleries and interactive exhibits, a shop, restaurant, and coffee/wine bar.
Winchester, Virginia
If Patsy Cline makes you “fall to pieces,” then this new historical site is worth the trip. The modest white house that the music legend lived in from ages 16 to 21 is now open to the public. Furnished with period pieces and some originals, it has been revamped to look almost exactly as it did when Patsy Cline lived there. Guided tours are available for those who want to know all the details on where Patsy Cline lived while beginning her music career.
Hampton, Virginia
After more than 150 years as an army post, the largest stone fort ever built in the United States officially became part of the National Park System on November 1, 2011. Nicknamed “Freedom’s Fortress,” the fort provided a safe haven for hundreds or runaway slaves during the Civil War. In 2012, walking tours of the fort will be available during the summer.

Appomatox, Virginia
The buzz surrounding the 150th anniversary of the Civil War brought new opportunities for the Museum and White House of the Confederacy in Richmond, which will expand its presence with a secon facility in Appomattox set to open in Spring 2012. The $7.5 million museum will focus on the end of the Civil War, the surender at Appomattox, and the reunification of the country.

Williamsburg, Virginia
Known simply as “the Pottery,” Williamsburg Pottery has been a shopping destination since 1938. This April, the site will be reborn with a half-mile of new buildings–including a new cafe, restaurant, and bakery.

Meadows of Dan, Virginia
One of the world’s top treehouse architectural firms has designed a new, unique lodging experience at Primland Resort. Built on the boughs of one of the resort’s oldest and most beautiful red cedar trees (without the intrusion of a single nail), the treehouse overlooks the Dan River Gorge. Inside is a king bed, enormous deck, and other luxurious amentities.
The state will also host several new exhibits, including welcoming the Space Shuttle Discovery at the National Air & Space Museum in Chantilly and hosting a show of Andy Warhol Portraits at the Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art in Virginia Beach.

Civil War secret message decoded

Civil War, civil war
A coded message sent to the beleaguered Confederate commander of Vicksburg has been cracked, the BBC reports.

The Museum of the Confederacy in Richmond has had the message in its collection for more than a century. It had never tried to decipher the code of seemingly random letters until this year, when they sent it off to retired CIA codebreaker David Gaddy. While Gaddy is trained to break sophisticated modern codes, this early cipher was still tough enough to take him several weeks.

It turns out the message was sent to Confederate General John Pemberton telling him he wouldn’t be getting any reinforcements. The city was the key to the Mississippi River and had been under siege by Union forces for months. The message was dated 4 July 1863, the same day Pemberton surrendered. The bad news was probably the last straw. With his men short of food and munitions and the city in ruins, Pemberton’s last hope was getting reinforcements.

The fall of Vicksburg opened up the Mississippi River to Union gunboats and cut the Confederacy in half. It was one of the turning points of the Civil War.

[Photo courtesy U.S. Army]