Thursday, February 19, 2015

Don't miss an excellent Civil War museum in Winchester, Va.

A Yankee soldier gave Jefferson Davis a piece of his mind. 
Henry Powell, a 15-year-old Union soldier, scrawled his alias, "Henry Jones," 
on the second-floor courthouse wall. 

Like this blog on Facebook

When two Union soldiers scrawled on the wall of the second floor of the Frederick County Courthouse in Winchester, Va.,  they probably didn't expect visitors there 150 years later would stare at their handiwork. One of the Yankees even took a potshot at his arch-enemy, the president of the Confederacy. "To Jeff Davis," the unknown soldier etched on the wall, "may he be set afloat on a boat without compass or rudder then that any contents be swallowed by a shark by a whale whale in the devils belly and the devil in hell the gates locked the key lost and further may he be put in the north west corner with a south east wind blowing ashes in his eyes for all eternity." Punctuation and grammar weren't that soldier's strong suit, but you get the idea.

More soldier etchings, as well as an impressive collection of Civil War artillery, may also be found on the second floor of the red-brick building, which was used as a prison and a hospital during the Civil War. Today, it's home to the outstanding Old Court House Civil War Museum on Loudoun Street. Much of the Civil War collection, which also includes muskets, bullets, uniforms, buttons, grenades and more, was provided by long-time collector Harry Ridgeway, a Winchester resident and founder of the museum, who sells Civil War artifacts on his excellent web site. (An aside: One my fondest memories is a visit to Harry's Winchester house more than a decade ago. A longtime relic hunter, he has an amazing Civil War collection.)

Even though I only had time for a 30-minute visit, the $5 museum fee was well worth it. I especially enjoyed the large collection of massive Union artillery shells, most of them deactivated (I'm kidding), and the large collection of used and new books for sale in the gift shop on the first floor. Although the old courthouse was used as a hospital for both armies, I couldn't find any blood on the beautiful floor boards, which are original. Perhaps I wasn't looking hard enough. Maybe next time.

During the Civil War, the Frederick County Courthouse in Winchester, Va, was used as a 
prison and hospital.  After battles in the area, dead and wounded soldiers were
 placed on the building's porch.
                                   A judge's view of the first floor of the old courthouse.

Smoothbore artillery shells. Look but don't touch!
This huge smoothbore projectile was meant to be fired from the Dictator, the largest Union mortar.
The massive shells in the front row were used in fort guns. 
A pair of rifled Confederate artillery shells.

Have something to add (or correct) in this post? E-mail me here.

No comments:

Post a Comment