USS Water Witch is scheduled to be commissioned on April 4, 2009, at the National Civil War Naval Museum in Columbus, Ga. That weekend also marks the first time the painstakingly replicated vessel will open to the public.
“This is a very faithful reproduction of the USS Water Witch, which has the distinction of serving in both the U.S. and Confederate navies during the war,” explained museum director Bruce Smith. “It’s a 160-foot-long sidewheel steamer, making it a period hybrid.” A ribbon-cutting ceremony was slated for Friday, April 3 at 11 a.m., with a weekend-long RiverBlast event to follow. Living history activities will include an ironclad battle reenactment, boat rides and demonstrations of cannons as well as Gatling guns. See portcolumbus.org for more on the museum and ship.
New Generation Joins Preservation Fight
Think only a handful of hard-core Roundtable types care about preserving America’s Civil War heritage? Think again! Since 1998, the Civil War Preservation Trust’s poster and essay contest, open to grades 4 through 12, has helped thousands of youngsters understand the threats to American battlegrounds. Shown here is a 2008 second-place winner by a seventh-grader.
Trust spokeswoman Mary Goundrey Koik pointed out that many contestants become hooked on history: “One of the most interesting things has been watching the kids grow up and see how their artistic talent and interest in history develops across the years.” She recalled one student who first entered the contest as a middle-schooler and sent a poster each year until he graduated from high school. Now in college, he’s still drawing on Civil War topics. So far, Koik noted, “He’s illustrated coloring books sold across the country, birthday cards for the National Park Service and even commissioned paintings.”
This year’s theme is “It’s Our Turn: Fight to Save Civil War Battlefields.” Entries are due to the CWPT by May 15. For rules, see civilwar.org.
Grant’s Sword Finds a Home
The three-year-old Texas Civil War Museum now has a spectacular artifact linked to General, later President, Ulysses S. Grant: an engraved presentation sword with sterling silver grip and scabbard, with his initials in diamonds. Purchased by the Fort Worth museum’s President Ray Richey at auction for $1.6 million, the sword went on permanent display in late January. Created in 1864 by St. Louis silversmith Henry Folsom, the sword was a gift to Grant from the people of Kentucky when he was named general-in-chief of Union forces. Its 33-inch-long steel blade is engraved with battle scenes.
While the Texas museum, which boasts an extensive collection of artifacts from the Texas Division of the United Daughters of the Confederacy and an impressive array of flags from Texas units, might seem an odd place for Grant’s spectacular weapon, museum spokeswoman Cynthia Harriman pointed out that the staff strives to present both sides of the war: “For example, we have Union items displayed on the north side of the room and Southern on the south side.”
The museum is open Tuesday through Saturday, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; admission is $6 for adults and $3 for students. For more information, call 817-246-2323 or visit texascivilwar museum.com.
‘Malice Toward None’ Will Tour the U.S.
A fascinating exhibition of Lincoln memorabilia that opened this past February at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., is slated to travel to California, Illinois, Indiana, Georgia and Nebraska in the next two years. Drawing on the library’s collections, the “Malice Toward None” display includes letters, photos, political cartoons, the Bible he was sworn into office with in 1861, speeches and artifacts—including the contents of the president’s pockets on that fateful night at Ford’s Theatre. The exhibit is sponsored by Union Pacific, which has launched a Web site (upcelebrateslincoln.com) that includes a schedule.
21stCenturyAbe.org Launched by the Rosenbach Museum
Philadelphia’s Rosenbach Museum & Library has created an interactive Web site, 21stCenturyAbe.org, that’s fun for all ages, whether you choose to look up some of the museum’s rare Lincolnalia, such as speeches, letters and notes, or participate in online chat groups about Lincoln’s role in the war and history. You can also find original artwork related to Abe—or upload your own—as well as videos, photos, drawings and Web links.
The site includes a list of additional features that will be added in coming months, including a series of audio pieces to be contributed by Philadelphia comedy troupe 1812 Productions, which will explore Lincoln’s famous sense of humor (see story, P. 40).
Portraits in Pastry: Art Meant for Consumption
Unless you moved fast, you missed a glorious treat for the tastebuds as well as the eyes this past February 14 at the Smithsonian’s American Art Museum. Pastry artist Zilly Rosen and a team of helpers assembled a delicious double portrait of Presidents Lincoln and Barack Obama there beginning on February 13, using more than 5,600 cupcakes. After a five-hour display, a hungry audience quickly “de-installed” her tasty interpretation.
Visit the Newly Renovated Wills House in Gettysburg
The 1818 David Wills House, where Abraham Lincoln worked on the final version of the Gettysburg Address in November 1863, opened to the public in February following a $7.2 million renovation. Wills chaired the committee that created what was originally called the Soldiers’ National Cemetery.
The room where Lincoln slept has been partially restored, including original furniture and bedding. Call 1-866-486-5735 or go to davidwillshouse.org if you’re planning to visit Gettysburg.