Texas Civil War Museum
760 Jim Wright Freeway North, Fort Worth, Texas. texascivilwarmuseum.com
The Texas Civil War Museum in Fort Worth opened its doors to the public in 2006, without too much fanfare and while facing a dose of skepticism. Fort Worth was already home to several major museums, so one more seemed like no big deal. But gradually what is known as the “largest Civil War Museum West of the Mississippi” has found its legs as an institution with both broad public appeal and also significant national importance.
The museum is built upon the private collection of Texas oil man Ray Richey, numbering more than 5,000 artifacts. And as Ray put together his collection, his wife Judy amassed a stockpile of Victorian dresses. The Richeys decided that the best way to share their bounty was to design a state-of-the-art, 15,500-square-foot building in Fort Worth. They also made provisions to include the collection of the Texas Division of the United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC), which until 1988 had been on display in Austin. Civil War arms and equipment used by both North and South are the museum’s focus. Special attention is given to Texas’ role in the war. Exhibits include items belonging to the men in such famous state units as Terry’s Texas Rangers.
A 15-foot monument celebrating the war’s sesquicentennial, erected by the Texas UDC, greets everyone. In the 75-seat theater, the film Our Homes, Our Rights: Texas in the Civil War helps set the mood.
The exhibits are diverse, with displays of rifles, pistols and accoutrements used throughout the war. Among displays dedicated to individual soldiers is the jacket worn by Rebel Private William B. Royal, showing the bullet hole from his wound at the Battle of the Wilderness.
Two notable items belonging to Ulysses S. Grant are on display: a sword presented to him by residents of Kentucky in 1864 and a uniform coat he wore during the fighting. This is the only example of Grant’s wartime uniform coats in existence, and the sword is a magnificent artifact, decorated with gold, silver and diamonds.
Of the museum’s more than 80 Civil War fags, 25 are usually exhibited at one time. There is also an impressive 5-by-10-foot diorama of the Battle of Palmito Ranch—the last battle of the war—that was designed and built a few years ago by Arizona high school students.
A new hall dedicated to artillery recently opened, along with a needed classroom. There are also plans to add space for the museum’s Civil War medical display.
Originally published in the June 2014 issue of Civil War Times. To subscribe, click here.