Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Texas Civil War Museum

Two days before Christmas, I had the pleasure of visiting the Texas Civil War Museum in Fort Worth, Texas. My mom, who is not a Civil War buff also visited the museum. In spite of her low level of interest in the Civil War, she enjoyed her visit to the museum and stated that she was impressed by it. Now that is high praise! I too thought it was a nicely done museum, and I strongly encourage you to visit it if you haven’t done so already.

After paying the modest entrance fee of $6.00, I entered the museum and learned that it is really three collections under one roof. The collections are:

Ray Richey’s collection of Union and Confederate artifacts

Judy Richey’s collection of 250 Victorian dresses as well as many accessories

The Texas Confederate Museum consisting of Texas artifacts and other items from the Texas Division United Daughters of the Confederacy

The first part of the museum is dedicated to Mr. Richey’s wonderful artifacts—only a part of his collection is on display. The organization of his collection is well done with Union and Confederate artifacts in separate areas and then subdivided by army branch. There are also areas devoted to musical instruments, medical items, and the navy. A surprisingly large number of artifacts are traced to the actual soldier who used the item. Mr. Richey’s artifacts include all theaters of the war with the majority associated with the eastern and western theaters. Mixed in are some magnificent banners from both sides. My personal favorite was the regimental flag of the 12th Illinois Cavalry that featured a rather humorous slogan: “I Like Your Style.”

Mrs. Richey’s collection of Victorian era ladies clothing is attractively displayed and well worth a perusal. As an avid bicyclist I almost collapsed with laughter while viewing a lady’s bicycling outfit from the Victorian era. Admittedly, I am thankful that bustles, heavy fabrics, parasols, fans, and hair jewelry are not a part of my fashion ensembles.

The Texas Division United Daughters of the Confederacy have some wonderful items on display associated with Texas soldiers including some beautiful flags and other artifacts. It was exciting to see a gun used by Captain J. C. Means of the 28th Texas Cavalry—the very unit whose history I wrote.

While purchasing some items from the gift store, I struck up a conversation with a couple of store employees and they suggested an excursion into Fort Worth…that side trip will be the subject of the next blog posting.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Out and About

Yesterday, I visited the Texas Civil War Museum in Fort Worth, and this morning I visited the gravesites of two notable Texas Confederates. Next week I'll plan to do some detailed postings about my latest travel adventures. Until then, have a Merry Christmas and enjoy the holiday season!

Monday, December 20, 2010

What's Your Favorite Used Bookstore?

You probably have guessed by now, but I love visiting used bookstores! My first stop at a used bookstore is the Civil War section of course. Next I browse the history category in general and then it’s off to fluffy stuff like murder mysteries. Here are my favorite three used bookstores:

Recycled BooksDenton, Texas. I prowled this bookstore for countless hours while I attended graduate school at the University of North Texas. Their website claims that they have 17,000 square feet devoted to books, music CDs, etc. The history area is a strong one with always a large selection of Civil War books that are attractively priced.

Dickson Street BooksFayetteville, Arkansas. This is a much smaller bookstore (8,000 square feet) than Recycled Books, but the Civil War section is always well stocked with often some unusual titles. Books seem to be priced a bit higher than at Recycled Books.

Gardner’s Used Books & Music, Inc.Tulsa, Oklahoma. Bills itself as “Oklahoma’s largest used bookstore,” and at 23,000 square feet who is to argue with that claim? There are always a lot of Civil War books, but they seem to lean mostly toward easier to find/more common titles. Still, I have found some good titles on occasion. The pricing seems higher than either of the other two stores, but if you trade in books you can get some good deals.

Since I enjoy visiting used bookstores so much, I’d like to know your recommendations for the best places to find used Civil War books west of the Mississippi River—write in and let me know!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

A Simple Commemoration

The fall semester is over, and my holiday break has started! In honor of this momentous occasion, I started reading Little To Eat And Thin Mud To Drink: Letters, Diaries, and Memoirs from the Red River Campaigns, 1863-1864 (Knoxville: The University of Tennessee Press, 2007), a book that has sat on my shelf for too long. The general editor of the book is Gary D. Joiner who is probably the leading expert today on the Red River campaign. The book itself is an interesting concept…a volume devoted entirely to primary accounts of a single Civil War campaign.

A passage about the commemoration of the battle of Mansfield caught my eye:

“The memories of the terrible struggle of the Civil War linger, particularly in the South. A victory such as the Battle of Mansfield was long celebrated, and even today the church bell at Christ Memorial Episcopal Church in Mansfield rings at 4 P. M. on April 8, as it has each year since the battle” (p. xxvii-xxviii).

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Emotional Importance of Hair

Vicki Betts, a librarian at the University of Texas at Tyler, is one of the great folks that I have “met” thanks to this blog. She recently sent me a link to a webpage that has transcriptions of three letters written by Hugh Brothers of the 19th Arkansas Infantry. Mr. Brothers’ letters, placed online by Bobby J. Wadsworth, contain delightful spelling and a colorful way of conveying news. The letters document an outbreak of measles at Fort McCulloch in the Choctaw Nation of the Indian Territory, but perhaps the most interesting sections deal with his request for his wife to send him braids of her hair. She complied with his request, and his comments about the significance of her hair are touching. See what you think! Brothers was among those who surrendered at Arkansas Post in January 1863; sadly, he died of smallpox at Camp Douglas, Illinois in March 1863.