Jan 26, 2010

Civil War Museum opens

by Christopher Scott

The grand opening of the National Civil War Chaplains Museum, located next to Doc’s Diner, was held on Saturday at 11 a.m. Before the ribbon was cut, a crew of Civil War re-enactors lined up on the front lawn and fired rifles into the sky. The museum will be open to students on Saturdays and Sundays from 1:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. starting the first week of February.

The purpose of the museum is “to educate the public about the role of chaplains, priests, and rabbis, and religious organizations in the Civil War,” according to the museum’s Web site.

“Without the university’s support, we could not have gotten this off the ground,” Museum Director Kenny Rowlette said. “Fundraising in the current economic climate is almost at a dead standstill. Foundations and organizations are having a very difficult time raising money.”

The museum features a large variety of Civil War paintings, wall-to-wall murals, Bibles, journals, pamphlets and other Civil War chaplain memorabilia.

“We are geographically located at the epicenter of the Civil War,” Rowlette said. “Sixty percent of battles were fought here (in Virginia). If you had to chose a school that was tied into history, this school is a perfect fit.”

One of Rowlette’s favorite pieces is a rare Bible with a bullet hole in the middle of it that will be loaned to the museum. Chaplains often carried Bibles in their front jacket pocket so it was not incomprehensible that a Bible could save a man’s life by stopping a bullet, according to Rowlette. A desk that was brought over from Wales is also counted among Rowlette’s favorites.

The desk became a chaplain’s writing desk at Gettysburg during the Civil War.

Some of the paintings on display have direct historical connections to the City of Lynchburg. Mort Kunstler’s “Going Home,” for example, depicts Stonewall Jackson’s last journey home up the Kanawah Canal. In the background is the Amazement Square building, which is still standing today on 9th Street in downtown Lynchburg.

Dale Gallon’s “The Last Inspection” depicts Confederate soldiers just before they took part in Pickett’s charge. According to the museum secretary, many Lynchburg men in the 11th Virginia Brigade took part in Pickett’s charge.

Along with the historical displays, the museum has a research center in the back which will be open to the public during visiting hours.

If you come in and say ‘my grandfather was a chaplain,’ we will be able to tell you about him,” Rowlette said.

In attendance at the grand opening on Saturday was Chinese painter Hung Min Zou, who contributed an oil painting called “Resurrection Morn.” The painting shows a Confederate soldier being baptized in the Rapidan River. On the other side of the river, Union soldiers are peacefully standing and watching the event.

“The enemy, seeing that we had no arms, did not fire on us, but seemed greatly puzzled and watched us closely,” reads a journal entry of a Confederate soldier which is on display in the museum. “Both armies were at peace as they witnessed the death of the old man into the resurrection of the new man through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

Zou said that he recruited more than 40 men from a re-enactment club to stand by the Rapidan River and replay the scene for the painting. “Everyone got a limited edition print,” Zou said.

A few of the re-enactors who attended the grand opening were members of Rev. Alan Farley’s Re-enactors Mission for Jesus Christ.

“They preach modern messages in historical context,” said Cody Turner, a senior at Liberty who played a Union soldier. “Because it’s a community that honors the past, (the re-enactors) are very open to the gospel.”

Turner has participated in Civil War re-enactments since he was 15 years old.

“You at least get some kind of flavor for what these men go through,” Turner said. “You begin to imagine what it would be like.”

Contact Christopher Scott at

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