The National Museum of the Civil War Soldier

Dear Surak readers, I have returned. I have accumulated a lot to share with you. Let me start with one of our activities today, on the way home.

The 13 original states are full of history. Virginia is especially full of military history, on top of everything else. Our drive up old route 1 today took us past the National Museum of the Marine Corps and the National Museum of the Army. With limited time, I chose Pamplin Historical Park: The National Museum of the Civil War Soldier.

This museum, as the name implies, does not focus on the causes, the campaigns, or the social changes involved in the war. It focuses mostly on the experiences of the common soldier, whether Union or Confederate. You can browse among musical instruments and card games to pass the time. You can also browse among surgical implements and artificial limbs. Some lucky soldiers had the good fortune to be sedated by opium during their operations.

Near the beginning of the exhibit was a remarkable color infographic published on a full newspaper page in 1861. It displayed the results of the complex 1860 presidential election, in which there were not two, not three, but four viable presidential candidates.

Abraham Lincoln got an outright majority of electoral votes, as well as a plurality of popular votes. But although he was the favorite candidate of more voters than any other candidate, he was also the least favorite candidate of more voters than any other candidate. It is arguable that the other three candidates split the anti-Lincoln vote.

One of my research interests is in voting methods for multi-candidate elections. The 1860 presidential election has long been a classic case study in what-if. Suppose different rules had been used to tally voter preferences. Might the result have been different?

There are some scenarios under which northern Democrat Senator Stephen Douglas of Illinois could have won the election, including under a voting scheme I favor. If he had been elected, would South Carolina have fired on Fort Sumter? Would the South have seceded? Even if there had been secession, would there necessarily have been war?

To be clear, I am 100% opposed to slavery for anyone. That does not imply that I look back happily on the hundreds of thousands killed, or even reject the prospect of an independent South, that might have reduced the modern imperial overreach of Washington, DC.

Here is a photograph of some old veterans from both sides meeting long after the war’s conclusion. (That glare in the middle was my smartphone.)

Seeing what is happening in today’s society, I feel reasonably confident that these two sets of former opponents would realize that they have far more in common with each other than with their descendants. They, and the veterans of the world wars and more recent conflicts, might well regret the blood they shed for more recent ungrateful, decadent generations. We are not fit to shine their shoes.

Upon my return, I found a delivery of “Irresistible Revolution: Marxism’s Goal of Conquest & the Unmaking of the American Military” by Matthew Lohmeier, a lieutenant-colonel in the US Space Force who was relieved of his command for writing this book. (Isn’t it interesting that the highest quality people usually top out at Lt. Col.?)

We have a lot of catching up to do in the coming week!

5 thoughts on “The National Museum of the Civil War Soldier

  1. Glad to have you back!

    You can’t live in Virginia without seeing the “Civil War” everywhere you look. I am surrounded by history. I have my own thoughts on the actual cause of the war, and it has little to do with slavery. The slaves were merely a convenient excuse for the opening of hostilities, which … unfortunately for the South … started at Ft. Sumter.

    In my opinion, slavery would have died of natural economic causes. After all, when two horses or an ox can pull a machine that does the work of 100 slaves, why would a plantation owner pay to house, clothe, and feed those slaves? Indeed, the economy was one of the leading causes of the war. High quality Southern cotton was favored over the higher costs of woolen fabrics made by the influential Northern textile manufacturers.

    I think that the best film representation of the war was the two-part made-for-TV-movies “Gods and Generals” and “Gettysburg”. There was actually a third part, which Ted Turner never made, called “Killer Angels”. Never to be forgotten is Pickett’s Charge, represented in “Gettysburg”.

    I’ve poured over your links, and my wife … who is scheduled to come home, tomorrow! … is interested in visiting the Museum. Once again, glad that you’re back.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. “Gods and Generals” and “Gettysburg” were actually both initially released in the theaters, with Gettysburg being released around 1993 and Gods and Generals in 2003. Both are great movies that focus on the beliefs and characters of the Confederate generals.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. It’s interesting that Ted Turner, himself, appears in both of these movies. In the movie, “God & Generals”, he plays a Southern officer whose name happens to be Patton!

        There’s a great musical group that sings only Southern music, called the 2cd South Carolina String Band. Their music can be heard on YouTube.

        Liked by 2 people

  2. Surak, glad you and your wife had a good trip and had a chance to see The National Museum of the Civil War Soldier. I have been to the Manassas battlefield, but never had the time to see all that I wanted to see.
    I hope you don’t mind but wanted to post this link for your readers to have a chance to see, as it is very revealing and has good information in it.

    Liked by 2 people

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