Shenandoah Valley Civil War Museum

Shenandoah Valley Civil War Museum The Frederick County Courthouse served as a hospital, prison, and a barracks during the Civil War. Soldiers left their names and other graffiti on the walls including a curse to Jeff Davis.
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The museum also features a collection of over 3,000 artifacts.

Operating as usual

Our artifacts from the museum's collection are moving into their new home here at the James R. Wilkins Winchester Battle...
09/08/2020

Our artifacts from the museum's collection are moving into their new home here at the James R. Wilkins Winchester Battlefields Visitor Center! This display features the military escutcheon for Brevet Brigadier General Frank Peck of the 12th Connecticut Volunteer Infantry. Peck was mortally wounded by a shell fragment at the Third Battle of Winchester. He was posthumously brevetted Brigadier General on July 24, 1868.

At approximately 5 P.M. on September 19, 1864, the final, chaotic stages of the Third Battle of Winchester engulfed the ...
08/14/2020

At approximately 5 P.M. on September 19, 1864, the final, chaotic stages of the Third Battle of Winchester engulfed the downtown area. After a day of fierce combat east and north of the city, Confederate Gen. Jubal Early’s outnumbered men were flanked, broken, and forced to retreat through the streets with Union Gen. Philip Sheridan's army in hot pursuit.

Sketch artist James Taylor described the “dramatic spectacle” of the “whirling mass of Gray madly pouring through the streets of Winchester amid shells shrieking and moaning their death cry.” Confederate officers attempted to hold back the Federals—and their own fleeing troops.

Gen. Stephen Ramseur established defensive positions in Mount Hebron Cemetery. Resident Mary Greenhow Lee recalled that Confederate Gen. John Gordon "seized a flag & called to the running soldiers to rally & follow him. We shouted & cheered & implored the men to follow their leader, but to little purpose." Even Gordon's wife, Fanny tried to stem the tide. “[She} rallied a party of near two hundred and sent them back to the field [but] the Yankee cavalry made a charge on this mob [and] went right through them,” wrote Louisiana Capt. George Ring.

“I never ran so fast in all my life [and] I had good company,” admitted Sgt. Sam Collier of the 2nd North Carolina. Pvt. Richard Waldrop of the 21st Virginia wrote that, “The road was filled with fugitives.” As the day ended combatant George Peyton said that he “could see Yanks by the thousands marching towards town, while cheer upon cheer rent the air.” That night, Sheridan's chief of staff Col. James Forsyth reported that “we just sent them a whirling through Winchester.” Control of the city had passed permanently into Union hands.

James Taylor sketch of Confederate retreat through Winchester (Courtesy of The Western Reserve Historical Society, Cleveland, Ohio)

Remains of an 1842 Springfield MusketThe remains of this musket were recovered from an 1864 Confederate camp near Kernst...
08/05/2020

Remains of an 1842 Springfield Musket

The remains of this musket were recovered from an 1864 Confederate camp near Kernstown, Virginia (Courtesy of Harry Ridgeway). It is a model 1842 smoothbore Springfield and was manufactured in 1858 based on the stamp on the barrel. This musket was discarded by a soldier likely due to wear or poor manufacturing. By the summer of 1864, the state of the Confederacy was very dire and desperate soldiers were using and recycling whatever materials that were available. While the remains have suffered greatly from exposure, the small holes in the barrel cannot be explained by weathering. It is possible the barrel failed because of wear, poor manufacturing, and the accumulation as black powder residue known as fouling. Smoothbore muskets were very vulnerable to fouling which could prevent a fired bullet from exiting the barrel and the buildup of pressure from the firing of the gun could cause the barrel to fail. This would render the weapon useless.

This artifact is one of several from the Shenandoah Valley Civil War Museum’s collection that will soon be featured on display at the James R. Wilkins Winchester Battlefields Visitors Center.

07/27/2020
Gettysburg National Military Park

We recently had the honor of partnering with Gettysburg National Military Park to share the stories of the six Union officers who were captured after the Battle of Gettysburg and held prisoner at the Frederick County Courthouse.

For today's #EchoesofCampaign, join us in Winchester, Virginia. Here we'll explore the historic courthouse, now a museum, and examine graffiti left behind by soldiers - a tanglible link to our past.

Shenandoah Valley Battlefields National Historic District Shenandoah Valley Civil War Museum Civil War Trails, Inc. Winchester-Frederick County Convention & Visitors Bureau

#civilwartrails #openairmuseum #RoadsFromGettysburg

Mess Kit and Socket BayonetWhy highlight these items together you may ask? Well, these utensils and the bayonet were ver...
07/23/2020

Mess Kit and Socket Bayonet

Why highlight these items together you may ask? Well, these utensils and the bayonet were very essential camp tools. The utensils are standard issue iron items (the knife and fork had full tang, wooden handles) that soldiers carried in their haversacks along with their rations. U.S. Grant wrote in his memoir that, "In addition to the supplies transported by boat, the men were to carry forty rounds of ammunition in the cartridge-boxes and four days' rations in haversacks.” Very often, the only sustenance that men had was hard tack and coffee. But for times when they were able to eat a more decent meal, a simple mess kit like this was very nice to have.

While men were in camps during the war, a variety of items were repurposed as tools. Tin canteens, such as the one we highlighted in an earlier post, could be split apart and the halves used as plates. A bayonet was another such item. In fact, bayonets were very rarely used as combat weapons. However, they could be used for digging or as a tent stake for instance. The one shown here is an 1855 Springfield socket bayonet. One of the most common rationed food items was salted pork. Excess fat from the pork could be saved. If you were fortunate enough to have some cornmeal you could make a very stiff batter with the fat and cook it using a bayonet as a skewer. The socket attachment even makes for a very ergonomic handle. -Recovered from the Third Winchester Battlefield by Harry Ridgeway

The Taylor Hotel was one of the most significant buildings in Winchester during the Civil War. It was built in 1847 by B...
07/13/2020

The Taylor Hotel was one of the most significant buildings in Winchester during the Civil War. It was built in 1847 by Bushrod Taylor during major improvements to the Valley Turnpike (present day Rt. 11 and I-81) and only seven years after the construction of the Frederick County Courthouse half a block southeast. Taylor was a successful farmer in Clarke County, Virginia and later bought the orignial McGuire Tavern in 1830. On October 21, 1846 the McGuire Tavern was destroyed by fire and rebuilt the following year as the three-story, brick, colonnaded structure that stood during the Civil War. Taylor owned around 24 slaves at the time and it's possible they were involved in the construction. Historian Ann McCleary wrote that this type of architecture in the Shenandoah Valley is evidence of “the growing sophistication and thriving economy of these turnpike towns in the early to mid-nineteenth century...” Bushrod Taylor died from an infection in July 1847 shortly after the building was completed and was buried in Mount Hebron Cemetery. In 1861, Stonewall Jackson used the hotel as a temporary headquarters. Throughout the war it was one of the numerous buildings in Winchester that was used as a hospital by both sides. After the Battle of Antietam, the Taylor Hotel was packed with so many wounded soldiers that they lined the street. The hotel was featured in the famous sketch by James E. Taylor (no relation) depicting the Confederate retreat down Loudon Street during the Third Battle of Winchester on September 19, 1864. He alliteratively described the scene as "the Rebels whirling through Winchester"

Source: Intensive Level Documentation of the Taylor Hotel by Anne Stuart Beckett, Architectural Historian

https://www.winchesterva.gov/sites/default/files/documents/economic-development/Taylor-Hotel-Intensive-Level-Report-July-9-2012.pdf

07/09/2020
07/06/2020
We are steadily approaching 1,000 likes! Thanks everyone! So, let's look at another featured artifact coming to the Jame...
07/03/2020

We are steadily approaching 1,000 likes! Thanks everyone! So, let's look at another featured artifact coming to the James R. Wilkins Winchester Battlefields Visitor Center.

These deadly exploding shells are known as case shot. Those shown here are 12lb, 4.62” smoothbore projectiles with Confederate time-fuses made of copper. The distinguishing feature of case shot is that they are filled with smaller solid balls. When the shells exploded over the heads of infantry or cavalry the balls would fly out along with the shell fragments. The balls seen in the cross-section are made of iron however .69 caliber lead musket balls were also commonly used as lead balls had more kinetic impact.

You can see in both pictures that there is a small hole in the side below the fuse. This was to load the balls and powder into the shell. The intact shell here is sealed with a lead plug. There is at times some confusion as to the difference between case and canister as the terms are somewhat interchangeable.

Canister rounds are made of large cylindrical tin cans filled with solid balls larger than those used in case shot. The canisters would shred as soon as they left the barrel causing the cannon to essentially act like a large shotgun. Case shot rounds have time-fuses and explode in the air over enemy ranks. They are for long range whereas canister was used when enemies were closer and in line with the cannons.

The Second Battle of Winchester saw extensive use of case shot. Resident Laura Lee described the bombardment of Fort Milroy on the evening of June 14th, 1863,

“The fire from our batteries was now directed to the last two forts and was tremendous…We could see the flash of every gun in the forts and the shells from our batteries exploding in the air directly over them and falling in among the unfortunate creatures crowded in there.”

Union cannoneer Pvt James W. Owens wrote about the desperate situation during Milroy’s attacks,

“Our canister is exhausted, and our case shots are cut to explode at a quarter of a second, and swathes are mowed in their ranks like grain before a reaper.”

While defending Star Fort, the four guns of Captain Alexander’s Baltimore Battery fired approximately 456 rounds of case shot. Including all different types of shell, after the battle they had only 168 rounds left out of the 1,187 on hand the previous day.

"Scene in front of the Court House in Winchester with a thousand Confederate prisoners under guard."Sketch by James E. T...
06/29/2020

"Scene in front of the Court House in Winchester with a thousand Confederate prisoners under guard."

Sketch by James E. Taylor in 1864

Happy Birthday Ed!
06/26/2020

Happy Birthday Ed!

Happy Birthday to our good friend Ed Bearss who turns 97 today! Below is a photo from Ed's most recent visit to the National Historic District in 2018 when he gave a tour on the Battle of Port Republic.

06/26/2020
Remember Me: Graffiti from the Shenandoah Valley Civil War Museum

We are very proud to present our first video on the graffiti at the museum, "Remember Me"

In this film, Trish Ridgeway details the stories of six Union officers that left their names on the courthouse walls. They were captured in July 1863 after the Battle of Gettysburg and held prisoner in the Frederick County Courthouse.

The .58 caliber Minie ball was so ubiquitous during the Civil War that sometimes it seems as if there is nothing more to...
06/19/2020

The .58 caliber Minie ball was so ubiquitous during the Civil War that sometimes it seems as if there is nothing more to say about it. However other than disease the Minie ball is the key to understanding what made the Civil War so deadly.

The Minie ball gets its name from its inventor Claude Minie. Along with the rifled musket, it was a huge advancement in firearm technology because of how relatively easy they were to load into the muzzle. The grooves at the bottom held a small amount of grease and so were also resistant to the buildup of black powder residue known as fouling.

In the 1850s an armorer at the Harpers Ferry Armory named James Burton improved on Minie’s design by adding the large conical base. This design served two purposes. Most importantly it allowed more pressure to build up in the base of the bullet which caused it to expand and grip the spiral grooves in the barrel known as rifling. This caused the Minie ball to spin as it left the barrel giving it a much greater muzzle velocity as well as accuracy and range but it also made the bullets much cheaper to produce. Because Burton’s Minie ball would expand to fit the barrel, the exact size and shape of the bullet was less important.

The result of this technology was that the killing power of the rifle was something that had never been seen before. Smoothbore muskets had a low velocity and round balls do not tend to penetrate the body much whereas Springfield rifles had a muzzle velocity of about 1,000 feet per second. The soft lead of a Minie ball would pancake when it hit solid objects which caused devastating internal injuries to soldiers and was a reason amputation was very common. The impacted Minie ball that you see here most likely struck something very solid such as a tree.

06/12/2020

WE ARE BACK!!!

Hoist the colors and strike up the band, the Shenandoah Valley Civil War Museum has officially reopened!

Our museum docent Jay Richardson, a graduate of history from George Mason University and fellowship student at Shenandoah University's McCormick Civil War Institute, will be displaying and talking about some of our artifacts here in the courtroom.

We ask that you please wear a mask and respect social distancing. Thank you and welcome back!

Here is a 360° look around the 1840 Courtroom here at the museum.Places like this are also very signifcant relics of the...
06/10/2020

Here is a 360° look around the 1840 Courtroom here at the museum.

Places like this are also very signifcant relics of the past. This courtroom, with its classical and traditional design, connects us with the antebellum era. During this time, Richard Parker, the judge in John Brown's trial in Charles Town, WV presided over this courtroom.

The Frederick County Courthouse, where the museum is located today, was used a hospital, a prison, and a barracks by both sides during the Civil War. The town of Winchester changed hands between Union and Condederate forces as many as 72 times. The courtroom and graffiti walls here offer a very unique insight into life in the war-torn Virginia town.

Buckle Up!This is a standard U.S. Army-issue belt buckle that was recovered from the Third Winchester Battlefield. It is...
06/06/2020

Buckle Up!
This is a standard U.S. Army-issue belt buckle that was recovered from the Third Winchester Battlefield. It is made from a brass plate with a lead backing and brass fasteners. Although most were worn by Union soldiers, Confederates often repurposed them while showing disdain for the Union by wearing them upside down. A Confederate soldier doing so might melt the lead around the brass fasteners in order to reverse their placement.

This artifact is one of several from the Shenandoah Valley Civil War Museum's collection which will be featured on display at the James R. Wilkins Winchester Battlefields Visitor Center.

(Courtesy of Taylor Simpson)

Artifact Time! This is an 1862 U.S. Bullseye Canteen. It was the first canteen style to use this circular ridge design, ...
05/30/2020

Artifact Time!
This is an 1862 U.S. Bullseye Canteen. It was the first canteen style to use this circular ridge design, known as corrugation, which made the metal much stiffer. The cloth cover is made from recycled items such as blankets and blue jeans. It was manufactured at the Shuykill Arsenal in Philadelphia (later known as the Philadelphia Quartermaster Depot) by the Hadden, Porter, and Booth company. In July of 1862, the company was contracted to produce 10,000 of these for 17 cents apiece.

This artifact is one of several from the Shenandoah Valley Civil War Museum's collection which will be featured on display at the James R. Wilkins Winchester Battlefields Visitor Center.

10/04/2019

The museum will be closed today (10/4/19) from 12:00pm - 3:30pm for a private event.

Reminder, the Shenandoah Valley Civil War Museum is operating by it's winter hours. The museum is closed Monday - Thursd...
01/25/2019

Reminder, the Shenandoah Valley Civil War Museum is operating by it's winter hours. The museum is closed Monday - Thursday but is open for it's usual hours Friday - Sunday. The museum is open today and tomorrow from 10-5 and Sunday from 1-5.

01/13/2019

The museum will be closed today 1/13/19 due to inclement weather.

01/12/2019

The museum will be closed today 1/12/19 due to inclement weather.

11/15/2018

The museum will be closed today 11/15/18 due to inclement weather.

Stop by the museum and check out our used book sale! We have a variety of Civil War and World War II books for $5 and be...
11/15/2018

Stop by the museum and check out our used book sale! We have a variety of Civil War and World War II books for $5 and below! The museum is open Monday-Saturday from 10AM to 5PM, and Sunday from 1PM to 5PM.

Shenandoah Valley Civil War Museum's cover photo
11/02/2018

Shenandoah Valley Civil War Museum's cover photo

Shenandoah Valley Civil War Museum
11/02/2018

Shenandoah Valley Civil War Museum

Saturday, November 10, 2018, Bell Grove Plantation will honor its African American history with demonstrations, interpre...
10/26/2018

Saturday, November 10, 2018, Bell Grove Plantation will honor its African American history with demonstrations, interpretive programs, and talks. Admission to the event is free, 10am-6pm.

Join Belle Grove Plantation, The Slave Dwelling Project, Shenandoah Valley Black Heritage Project, Cedar Creek and Belle Grove National Historical Park, and others on November 10, 2018 as Belle Grove commemorates the African American history of Belle Grove and the Shenandoah Valley. Programming takes place from 10 am to 6 pm and admission is free of charge.

We will be giving out candy this Saturday during this year's Spooktacular. Come visit us!
10/23/2018

We will be giving out candy this Saturday during this year's Spooktacular. Come visit us!

Come to Old Town to join in the Halloween fun! The annual Spooktacular returns to the Loudoun Street Mall on Saturday, October 27 with loads of fun for the whole family. Businesses along the mall participate in this popular free community event by handing out candy or small trinkets.

The festivities begin with a pet costume parade at 11 a.m. organized by Posh Pets Boutique. The trick-or-treating begins at 2 p.m. and wraps up at 4 p.m.

The event is free and all are welcome!

Address

20 N Loudoun St
Winchester, VA
22601

Opening Hours

Monday 10:00 - 17:00
Tuesday 10:00 - 17:00
Wednesday 10:00 - 17:00
Thursday 10:00 - 17:00
Friday 10:00 - 17:00
Saturday 10:00 - 17:00
Sunday 13:00 - 17:00

Telephone

(540) 542-1145

Website

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About the Museum

The Shenandoah Valley Civil War Museum is located in the historic Frederick County Courthouse; a Greek Revival courthouse built in 1840. During the Civil War, it was used by Union and Confederate forces as a hospital, a prison, and a barracks. Soldiers from both sides wrote their names and other graffiti on the walls including a curse to Confederate President Jefferson Davis. The first floor is free to the public and features the preserved 1840 courtroom as well as a souvenir shop and book store. The second floor is by admission and features the graffiti walls along with a nationally recognized collection of over 3,000 Civil War artifacts that illustrate the common life of a soldier.

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Comments

Thank you to Terry Heder, Jay Richardson, & the presenters for giving such an awesome live tour & discussion through Google Meet to our Admiral Byrd Middle School students. They loved seeing & hearing about the uniforms, weapons, artifacts, & bell tower. Such a treasure to have this here in Winchester!
Missing the Shenandoah Valley Civil War Museum today! Love that place! Missing the beautiful historic Bell House and the historic city of Winchester!
Fun at the SVCW Museum!
Folks today having fun at the Shenandoah Valley Civil War Museum in the Old Courthouse! They portrayed the judge and lawyers! Took photos and had a good time! Toured the Civil War Museum and had fun learning Winchester history!
The museum is open today Monday, December 24th until 3pm. We will be closed on Chrismas Day and the day after. We will be open Thursday, December 27th - Saturday,December 29th 10am-5pm. We will be closed on December 30th - Jan. 1 We will reopen on Jan. 2, 2019 10am-5pm. Hours are subject to change during the off season. Please call ahead 540-542-1145 to confirm hours. Happy Holidays!
Someone stole Civil War revolvers, cartridge box and other artifacts, leaving a Virginia battlefield group mad as hell about it.
#mavicpro