Civil War Museum

Civil War Museum

“The Civil War is the central event in America’s historical consciousness. While the Revolution of 1776-1783 created the United States, the Civil War of 1861-1865 determined what kind of nation it would be. The war resolved two fundamental questions left unresolved by the revolution: whether the United States was to be a dissolvable confederation of sovereign states or an indivisible nation with a sovereign national government; and whether this nation, born of a declaration that all men were created with an equal right to liberty, would continue to exist as the largest slaveholding country in the world.” – READ MORE about the American Civil War

This was the final day of our family vacation in Hershey, PA. We finished our vacation with yet another road trip, but today was a short drive – only about 25 minutes. We drove up to the National Civil War Museum and we all decided that the exterior was really something. Perched atop a grassy knoll with great views of the Harrisburg countryside, you could tell this was going to be a great day.

The sculpture in front was somber but beautiful, depicting a “Moment of Mercy” by a solider of the Confederacy who “during a lull in the Battle of Fredericksburg, risked his life to give water to Union soldiers who were lying wounded and dying in a “no man’s land” between the opposing armies.” – READ the words inscribed on the “Moment of Mercy” sculpture by Terry Jones

“When you visit The National Civil War Museum, take some time to walk the grounds surrounding the museum. Situated on a hill overlooking the City of Harrisburg, The National Civil War Museum and the grounds of the Museum are spectacular! Also here on the grounds you will find “The Walk of Valor”: the ribbon of red brick, which is symbolic of the blood shed in war, and bears the names of Civil War veterans honored by their surviving descendants.” – READ MORE

Upon entering, I was in awe of the grand entryway, with its sweeping staircases and gold accents. This building had some fascinating elements that I just couldn’t get enough of.

The family photo I shot from below was not a great photo because of the light that was streaming in from all angles, but it showed that 6 of us were present on this wonderful day. Unlike us diehard vacation addicts, the other two in our party stayed back at our condo in Hershey to sleep in, relax and enjoy the pool and a little mother/daughter time. I can’t say that I blamed them a bit, since this has been a busy week for all of us and what’s a vacation without a little relaxation, right?

“The museum’s collections include more than 4,400 three dimensional artifacts and 21,000 archival pieces. The collections include many artifacts of famous personalities of the war from General Robert E. Lee to President Abraham Lincoln. However, the vast majority of the collections contain artifacts and archival materials of the average soldier from the North and South.” – READ MORE about the Collection at The National Civil War Museum

“Our mission is to serve as a national center to inspire lifelong learning of the American Civil War through the preservation and balanced presentation of the American peoples struggles for survival and healing. We are committed to providing a balanced presentation of the American Civil War, its causes and effects, in order to better understand our history and its relevance to today’s society.” READ MORE

The museum is filled with wonderful artifacts, photographs, dioramas and videos which make the experience very real and interesting. The photo above left is a great example of just one of the dramatic presentations, which was really cool. The way they presented the information kept changing, making it more interesting as we progressed thru the many rooms.

There were videos set up by benches throughout the museum if you needed a break. Some videos were of actors portraying certain important figures of the time – others were more informational with folks talking about past events. I particularly enjoyed the woman who was anxiously awaiting the return of her husband from war. Another was a nurse which was very moving. Working with the wounded, her stress levels were high and her emotions ran rampant. Of course others portrayed soldiers who were hell-bent on fighting the cause and others who were praying they were doing the right thing.

All in all it was a very tumultuous time and I can’t imagine fighting a war that was seemingly unending. But with so much at stake most folks kept trudging along, even though it seemed impossible to go another minute.

“The National Civil War Museum is one of the largest museums in the world dedicated solely to the American Civil War. The Museum seeks to tell the whole story of this most troubled chapter in American history, while focusing on the issues, the people and the lives that were affected. The causes and ramifications of this conflict that divided a Nation are investigated; both Northern and Southern viewpoints are presented; and military as well as civilian perspectives are highlighted.” – FROM

(pictured above)
“The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us – that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion – that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain – that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom – and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.” – FROM the Gettysburg Address by Abraham Lincoln

Near the end of our visit was a small theatre where we watched a movie which summed up the entire visit and the war. Much to my relief, the woman in the movie I talked about above was reunited with her husband. One gentleman who hated Lincoln and thought he was a madman changed his opinion somewhere along the line. It went on to say that there were obviously folks that disagreed, and one very well-known one acted on his hatred. Abraham Lincoln was assassinated on Good Friday, April 14, 1865, just five days after Robert E. Lee surrendered at the Appomattox Courthouse on April 9, marking the end of the Civil War. It is heartbreaking that Mr. Lincoln was not around to see the country that we would become.

Once we were finished at the museum, we decided to catch some lunch in Harrisburg and ended up near the Capital Building. The beautiful lime green domes were really striking. The whole area seemed deserted, which was a little unsettling. There was not a sole around, and we were able to walk right up to the steps of this building, which seemed odd, given the security and other spectators that are usually present at a capital building. We were a little creeped out by it all and didn’t spend too much time exploring – but the domes were awesome. Maybe some day we will explore and see if there are more than these two lime green domes. But today, we need to find some lunch and get back to the condo to enjoy our final night in Pennsylvania.

The statue in the photo below right is of a gentleman “fondly remembered as “Old Johnny” by the rank and file of the troops he commanded. John Frederick Hartranft became the second of Pennsylvania’s Civil War heroes to become governor after the war.” – READ MORE about John Frederick Hartranft

The Matthew J. Ryan Legislative Office Building pictured below caught my eye, hence the multiple pictures as we approached.

“Restored in the mid 1990’s, the Old Museum Building, also known as the Capitol Annex, was renamed after Matthew Ryan, the long-term Speaker of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives on June 14, 1999. Today it houses the offices of the members of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives.” – READ MORE about the Matthew J. Ryan Building

Although in the past I never really thought of myself as a history lover, I have come to enjoy it – maybe not as much as my husband – but as a glass-half-full kind of traveler I try to get the most out of and see the beauty in all we see when we travel. Today was a good example of the way I roll – taking in as much history as I enjoy and then shooting photos while the others finish up. It was another great day on vacation!

Happy trails,

Barbara Olson

Barbara Olson

Hershey, Pennsylvania

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