The Museum and White House of the Confederacy

Main reasons for going to Richmond: (1) I’d meant to spend a day there on my road trip last year, but it got squeezed out; (2) $36 a night at a newly renovated Holiday Inn. Also it was within a six-and-a-half-hour driving radius from Pgh (barely). Plus there’s nothing to do there that requires you to use your hands to grab stuff.

That’s the White House of the Confederacy. The exterior is pretty unprepossessing. The side shown above is actually the back — the front is plainer. Supposedly the back was done up more because it’s the side that faces the (James) river and the place where guests would have hung out. Richmond city planners didn’t exactly go out of their way to preserve the “sanctity” of the location. The brick hospital that surrounds it on all sides is one of the uglier hospital complexes I’ve ever seen in my life.

For that matter, Richmond’s an aesthetically disappointing city generally. The topography should lend itself to something cool, but it hasn’t happened. Probably because all the good stuff got destroyed in the war (although they’ve had 145 years to recover).

The white house is a nice mansion. The stuff inside was cool. Plenty of smoking parlors, very tasteful. George Eastman and I could’ve hung out there and felt at ease, although I guess we both probably would’ve been weirded out by the slaves there. The tour guide looked like he was half-man, half-bloodhound, but he knew the heck out of that mansion, Richmond, Jefferson Davis, and the Confederacy. And fwiw, Davis didn’t really live here very long. Three years IIRC.

It  also didn’t cost much compared to less historically-relevant mansions (I think the museum + mansion ticket was $12; I mean, not *cheap*, but not hilariously awful either).

The museum was all right-to-good. It didn’t hammer home the Civil War story of the Confederacy like I thought it would — mostly just short write-ups on key battles posted next to displays of flags and uniforms. They had some cool artwork that I liked though. I think this is the most famous Confederate painting that exists:

Depicts the last meeting of Generals Lee and Jackson — before Jackson died from pneumonia at Spotsylvania.

My favorite part of the museum, though, was the more proletariat-focused art. Like this:

These are just a couple of pencil sketches done by some confederate soldier. I’m guessing they’re depicting one of the better days in camp (fishing with your buddies, hanging out by the fire smoking your pipe), but I think it explains a whole lot more about the Civil War experience than does Stonewall’s revolver — not just in terms of content, but in terms of perspective. It also supports my thesis on humanity that even the most horrendous situations become normal to people over time. Yep.


1 comment

  • telkontar

    As one vet of the war said, it would be heaven to be at war as long as all the injured and dead got up again at sunset to enjoy camp life. Hard to separate the 2 aspects of the war in reality — “it is good that war is so terrible, we should grow to love it too much.”