(Where Gumbo Was 386)
Gumbo was visiting the American Civil War Museum in historic Richmond, Virginia. Congratulations to PortMoresby, who recognized where Gumbo was.
The Tredegar Ironworks was founded in 1836 to take advantage of the railroad boom and to bring greater prosperity to the State of Virginia. An engineer, Rhys Davies from Tredegar, Wales, was hired to build the complex and he also brought along iron workers from Tredegar, hence the company name. Besides producing rails, in a ten year span between 1850 and 1860, Tredegar built 70 steam locomotives and steam engines for large ships. To cut costs, over 400 slaves were used at the foundry.
When the American Civil War began, Tredegar was the largest foundry in the Southern States and became the primary producer of munitions and artillery, including a rail mounted siege cannon. Tredegar also built a woolen mill on site named the Pattern Building to produce desperately needed Confederate uniforms. Tredegar produced the iron cladding for the Merrimac Frigate (aka CSS Virginia) and the anchor is on display.
Since the 1990’s, the Tredegar site has been preserved and transformed into a museum with artifacts telling the Civil War story including slavery. Weapons and uniform items made at Tredegar are on display along with other wartime artifacts with accompanying historical context descriptions.
A few other interesting items like a hat with bullet holes....
Fireman’s speaking trumpet to amplify orders....
Surgical instruments for field tent hospitals.....
As expected, much of the war context is focused on Richmond and Virginia. Shortly after the war began, the Confederate States issued their own currency which could be cashed in as soon as the South obtained their independence.
The Union side populated their forces using the draft, where all males between 20 and 45 had to register, including immigrants who were not yet citizens. On display was a cylinder drum where names were written on pieces of paper, then drawn until the town had it’s draft quota met. I think they probably still used a similar drum in Pittsburgh when I was drafted in the 1960’s.
The issue of slavery and African-Americans during the Civil War is told throughout the museum and not in one display place that I have seen in other museums. After the war, in 1887 eight black men were elected to the Virginia Assembly during the transition for the Reconstruction era. Their mural entitled “Seizing the Moment” graces one of the museum walls.
Once the South surrendered and the slaves were freed, many paramilitary organizations formed in the South to terrorize these newly freedmen. Some also popped up in the North as well. However, contingents of Confederate supporters are still angry today over the Lost Cause, a term used frequently. A sculpture of President Lincoln with his son Tad entitled "To Bind Up the Nation's Wounds" was unveiled at the Tredegar Iron Works in April 2003 amongst cheers, boos and rebel yells.
The American Civil War Museum at Historic Tredegar is open Thursday–Monday 10:00AM–4:00PM. It is located in downtown Richmond along the James River at 480 Tredegar Street, Richmond, Virginia 23219. During my visit, portions of the complex were not available for viewing due to the pandemic. Entry fee is Adults $16, Seniors/Teachers/Student/Retired Military $14, Active Duty Military $10, Youth 6-17 $8, Children 5 and under Free. One tip about parking. There is an adjacent pay parking lot next to the museum. Take the automatic parking stub with you and get it validated at the museum desk and your parking is free. I was told the parking was $3 per hour with an unvalidated ticket. The free parking validation gave me the opportunity to do a short stroll along the famous Canal Walk across the street from Tredegar.
Richmond is the capital city of the state of Virginia and easily accessible. Richmond boasts an international airport, Greyhound bus hub and two Amtrak railroad stations. It is located on north-south Interstate 95 about a 6 hour drive from New York City and 3 hour drive from Washington DC. It is also located on east-west Interstate 64 connecting Williamsburg, Virginia Beach and Charlottesville.