Editor’s note: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that museum admission is free.
Although the moths long ago had their way with the handsome grey officer’s coat belonging to Maj. Gen. Patrick Cleburne , it will be one of the star exhibits when the Museum of the Confederacy opens its new
museum at Appomattox, Va. on March 31. Cleburne, sometimes called the Stonewall of the West, was wearing the high-collared coat when he was killed while attacking the Union breastworks at the Battle of Franklin , Nov. 30, 1864.
Eighty years ago, the White House of the Confederacy , which was then the museum as well, accepted the Cleburne family gift complete with numerous moth holes and stored it away. The present museum, next door to the Executive Mansion, wasn’t built until the 1970s. This will be the first time the coat has been exhibited. Although it is unusual for the museum, or probably any museum, to show something in less than pristine condition, the coat makes a link to an important figure in the Confederate military, said spokesman Sam Craghead.
“We are telling stories about people and not just exhibiting ar
tifacts,” he said. “Even in its condition, it is still a way to draw people into the story of Cleburne and talk about his appeal in January, 1864, to the government to recruit slaves as soldiers.”
The discussion of the role of slaves and freedmen during the war is an important element of the new exhibits, he said.
The 12,000-square-foot museum is the first of several that museum president and CEO Waite Rawls announced will open in Virginia during the war’s sesquicentennial. Rawls said in 2006 that he felt he had to do something drastic to make the museum’s extensive collections available, since the ever-expanding Virginia Commonwealth University hospital complex in the museum’s backyard had made it difficult for visitors to find either the buildings or parking.
The new museum galleries will include 22 original Confederate flags—the largest such exhibit ever mounted—as well as the uniform and sword General Robert E. Lee wore at Appomattox, the pen he used to sign the surrender document and the parole he and his staff signed. Interactive workstations will allow visitors to see the original Confederate parole list and search for relatives among the names.
The 10 a.m. ceremony on the 31st is open to the public and will include a keynote speech by Confederate history expert James “Bud” Robertson and a procession of re-enactors representing the 23rd Regiment United States Colored Troops (escorting Gen. Ulysses S. Grant) and the Sons of Confederate Veterans Maryland Division color guard (escorting Lee).
Following the ceremonies, the museum will be open seven days a week, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is $10 for adults and $6 for children 7 to 13. No charge for those 6 and under.