Visiting the Library in a Strange City
By Franz Wright
The words reappear, slowly
on a vast unknown
but precise number of pages
as I enter: the great building
empty of visitors
except for me, reading
the minds of the dead—
moving with exaggerated
and slow-motion care,
as when assigned to lead
the blind kid to his classroom
forty years ago,
between dusty volumes, a light
We spent Friday in Richmond with dementordelta at the Museum of the Confederacy, CSA White House and Tredegar Iron Works at Richmond National Battlefield Park. It was a gorgeous spring day and Richmond has more flowering trees than we have near DC. We went first through the main floor of the museum, which has a general timeline and history of the secessions and Civil War, including uniforms, weapons and gear belonging to many Southern officers, incredible things like a handkerchief stained with Stonewall Jackson's blood and a canteen containing the bullet that had killed the soldier to whom it belonged.
Then we toured "Mrs. Davis's house" as our wonderful tour guide called it -- he was a retired sergeant major who grew up in Richmond and was given his first tour of the Jefferson Davis house by the granddaughter of Robert E. Lee, and clearly had great admiration for Lee, Stonewall Jackson and particularly Davis, an architect and engineer whose contributions to the USA he feels have been unjustly overlooked. (He's the African-American great-grandson of a white man who had families with both white and black women and gave his name to all of the offspring, so he grew up part of an enormous multiracial Southern family that has big reunions.)
The house itself is smaller than I expected, though the upper floor is closed -- it's not even as large as Gunston Hall -- but beautifully restored, with more than 60% of the original furnishings (and lots of fashionable false doors that Adam enjoyed spotting). The front entranceway has two life-size statues of Comedy and Tragedy holding lamps, and the dining room and ladies' parlor have enormous mirrors that make the rooms look bigger and brighter. My kids liked the toy cannon that fired real powder that Mrs. Davis "forgot" when they moved out!
...and the view facing the street, though tours enter at the rear. No photos were allowed inside the house, visited at various times by Lee, Jackson, the grandson of Thomas Jefferson (a Confederate supporter) and Abraham Lincoln (the day after Richmond was captured).
The Museum of the Confederacy was originally housed in the White House, but as more of the original furnishings were recovered, it was moved into this newer building.
Here is a view of the White House through the large rear windows of the Museum of the Confederacy, beneath flags of the Confederate States of America.
Jefferson suffered from various eye and lung ailments and walked with a limp. Here is one of his canes, carved with Masonic symbols, and a shaving kit.
Here are a pair of his slippers, made in France, decorated with Confederate flags.
And here are...well, you can read the museum's description off their own sign!
After a quick lunch in the Virginia state library's café, we went through the museum exhibits on the Confederate Navy, including the Monitor-Virginia battle and the round-the-world trip of the Shenandoah, and Virginia's role in the Confederacy, including slaves in the military and the burning of Richmond, we drove to the Tredegar Iron Works, which has a museum focused on Virginia's battles (with electronic maps) as well as the remains of the machines that produced cannons and railroad track. And then we went out for excellent Indian food before my family drove back to Maryland!