“Everything is bigger in Texas,” so the saying goes. In terms of history, that holds true in some respects. Though there were few engagements on Texan soil during the Civil War, many soldiers traveled far from home to serve in the Confederacy. The veterans who returned didn’t find their homes ravaged as Georgia, Tennessee, or Virginia had been. Austin was the only Confederate capital west of the Mississippi River to remain in Confederate hands throughout the war. Their economy and infrastructure rebounded well to allow them a level of prosperity during Reconstruction that few Confederate states experienced.
The veterans also brought back with them many souvenirs and memorabilia from the war, artifacts and relics that would later be housed in a remarkable museum in Fort Worth. The Texas Civil War Museum, a 501c3 nonprofit, is the largest Civil War museum west of the Mississippi River, and its collection is just as impressive. Separated down the middle in their 15,000 sq-ft facility, the museum is dedicated to telling the story of both the Union and Confederate infantry, artillery, navy, medical corps, and civilian, using thousands of artifacts that have been donated or are on loan from the United Daughters of the Confederacy, Texas Division. Notable items on display are: General Grant’s coat, worn during the surrender at Appomattox, Presentation Sword of General U.S. Grant, The Phillip Sheridan Exhibit, personal belongings of J.E.B. Stuart, a Confederate 6 Pound Smoothbore Cannon, the Confederate States Safe from Richmond, Scarlett O’Hara’s Hat from Gone with the Wind, models of several navy vessels, numerous Confederate flags, one of General Grant’s used cigars from Cold Harbor, Robert E. Lee’s pocketknife, and Albert Sidney Johnston’s original tombstone. Some items in the exhibits are unique in other ways. For example, housewives (the sewing kits carried by the soldiers) are commonplace in many Civil War museums, but here one can find a few housewives that are constructed and designed differently than the customary model.
An entirely separate gallery shows off the stunning Judy Richey Victorian Dress Collection of Victorian-era dresses dated from 1860 to 1900 – any array of accessories included along with children’s clothing. Each display explains the evolution of women’s fashion through the latter part of the nineteenth century. The short film, “Our Homes-Our Rights–Texas in the Civil War” is shown throughout the day, which further explains the history of Texas’ involvement in the war and is the winner of the 2007 Mitchell Wilder Award, Texas Association of Museums. Two extraordinary display cases would inspire war-miniature collectors. Within these cases are recreated battle scenes from the Wilderness, May 1864 and Palmito Ranch, May 1865 using painted miniature figurines representing infantry, cavalry, and even USCT soldiers. If you examine closely, you can find soldiers trying to turn back Lee from charging forward with Longstreet’s men at the Wilderness.
The mission and vision of the Texas Civil War Museum has been to faithfully tell the story of the Civil War and the role Texas played in the conflict, and preserve the artifacts within their care for the education and enjoyment of the public. While there’s a significant lack of the story of the enslaved or the contribution of the USCT in their interpretation, the museum stays fairly balanced in its presentation. Their dedication to education is admirable and for those in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, this museum may be one of the few – or only – places to whet their appetite in all things Civil War. If you’re willing the brave the traffic, the Texas Civil War Museum is deserving of a visit. Below are a few photos I took during my tour.
Address: 760 Jim Wright Freeway North, Fort Worth, TX 76108
Phone: (817) 246-2323
The museum keeps different hours depending on the season, and are closed on major holidays or during inclement weather.
Fall/Winter: September 1 – February 28; Thursday-Saturday, 10:00am – 5:00pm; Closed Sunday-Wednesday
Spring/Summer: March 1-August 31; Tuesday-Saturday, 10:00am – 5:00pm; closed Sunday-Monday
Admission: $7 Adults ages 13+, $4 Children ages 6-12, Free Children ages 5 and under with an adult