Museum opens Civil War exhibit

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, April 12, 2011

By Joanie Morris
For the Salisbury Post
In April, 1865 — just three days after Gen. Robert E. Lee surrendered to Ulysses S. Grant in Appomattox Court House, Va. — fighting finally reached Rowan County.
Maj. Gen. George Stoneman led his cavalry to Rowan County and raided Confederate supplies in what is now known as the Battle of Grant’s Creek.
It was four years after the start of the Civil War, almost to the day, that Stoneman raided and captured Salisbury, and only one of many moments during the war captured by the Rowan Museum in their new exhibit on the Civil War in Rowan County.
Terry Holt, exhibits chair and member of the museum board of directors, said the museum decided to host a set of Civil War exhibits because this month marks the 150th anniversary of the start of the war.
A recitation of events and interesting facts about the Civil War in Rowan County are on display in the front exhibit room of the old historic courthouse. In the back entrance room, the museum has a general accounting of the Civil War, including a bust of Lincoln and a timeline of events.
Holt said Rowan County has an interesting involvement in the history of the Civil War. Aside from the known events — the Confederate Prison, Stoneman’s Raid and Dr. Joseph Hall’s participation during the war — there are several not-so-well-known histories told.
Col. Charles Fisher, the first officer killed during the Civil War and father of writer Christian Reid, was from Rowan County.
The Salisbury Arsenal, now Chandler Concrete, provided cannon balls, bullets and more for soldiers during the war.
There is an accounting of the Female Raid of 1863, in which about 50 women, only described as mothers and wives of Confederate soldiers, raided local mercantiles, demanding fair prices for products.
And items from the war are on display, from rifles and boots to canes and pages from a diary kept by a prison soldier.
Holt said many local people donated items and time to help with the exhibit, which will be on display until mid-January, much longer than the normal temporary displays. Local historians Mickey Black, Clyde, Ed and Sue Curtis, Luther Sowers, Betty Dan Spencer, Steven Wise and Gretchen Witt all contributed to the exhibit.
Executive Director Kaye Brown Hirst said there’s a little something for everyone at the Rowan Museum during the Civil War exhibit. In addition to the temporary exhibit are exhibits that are at the museum every day — Confederate Prison life, Commercial and Professional Life, Community, and Country Life and Early Trade.
Hirst said the anniversary of the Civil War was the best time to host an exhibit about the war in Rowan County.
“There are a lot of people fascinated with the Civil War,” said Hirst. “It was just a good time to do it.”
While the Civil War may be history, there’s one thing new in the exhibit. The Civil War exhibit is the first exhibit at the museum to use digital technology in displays. There are digital picture frames in three of the displays exhibited — medical life, weapons and the prison.
Hirst estimates that 150 people attended the opening day of the exhibit on Sunday.
The museum is open daily from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. during the week, and 1-4 p.m. on the weekend.
For more information on the exhibit, contact the museum at 704-633-5946.