Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Fredericksburg's Civil War Museum

"Civil War Life – The Soldier’s Museum"
By Timothy Cohen
Canaan, New Hampshire

I spent a week recently in Virginia in the Spotsylvania area and wow – there are some wonderful drums there.

Snare Drum:

First were these beauties at “Civil War Life – The Soldier’s Museum”, 4712 Southpoint Parkway – Fredericksburg, Virginia ( http://civilwar-life.com/ ). Curator: Terry Thomann.

The snare drum is a wonderful drum that is described as follows on the museum card:

Maker: Abner Stevens, Pittsfield, Mass.
Date: Circa 1820

This is a very unusual drum. It was probably used by a Pre-Civil War Militia Unit. Note the unique painted decoration which consists of a floral design made to resemble a Federal eagle. The sling is original to the 1820 era. This is one of the most complete early drums known. Everything about this drum is original including the heads, rope, leather rope tighteners (ears), rims, gut snares, and body. It still has the original makers label inside.


The snare drum features pressed snares with no strainer present.

Bass Drum:

The bass drum is fascinating as well. I was particularly interested in the red hoop around the center of the drum – one of very few I’ve seen with this style.

The museum’s card reads:

Maker: Abner Stevens, Pittsfield, Mass.
Date: 1820

This large size drum was popular in the early militia period. By 1861, the intense political crisis stirred within the country. Patriotic sentiment heightened in both the North and South. Every city and small rural village reflected the serious situation. Newly formed militia units nervously drilled in anticipation of the war. For many of the new companies, old drums were dusted off and repaired by grandfathers for a younger generation. President Lincoln’s request for 75,000 volunteer militiamen in April 1861, was answered by soldiers marching to the beat of the drums.


Note the tin overlap repair on the bass drum rim.

If in the Virginia area, this is a great visit with a good collection of brass instruments and fifes, as well as uniforms, swords, firearms, and a large collection of stereo-optic slides and more!

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