The Gen. Longstreet Museum in Russellville Tennessee celebrated their spring reopening with a period encampment on the museum grounds April 25 and 26. Anchoring the event was the newly formed Department of East Tennessee Reenacting with elements of the 19th, 26th, 59th, and 60th CSA Infantry Units, and the First Tennessee Artillery. The weather forecasts had been for severe storms to hit the area, but it failed to keep the hardy Tennessee boys away. For the most part both days were perfect for such an event. General James Longstreet (Bill White) was seen at all points animating the troops as well as the visitors.
In a special twist, the General’s longtime best friend, General U. S. Grant (Curt Fields) along with his wife, Longstreet cousin Julia Dent Grant (Lena Moody) stopped by to pay their respects and to catch up on old times. The two generals obliviously held each other in high regard as they reflected on the past and looked to the coming end of the war. Both men were in high demand by photographers before removing themselves into the Nenney Home where the talk was more of a personal nature in the homes communications room. While Grant was not in this part of Tennessee it did add a touch of class to an already great event.
Museum director Linda Lammers the team of volunteers gave tours of the home throughout the day. The Bradford – Rose Camp 1638 Sons of Confederate Veterans of Morristown had sales items on the front porch. They also offered a free look up of Civil War soldiers in the library of the museum for visitors. The museum visitors center was a popular stop as many dropped in to look around and sign the guest book. The visitor’s center has a well-stocked store as well, which saw many items leaving the shelves for new homes. Morristown Mayor Danny Thomas dropped in to pay his respects to the Generals and pose for a photo. Both days saw a steady flow of traffic in and out of the museum. Several people dropped in after seeing the many flags displayed and the cannon by the home.
Period music was provided on the rear side porch by CanJoe John Van Arsdale on fiddle, accompanied by Tony Malone on the Martin Backpacker. Malone and Tom Cox leant vocals in rousing renditions of Dixie, Bonnie Blue Flag, Rose of Alabamy, and other Southern favorites. With the smoke of the campfires, music and song, it took on the air of a festival. While not on the scale of the Forrest Homecoming, it did have that special charm of a Southern event. General Grant even seemed to enjoy himself in the midst of all the Rebel revelry!
Soldiers milled about the camp and in the Nenney home as visitors enjoyed a glimpse of Civil War camp life. Whether in drill or just having some down time, the Tennessee boys brought an excitement and reality to the event. The viewing public was drawn to the soldiers cooking, playing music, cards, writing letters home, or simply engaged in conversation. Many thanks are due the Department of East Tennessee for bringing the grounds to life as they represented Longstreet’s Corps of the Army of Northern Virginia.
The General Longstreet Museum plans to hold two such events a year, one in the spring and another in the fall. The General Longstreet Museum is an ongoing cornerstone project of the Lakeway Civil War Preservation Association. For more information visit their web page at http://www.longstreetmuseum.com/index.htm and be sure to “like” them on Facebook.
-By Tim Massey
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