Today’s Art Talk Monday is from Jean Jones with the Union Museum of History and Art in Farmerville, located in the Chamber of Commerce building, 116 N. Main St., Farmerville. For information about the museum, click here: UnionMuseumofHistoryandArt.org. The “Civil War in North Louisiana” exhibit runs through September 20.
Amid the Civil War uniforms, flags, weapons, and photographs, there are several small objects that silently capture the attention of every visitor to the current exhibit in the Union Museum of History and Art in Farmerville. The intriguing items are letters. Simple, yet profound, letters. All were written by young uneducated soldiers, lonely for home and family, fearful of death, and bewildered by the horrors they witnessed. “Dear Mother,” begins William H.H. Kennedy’s letter to Permelia Kennedy of Farmerville on January 14, 1863, written from a camp near Vicksburg. “I take mi pen in hand to inform you a few lines to let you know I am a live yet but I have been put near dead ever cence they had the battle.” The 22 year-old soldier writes of freezing cold weather with thin blankets, lack of food and medicine, and rampant illness among troops. Kennedy recounts the battle he has just endured and war’s deafening roar. His next lines tighten the throat: “I never felt bad scird but wonct thar was a fellow a seting by me an ther come along a cannon ball an took off his head…”
Written from camp in Tennessee, James M. Tanner’s letter to his sister Permeliann in July 1863 begs her to write to him. “I wuld like to here from all my relashuns.” He died a few days later. James fought for the Confederacy. His brother Lewis served in a Union regiment.
For the “Civil War in North Louisiana” exhibit, Dr. Gary Joiner, Chair and Professor of History at LSU-Shreveport, has provided more than 40 historic maps and images that help us understand our region’s place in the national conflict. Twenty-four individuals have contributed other historic treasures such as minie balls, guns, swords, family photographs, and a New York newspaper announcing President Lincoln’s death on April 15, 1865. Several re-enactors have contributed accurate replicas of Confederate and Union uniforms and accoutrements.
Several talks are being planned with the exhibit: “The Vicksburg Campaign,” by Terrance Winschel on Aug. 19, 1 p.m.; “The Red River Campaign,” by Gary Joiner on Aug. 26, 1p.m.; “Civil War Medicine,” by Dr. Tom Pressly on Sept. 9, 1 p.m.; and “The Louisiana Tigers,” by Terry L. Jones on Sept. 16, 1 p.m.
The American Civil War took the lives of some 630,000 soldiers, mostly through disease and infection. When guns fell silent in May 1865, two percent of the American population had been sacrificed. Throughout the South and the North, regiments were raised in specific locales, so that brothers and friends marched off to war together. Those same comrades often died together, too, devastating families and communities with sometimes overwhelming loss. North Louisiana contributed thousands of men to the Civil War, serving in regiments such as the 31st Louisiana Infantry which fought at Vicksburg.
From the Red River valley to the Mississippi River, significant events took place that altered the course of the war. War developments in North Louisiana also altered the careers of several military leaders, and ended presidential aspirations of U.S. General Nathaniel P. Banks. Documentary film maker Ken Burns once said, “If you want to know about this thing called the United States of America you have to know about the Civil War.” Likewise, understanding Louisiana’s unique story surely requires a study of its Civil War experiences.
The Union Museum of History and Art presents exhibits that showcase and celebrate this region’s history, culture, and creativity. Its mission is to tell the stories of the people in and near Union Parish and open the doors of knowledge, understanding, and inclusion. The Museum is located in the Union Parish Chamber of Commerce building located at 116 North Main Street in Farmerville, Louisiana. This historic structure, more than a century old, was once the Farmerville Bank.
Museum exhibits are open to the public at no charge. For many exhibit themes, the community will be invited to lend artifacts to be included in the rotating displays.
A seven-member board of directors plans and carries out all activities of the Museum.
The Union Museum of History and Art is a non-profit 501c3 charitable organization. Donations are tax-deductible. Visit their website here.