Friday, December 11, 2015

A Christmas at Appomattox: Surrender site in Virginia to show off improvements

Turkey wreath adorns a wall at Appomattox (NPS photo)

The folks at Appomattox Court House National Historic Park in southern Virginia are offering holiday cheer and punch Sunday at a free event that will show off greenery and park additions since this time last year.

“People will see the village dressed out for Christmas,” said Ernie Price, chief of education and visitor services. “We will have an ornament-making station targeting kids.”

Appomattox, of course, is the site of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee’s surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia on April 9, 1865.

History buffs will have plenty to chew on at the open house, enjoying improvements made for this past April’s 150th observance of the surrender. “If you haven’t been here for a year, there are a lot of things to check out,” Price told the Picket.

Exhibit erected for sesquicentennial of surrender (NPS)

Upstairs in the visitor center – which is in the middle of the village -- is the traditional museum, featuring exhibits on Federal cavalry. Downstairs is a floor-to-ceiling trapezoidal exhibit case put in for the sesquicentennial. It includes the battle flag of the 9th Virginia Cavalry, a U.S. flag draped on President Abraham Lincoln’s coffin in Philadelphia during his funeral procession, and accoutrements belonging to Union Maj. Gen. Phil Sheridan, who bottled Lee up at Appomattox.

Visitors can take in “With Malice Toward None,” a 14-minute film that debuted in March. It is an overview of the campaign, the meeting of Lee and Union Gen. Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox, parole passes, the Confederate stacking of arms during the surrender, and the effects of the war, including the passage of the 13th, 14th and 15th amendments, which were meant to ensure equality for emancipated slaves.

Wreath made of tobacco leaves

The most well-known structure at the park is the McLean House, where Lee and Grant met to discuss the surrender terms. The home’s kitchen has a tribute to U.S. Colored Troops.
“We are working toward getting something in the main museum. It is so packed right now,” said Price.

African-American soldiers in the XXV Corps were involved in the campaign, and two brigades fought at Appomattox on the morning of April 9, 1865, the day of the surrender. “There were casualties that were taken,” said Price.

Bocock-Isbell home
County jail after restoration work (NPS photos)

In the last year, work has been done on the Bocock-Isbell house and the county jail. Upcoming is restoration of the Meeks stable and the Peers house.

The Appomattox Garden Club, per tradition, has been decorating the village for Christmas by using period-correct wreaths. The open house, Price said, is a good time in particular for local residents to see the changes.

The open house is from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 13. Admission is free that day. The park is open Sunday from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Call 434-352-8987, ext. 226, for more information.

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