Preserving religion’s role in the conflict

By Richard G. Williams Jr.
May 5, 2007

A new Civil War Museum in Lynchburg, Va., will offer a very different perspective on America’s bloodiest conflict. The National Civil War Chaplains Research Center and Museum will be the only one of its kind in the United States.

The mission of the museum and foundation is to educate the public about the role of chaplains, priests, rabbis and religious organizations during the Civil War. The museum also will promote the continuing study of the various methods of dissemination of religious doctrine and moral teachings during the Civil War and will preserve religious artifacts associated with the conflict. The museum will present interpretive programs that show the influence of religion on the lives of political and military personnel.

The proposed location is 10,000 square feet of space in the Arthur S. DeMoss Learning Center on the campus of Liberty University in Lynchburg. Plans are under way to open the center in the fall.

The Museum plans displays on:

• Camp life, hospitals and the battlefield.
• The U.S. Christian Commission.
• The life of the chaplain, priest and rabbi in the U.S. Army.
• The life of the chaplain, priest and unofficial rabbis in the Confederate army.
• Black chaplains in the U.S. and CSA armies.
• Notable chaplains, priests and rabbis.
• The notable spiritual lives of U.S. and CSA leaders• The great revivals.
• Religious music of the era.

A modern, interactive area will portray a camp and battlefield worship service. Here, visitors will be able to stand among holographic images of soldiers and the chaplain, priest or rabbi and participate in the service while hearing what is being thought by the soldiers and the chaplain, priest or rabbi.

A theater is also planned where visitors will be able to view various videos and documentaries. Archives, a bookstore, conference rooms and a research library will be part of the complex, as well.

The museum’s foundation boasts an impressive list of scholars, historians, politicians and business leaders as its board of advisers:

• Col. J.W. Brinsfield, Chaplain Corps historian at the Army Chaplain School, Fort Jackson, S.C.
• Kathy Byron, delegate, 22nd District of the Virginia House of Delegates.
• Gary Casteel, Civil War sculptor from Glasgow, Va.
• Virgil Goode, U.S. representative, 5th Virginia District.
• Rod Gragg, Civil War author, Conway, S.C.
• Terry Jamerson, publisher, the Lynchburg News and Advance.
• Irvin Jordan, professor, Special Collections Department, Alderson Library, the University of Virginia.
• James Kennedy, pastor, Coral Ridge Ministries, Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
• Father David Marino, priest, Orange, N.J.
• James I. Robertson Jr., alumni distinguished professor of history, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg.
• Marc Schewel, president, Schewel’s Furniture, Lynchburg, Va.
• Bradley Schmehl, Civil War artist, Gettysburg, Pa.
• The Rev. Lloyd Sprinkle, president, Sprinkle Publications, Harrisonburg, Va.
• Al Stone of Hinton, W.Va., known for his portrayals of Robert E. Lee.
• Don Troiani, Civil War artist, Sudbury, Conn.
• Dave Valuska, professor of history and director of the Pennsylvania German Cultural Heritage Center at Kutztown State University, Kutztown, Pa.
• Steven Woodworth, professor of history at Texas Christian University, Fort Worth.

The museum, a nonprofit 501C3 organization, has already had a number of artifacts, books and period photographs donated to its collection. The museum’s national board of advisers’ fundraising campaign will kick off on Friday at theArthur S. DeMoss Learning Center, Grand Lobby, Liberty University, with nationally renowned Civil War artist Mort Kunstler and author Rod Gragg. Mr. Kunstler will unveil his Lynchburg print, "Going Home, The Stonewall Procession, Lynchburg, Va. May 13, 1863." The event will start at 6:30 p.m.

The next day, uniformed re-enactors and civilians alike will gather on Jefferson Street in Lynchburg and follow the procession route that Gen. Stonewall Jackson’s body took when it was carried through Lynchburg on the way to Lexington on May 13, 1863. There will be a brief stop on Main Street at Bailey-Spencer Hardware, the site of the First Presbyterian Church where the Lynchburg funeral was held. Excerpts from the funeral sermon will be read.

Persons interested in this event can contact the Lynchburg Historical Foundation at 434/528-5353 or visit

Anyone interested in more information about the National Civil War Chaplains Research Center and Museum should contact the museum’s director, Kenny Rowlette, at 434/582-2087 or

Copyright 2007 The Washington Times

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