PARKERSBURG - A special Civil War exhibit about the Battle of Gettysburg goes on display today at the Blennerhassett Museum of Regional History in downtown Parkersburg.
The Civil War "Hands On History: Gettysburg in Miniature" display will feature miniature soldiers and battlefields that will allow individuals to recreate war games.
The museum will have people present from 1-5 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday through July 8 to do demonstrations. The demonstrations will be available for group and class tours with advance notice by calling the museum at 304-420-4800.
Larry Reber, a local historian, sets up the display Monday for the new “Hands On History: Gettysburg in Miniature” at the Blennerhassett Museum of Regional History in Parkersburg. (Photo by Wayne Towner)
Larry Reber, a local historian and Civil War enthusiast, is working with the museum and Gettysburg Miniature Soldiers to put on the exhibit. He said the display and demonstration offers a combination of original artifacts and relics with thousands of hand-painted miniature figures for a unique look at the Civil War.
"Visitors will get the opportunity to handle the tools of the Civil War infantry soldier, 'see through the eyes' of a cavalryman, and ponder the strategical mind of General Robert E. Lee," Reber said.
Historical miniatures wargaming is the simulation of historical battles through the use of miniature soldiers depicting the actual participants of the engagement, deployed on a 3D map-like terrain table with model forests, roads, hills, rivers and buildings portraying the battlefield. The game encourages tactical and strategical challenges between players.
Gettysburg Miniature Soldiers is a toy soldier shop in Gettysburg that has published a set of rules for a miniatures board game involving the Battle of Gettysburg and others. Copies of the rules will be available for purchase during the exhibit, Reber said.
"Think of it like a chess game with toy soldiers," he said.
"Gettysburg in Miniature" recreates the battle in a wargame format, observing the battle plans of the commanders Lee and George Meade, and explaining what happened during the three days of fighting, Reber said. The narration includes personal stories of many participants like General John Buford, Colonel Joshua Chamberlain and Generals James Longstreet, George Pickett, Lewis Armistead and J.E.B. Stuart.
Reber said the program will discuss two others, civilian Jennie Wade and Confederate soldier Wesley Culp.
During the three-day battle, which resulted in 50,000 casualties on both sides, Wade was the only civilian killed during the Battle of Gettysburg, Reber said. She was killed by a stray bullet while she was in her kitchen making bread for soldiers.
"To this day, they don't know which side fired the shot that hit her," he said.
Culp was a Gettysburg native who moved to Virginia to learn a trade and joined the Confederate Army when the Civil War began. He was killed while attempting to capture his family's farm at Gettysburg with other Confederate soldiers.
In addition to the miniatures display, Reber said the exhibit will feature Civil War artifacts on loan from local private collections. The items on display are expected to include an infantry rifle-musket and bayonet, bullets (fired and unfired), a cavalryman's telescope, a 20-pound artillery parrott shell, a 12-pound artillery solid shot, a pocket watch chain woven from a lady's hair, Civil War-era coins and a Civil War-era pencil.
Reber said visitors will be able to handle some of the items during the weekend demonstrations.
While the focus of the Blennerhasssett Museum exhibit is on Gettysburg, Reber will have a second table set with miniatures and features from the Battle of Fort Wagner, S.C., which was featured in the 1989 movie "Glory" about an African-American military unit formed by the Union Army during the Civil War.
"I was an extra in that movie, so that one has a special feeling for me," Reber said.