Jonesborough museum to get state exhibit on Civil War
By Kristen SwingAn official traveling exhibit of the Tennessee Civil War Sesquicentennial Commission will spend two months in Jonesborough, starting Friday, June 29.
“Common People in Uncommon Times,” an exhibit making its way across the state, focuses on how the Civil War impacted the lives of Tennesseans through personal stories of some of its participants. It will be on display at the Jonesborough/Washington County History Museum at the Visitors Center from June 29 through Aug. 26.
“It looks at the progression of the war and its effect on normal folks,” said Deborah Montanti, executive director of the Heritage Alliance of Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia. “It talks about the Civil War in Tennessee from the perspective of daily personal struggles.”
Montanti said the exhibit is “very pictorial,” using 10 graphic panels to tell the tales of a diverse array of personalities – Confederate soldiers, Union sympathizers, African Americans, gallant women – whose sagas illustrate a land divided.
“Tennessee, being geographically centered between the North and the Deep South, was destined to be the focal point of the Civil War,” said Myers Brown, exhibition curator. “The state became a major battlefield, supply center, transportation hub, and invasion route for both Union and Confederate armies. The war disrupted and impacted the people of Tennessee in ways that are almost unimaginable.”
Each panel in the exhibit portrays a different theme: Confederate leaders, Union leaders, African Americans, the civilian home front, common soldiers, war on the water, reconstruction and commemoration.
The panels were created from the Tennessee State Museum’s collection of photographs and artifacts from the era, as well as from other collections across the state.
According to the Tennessee State Museum, almost 187,000 Tennesseans served in the Confederate armed forces, while more than 50,000 served in the Union Army, including some 20,000 African Americans.
On the Tennessee home front, crops and farms were destroyed and livestock confiscated during the war.
The exhibition explores the home front through the stories of people like John Fielder, a store keeper in Henderson County; Kate Carney, a defiant secessionist in Murfreesboro, and C.A. Haun, a noted potter from Greene County.
“The exhibit we are getting from the state is very much a statewide story,” Montanti said. “We’re using this as a time to also roll out a new permanent exhibit at the Jonesborough/Washington County Museum.”
The permanent exhibit will focus on Alfred Jackson, better known as A.E. Jackson.
“He was a prominent Jonesborough citizen prior to the war. He was instrumental in bringing the railroad to town,” Montanti said. “During the war, he rose to the rank of brigadier general. To the best of my knowledge, A.E. Jackson is the only general Washington County has ever produced.”
When he returned to Jonesborough after serving as a general in the Confederate Army, Jackson had a “rough time” in life, Montanti said, particulary because he lost two sons in the war.
“We’re telling his story primarily through his words and the words of his daughter and daughter-in-law,” Montanti said. “In other words, we are using his personal letters.”
In the end, Montanti says Jackson’s story is a “hopeful” one.
“We’re just going to let Jackson and his family tell their Civil War story,” Montanti said. “We will be drawing no conclusions. We will be offering no interpretation.”
The exhibits will also include special programs this summer.