Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Civil War Artifacts - The Strange and Unusual

Victorians had a peculiar way of cherishing their mementos. I'm sure you've seen wreaths made out of human hair, as well as toys and clothing made from animal hides, bird's feathers, and horse hair. But some of the relics that have survived the test of time are truly bizarre in nature.

Case in point: at Ford's Theater in Washington, D.C., there is a museum in the basement that houses interesting artifacts from the Civil War and President Lincoln's assassination. Strange as it seems now, the President's coat, encased in glass, still has his dried blood visible. People tore blood-stained pieces from the coat and saved them as souvenirs, so parts of the coat are missing.

Horses have been stuffed and preserved, like General Philip Sheridan's horse, Winchester, which is on display at the Smithsonian American History Museum. Stranger still is the head of General George Meade's horse, Old Baldy, which is stuffed and hung on a plaque, waiting to be displayed after the Civil War Museum in Philadelphia is completed.

But the oddest item of all is the leg of General Daniel E. Sickles, who lost the appendage during the Battle of Gettysburg, and donated it to science. The leg is still on display at the Walter Reed Hospital in Washington. General Sickles was one strange character who would often visit his leg after the war ended. So the next time your grandma wants to show you her gall stones in a jar, don't think it too bizarre. At least it's not her leg!

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