Voices

Civil War exhibit finds Valley connections

This November marks 150 years since President Abraham Lincoln gave his Gettysburg Address to dedicate the Soldiers National Cemetery in Pennsylvania.

At the Spokane Valley Heritage Museum, a new exhibit explores the history of the American Civil War, a conflict that killed about 750,000 soldiers.

The exhibit features life in a Southern plantation, and in contrast, a life lived as a slave on those plantations. It also takes a look at the weaponry available at the time and the state of field medicine, with actual bone saws from the era.

The exhibit includes profiles of Union and Confederate generals and a lightweight saddle Gen. George McClellan designed for cavalries. One section of the exhibit deals with the Battle of Harper’s Ferry and includes mapmaking instruments from that time.

Jayne Singleton, museum director, said they also look into Lincoln’s life, “as a man, as a father and as a husband.”

As with many exhibits at the Spokane Valley Heritage Museum, researchers found local connections to the war, including Civil War generals who came to the area to fight Native Americans and men who moved to Spokane Valley after they were discharged from the military.

Tyler Robbins, 23, is a recent graduate of Eastern Washington University who researched some of these men, notably a man named Mount Peasley, who fought with Gen. Ulysses S. Grant at Vicksburg.

Peasley moved to Greenacres and raised a family just off Barker Road. He died in 1935 at age 92.

“He claimed he was Gen. Grant,” Robbins said, explaining that Peasley said he was the man behind Grant’s decisions.

He was also believed to be the last surviving member of the Grand Army of the Republic, a Civil War veterans’ group similar to today’s VFW.

While visitors take a look at life during the Civil War, a soundtrack of the times plays in the background with music from the era, as well as the theme from “Gone With the Wind.” Singleton said the exhibits at the museum are meant to engage all the senses and they often have soundtracks to accompany exhibits.

There is a replica of the Derringer that John Wilkes Booth used to assassinate Lincoln. There is also an original Spokesman-Review newspaper from 1913 commemorating 50 years since the Gettysburg Address and honoring local men who fought on both sides.

Singleton said that no exhibit is ever finished by the time it opens.

“Every time we do an exhibit, the word seems to get out there,” she said. Residents were still coming forward a year after the opening of the museum’s Titanic exhibit with items to include. She hopes the same will happen with this exhibit.

She’s also tight-lipped about why one of the uniforms on display is green. She said folks will have to come in to find out.



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