Heart of Louisiana: Confederate Memorial Hall

NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - One hundred and fifty years ago this week, Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered at Appomattox courthouse in Virginia, signaling the end of the Civil War, the bloodiest conflict in American history.

For more than a century, one of the largest collections of artifacts from Confederate soldiers has been housed on Camp Street in New Orleans.  FOX 8's Dave Mcnamara takes us to Confederate Memorial Hall in tonight's Heart of Louisiana.

The rear of this Romanesque building faces Lee Circle.  Inside are the uniforms, weapons, flags and everyday items of soldiers who fought for Confederate Army.

“This is the oldest museum in the state of Louisiana, and it's the second-largest Confederate collection that exists,”according to historian Joe Ricci.

War veterans guided the construction of Confederate Memorial Hall, which opened in 1891.

“Remember at that time – we're talking the late 1880s and early 90s - veterans of the Civil War were dying at an alarmingly high rate.  So the building was built mainly to be a repository for their artifacts and their stories,” Ricci said.

There is a collection of artifacts from New Orleans' famed Washington Artillery Battalion, which was part of every major battle of the Civil War, including the opening artillery barrage at Gettysburg.

One of the fascinating war stories you'll find comes from an old wooden piano that ended up in the trenches of a Civil War battle, and it has the scars to prove it.

The piano was in the trenches at Jackson, Miss., and was played during lulls in the fighting by soldier Andy Swain of the Washington Artillery.

“There is a small indentation on the side that was made by a mini ball in the course of that battle at Jackson, Ricci said.

Items from another storied group, the Louisiana Tigers, who wore the colorful Zouave uniforms with striped baggy trousers and a red fez cap.

“They were from the wharves and rough areas of New Orleans, a lot of them,” Ricci said.

LSU got the name Tigers from the Louisiana Tigers in the early 1890s.

No matter which side you fought on, the life of the common soldier was not an easy lot, and the people came out of this war on both sides changed - changed forever by what they saw, what they did, what they saw done to other people. To that end, this museum is staying true to the wishes of its founders, as a place where the stories of Southern war veterans will be preserved and shared.

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