23 January 2010

Natioanl Civil War Chaplains Museum Opens In Lynchburg

I left my home in the Shenandoah Valley this morning, headed southeast on the Howardsville Turnpike, through the George Washington National Forest, over Reeds Gap and the Blue Ridge, down past Wintergreen, through Beech Grove, over Brent's Mountain via the Patrick Henry Highway (Rt. 151), down the Monocan Parkway (Rt. 29), across the James River and into Lynchburg to attend the grand opening of the National Civil War Chaplains Museum (I serve on the Board of Trustees - Note: the website needs to be updated. Check back soon). I always love that drive--its beautiful.

The event was well-attended--even though Professor James I. Robertson, Jr--who was scheduled to give the keynote at the luncheon, recently broke his leg and was unable to attend. Fortunately, Chaplain (Colonel) John Wesley Brinsfield, Jr., (Retired), did a great job pinch hitting for the ailing Bud Robertson. Dr. Brinsfield (who taught history, ethics and world religions at the US Army Aviation School, the Army Chaplain School, in the Department of History at the United States Military Academy at West Point, and at the U.S. Army War College as Director of Ethical Program Development), presented a brief, but fascinating talk on the impact of Civil War Chaplains during and after the war. The part I found particularly interesting was the two theories of war taught at West Point during the times of several prominent WBTS figures--including Lee, Davis, Sherman, and Jackson. During the time Lee, Davis, and other cadets were at West Point, the theory of a "just war" was most prominent - meaning, in part, that armies should do everything possible to prevent casualties of civilians and collateral damage to civilian institutions and property. But, by the time Jackson and Sherman were cadets, that philosophy has been supplanted with the concept of "total war" being taught. During both these periods, it was the responsibility of the West Point Chaplain to teach ethics and moral issues involving warfare. It's interesting to note how the competing philosophies may have impacted how the various individuals viewed and conducted warfare during the WBTS. This subject matter dovetails into a conversation I had with Dr. Brinsfield a while back regarding the impact of a revival that occurred at West Point and how that impacted cadets and future WBTS figures. I actually started researching the subject for an article and his talk today rekindled my interest. I plan on completing that research, along with including this additional aspect, and finishing up that article very soon. I already have a publication interested in it.

The Museum itself has a number of interesting artifacts and displays. One which I'm particularly fond of (since I suggested and lobbied for it), is a display which features the renowned slave preacher, the Reverend John Jasper, who ministered to wounded Confederates (including, quite possibly, my own great-great grandfather) at Chimborazo hospital. On hand manning that display today was the church historian of Jasper's Sixth Mount Zion Baptist Church in Richmond, Benjamin Ross. Benjamin and I worked together in writing the text for the John Jasper birthplace historical highway marker in Fluvanna County. Benjamin and I shared a table today at the luncheon which allowed us to discuss some projects he's working on in regards to Jasper's 200th birthday and Virginia's commemoration of the Sesquicentennial.

Also on hand today was Chaplain Gil Gibson, a retired Navy Chaplain who often comments here. Chaplain Gibson presented a letter of commendation for our efforts from the Military Chaplains Association. That was quite a surprise and an honor for us to receive. Thank you Chaplain Gibson!

I would encourage all my readers to visit the museum. There is no entrance fee, though donations would be appreciated. We have a lot of exciting things planned for the future and I'll post updates here. Below are a few photos from today's festivities.

What I encountered when crossing the Blue Ridge Parkway this morning.

Lining up for the ribbon-cutting.

A "unified" honor guard prepares to fire a salute.

This mural inside was painted using the popular painting "
Resurrection Morning" by artist Hong Min Zou as a guide. Both Mr. Zou and his wife traveled from their home in Atlanta for the grand opening today.

Another one of the displays at the Chaplains museum.

And, finally, a shot of Dr. Brinsfield holding forth.

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