On the evening of April 6th 1865 the Black Thursday of the Confederacy – Gen. Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia lost 7,700 men, including eight generals, in the Battle of Sailor’s Creek. This defeat was key to Lee’s decision to surrender at Appomattox Court House 72 hours later, thus ending the war in Virginia. As night began to fall here on, April 6, 1865, the hard fought battles of Little Sailor’s Creek and the crossroads near the Marshall Farm draw to a close. Federal surgeons work by the little natural light that’s still available. They are inside the main doorways trying to save as many of the wounded as possible from both armies. Hospital stewards prepare men for surgery and assist with the gruesome task of amputating limbs, bandaging wounds, and trying to comfort the wounded.
This house, built by Moses Overton in the early 1770’s, is occupied by the James Moses Hillsman family. Hillsman, a former Captain in the 44th Virginia Infantry, was captured at Spotsylvania in May, 1864, while commanding a detachment of sharpshooters, and is still a prisoner of war as battle rages across his farm. His wife Lucy Blanton Hillsman and mother Martha Overton Hillsman, two children and eight servants are forced to reside in the basement warming kitchen during the fight. The home will be used as the Sixth Corps field hospital. The family will experience the grim realities of war as the floor in the entry hall becomes soaked with blood and they hear the cries of the wounded and dying above.
The front lawn of the Hillsman house will be the stage for this exhibit. The objective of this exhibit is to captivate the visitor attention. This will be accomplished utilizing state of the art storytellers. These storytellers will be produced utilizing the latest in new media technology. Imagine going back in time and being witness to this scene. The guest will encounter a captured soldier from Lees army awaiting treatment for a bullet wound. His mood is somber having been witness to the horrors of war. All hope appears to be lost. Many of his friends died and he is pondering the fate of those who would continue to fight. Contrasting this scene will be a Union commander. He too will tell the stories of the day. While he will talk of victory he will also recount the brutality of the day. He too is somber but has a markedly different expectation going forward.
These stories will come to life inside a dimensional set. The life sized characters will be rear projected on acrylic cutout glass. Dolby surround sound effects will further immerse the guest in scene. The cry of wounded soldiers, occasional gun shots from the last skirmishes of the day will be heard.
The goals of the exhibit are: To foster an awareness of the brutality of the civil war. To foster an awareness of the significance of Sailors Creek Battlefield to the outcome of the war. To foster an appreciation for the artifacts presented and preserved at Sailors Creek State Park. To motivate visitors to explore additional civil war sites. Outcomes: Through this immersion experience guest of all ages will have increased knowledge and awareness of the Battle at Sailors Creek and its significance to the outcome of the war. Visitors will gain perspective from each side and will develop a greater interest in visiting other Civil War destinations.
For more information on other exhibit intitatives under way in Virginia, click here.