In Part I of Turning a Farm House into a Museum we learned to accurately recreate the physical surroundings numerous primary sources exist to help us understand how the house was furnished following the Battle of Sailor’s Creek.
Furnishing the three rooms on the main floor of the Hillsman’s farm house was made possible by a donation of a private collection of antebellum primitive furniture. Also included are military gear and medical stretchers with officer’s uniforms and equipment. The mixture of domestic and military items reflects the living conditions during the battle.
When it was time to furnish the entry hall, park staff relied on Lieutenant Peck’s reminiscences to recreate the surgeon’s operating table location. According to Peck “…an hours later it began to rain, so Private Lincoln went to the house to secure, if possible, my removal thither, for every other officer had been quartered there as soon as he was brought in. He returned with a litter on which I was taken to the house. I was then placed on the floor of a room in which there were two beds, each occupied by two severely wounded officers, while in the third corner, on the floor, were at least a half dozen more. The only place found for me was in front on one of these beds; my head close beside the hall doorway, were there stood the operating table, with surgeons working the entire night, my body forming the bound of a passage-way to the kitchen door in the fourth corner, whence people continually passed and repassed. Yet when my wet cloths had been removed…and myself wrapped in a couple of army blankets, I slept quietly, happily, until daylight.” A collection of various surgical instruments are also on display and by-products of human suffering that the house witnessed.
In the entry hall and in the room described in Lt. Peck’s memoirs visitors can clearly see spots on the floor that resemble blood splatter. Forensic scientists from the Virginia State Police headquarters in Appomattox County have confirmed these spots are indeed blood. The forensic team tested locations in both rooms and in the basement on the underside of the floor. All tests indicated a positive result.
The Hillsman Farm House Museum is located at Sailor’s Creek Battlefield Historical State Park in Amelia County. Sailor’s Creek Battlefield and the Hillsman house are on the National Register of Historical Places and listed as a National Historic Landmark.