Hampton museum exhibit to feature Civil War artifacts

Deborah Deasy
| Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2014, 9:01 p.m.

A Colt 1851 Navy revolver owned by retired Hampton police Lt. James Wyle is among prized goods booked for an upcoming exhibit of Civil War-era artifacts at the Depreciation Lands Museum in Hampton.

The gun's handle shows the notable initials of U.S. Army Capt. Robert Henry Kirkwood Whitely.

Whitely initially inspected the revolver and later became superintendent of the famed Arsenal Armory in Pittsburgh's Lawrenceville neighborhood, where more than 70 women died in an explosion Sept. 17, 1862.

The pistol “is in pristine condition, which adds a lot to its value,” said retired Hampton police Chief Dan Connolly, president of the Depreciation Lands Museum Association.

Do you have such a mid-19th century keepsake, Civil War artifact or household item dating back to the 1860s?

“Any resident who has an item from the time period is encouraged to contact the museum,” said Karen Parsons, volunteer coordinator at the museum.

“Items do not need to be family-related, but we do want a story about how the item was used,” Parsons said. “I'd love to have some sort of uniform.”

The Depreciation Lands Museum currently seeks items with local ties to display in conjunction with an April 12 to May 6 visit by “The Civil War in Pennsylvania,” a traveling exhibit of the Sen. John Heinz History Center, presented by Peoples Natural Gas, with additional funding from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, and the Pennsylvania Heritage Foundation.

Local keepsakes already slated for display include a Civil War cavalry sword and a brocade gown worn by “Mrs. Laughlin” — of Jones & Laughlin Steel fame — to an affair for Abraham Lincoln.

“Things will be put in display cases ... They will not be out to be touched,” Parsons said. “The room will be staffed at all times.”

The upcoming exhibit is among a series of 2014 museum events slated to mark the 150th anniversary of the Civil War.

Civil War-era love letters, read aloud by one of the writer's distant relatives, will highlight an early American-style tea at 3 p.m. Feb. 16 at the museum.

Tickets are $20, $16 for children ages 11 and younger, and $16 for senior citizens.

Prepaid reservations are required.

Marilyn Munch Sorvas of Collier, 65, a Civil War re-enactor, will share her great-great-grand-uncle Addison Munch's romantic writings to a much younger Anna Cullers.

The couple — originally neighbors from related families — lived in a picturesque valley adjacent to the George Washington National Forest in Shenandoah County, Va.

Munch owned a dry goods store. Cullers long resisted his advances, but eventually married the 31-year-old Addison at age 19.

“He courted her for four years,” Sorvas said. “She was afraid because many women died in childbirth.”

Anna Cullers Munch indeed died after delivering the couple's third child and developing “childbed fever ... which was likely infection that set in because the doctors were not using sterile equipment,” Sorvas said.

Only one child of Addison and Anna Munch's three children survived to adulthood.

Sorvas obtained Addison Munch's love letters through cousins descended from that lone surviving child — Sarah Margaret Munch, who died in 1936.

Other upcoming museum events with a Civil War theme include “Battle Cry of Freedom: Music of the Civil War,” a program of readings from letters sent home from the battlefield and music by the Pittsburgh Historical Music Society.

Demonstrations of Civil War weapons and drug signaling are set for May 3 and 4.

To offer a Civil War-era artifact for exhibit at the museum, call the Depreciation Lands Museum, 4743 South Pioneer Road, Hampton at 412-486-0563.

For more information on the museum's upcoming Civil War-themed events, visit the museum online at www.depreciationlandsmuseum.org.

Deborah Deasy is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-772-6369 or ddeasy@tribweb.com.

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