Fort Worth's Civil War museum holds history, and now, debate

A Fort Worth museum contains a large collection of Civil War battle flags, which have sparked debate across the country. News 8's Jim Douglas has more.

FORT WORTH – Linda Stevens looks over a collection of Civil War weapons, and wonders what it must have been like to fire or face a musket.

She and her family already know what it's like to look down the barrel of Civil War history. They are among African Americans who trace their lineage to Confederate General P.G.T Beauregard, a slave-owning officer who commanded the bombardment of Fort Sumter to open the war.

"His daughter had a daughter, named Suzette. That was my grandmother's mother," Stevens said.

Stevens, her husband Peter, and cousin Paul Martin praise the Texas Civil War Museum in Fort Worth. It has many original battle flags, and artifacts from soldiers who defended them.

The family seems divided on the role of these flags today.

"See it all the time in West Virginia," said Stevens' husband, Peter.

News 8 asks if the flags offend him.

"No, no," he says. "That's their right."

Paul Martin is a veteran and retired college teacher.

"I do believe it deserves a place of respect," he said. "I'm not too sure it deserves to be flown over state capitols."

Museum director Cindy Harriman hears the debates, and knows the history that complicates this sensitive issue even more.

She points out one of several Confederate battle flags. "This is actually the one that Lyndon Johnson's ancestor fought in. He was in the 26th Texas Cavalry."

Who could have convinced a Confederate cavalryman his descendant would be the U.S. president to help pass the Civil Rights Act passed?

Then, there's one of General Hood — the namesake of Hood County's — battle flags. It has its own post-war story.

"The troops sent it back home to put in Texas archive," Harriman explained. "During reconstruction, they felt it might be destroyed, so they took it out of the archives, wrapped it in oil cloth, and buried it on the banks of Barton Creek in Austin. And it stayed there for 10 years."

General Hood's flag isn't currently on display. But there's plenty to ponder.

A dress worn by Winston Churchill's mother. A gunpowder flask, mangled by the bullet that killed its owner. Uniforms. Medical kits. Hundreds of items.

A blue field coat with stars on the shoulders. "This is General Grant's coat he wore when Lee surrendered at Appomattox," Cindy Harriman said.

There's even one of Grant's cigars. History, still smoldering.

The Texas Civil War Museum is located at 760 Jim Wright Freeway North. For more information, visit the museum's website at this link.


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