Standing amid the new exhibition “Confederate Odyssey: The George W. Wray Collection,” Atlanta History Center senior military historian Gordon Jones is surrounded by many weapons of battlefield destruction — rows of rifles, swords and bayonets, four cannons, ammunition.
Yet it’s a modest handmade coat in the middle of all this armament that commands Jones’ attention and causes him to pull closer.
It’s a crimson-stained frock coat worn by 17-year-old Pvt. Benjamin Schumpert of the 3rd South Carolina Infantry, a simple, lightweight garment sewn out of striped cotton ticking. The Americus teenager was wearing it in September 1863 during the Battle of Chickamauga when he was struck in the head by a minié ball, dying a quick, bloody death.
“Here’s the tragedy and sacrifice of the Civil War embodied in this one artifact,” Jones said, his usually subdued, folksy tone suddenly brimming with passion. “My hand is just a few inches away from this artifact that this boy was wearing when he was killed. That’s his life’s blood (whose stains discolor the homespun material).
“And you can’t have this experience in a movie. It’s gotta be in a museum. That’s why we have artifacts, because they’re the real thing.”
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“Confederate Odyssey: The George W. Wray Collection”
At Atlanta History Center through March 15, 2015. 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Mondays-Saturdays, noon-5:30 p.m. Sundays. $16.50; ages 65 and up and students 13 and up, $13; ages 4-12, $11. 130 W. Paces Ferry Road NW, Atlanta. 404-814-4000, www.atlantahistorycenter.com/battle.
BATTLE OF PEACHTREE CREEK COMMEMORATIVE WEEKEND
11 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday: Civil War Encampment with costumed re-enactors portraying Union and Confederate soldiers on the eve of battle, Civil War-era music, cooking demonstrations, crafts and a 2 p.m. lecture by historian Robert Jenkins on the battle.
6:30-9:30 p.m. Saturday: “Civil War After Dark,” with living-history performances, “Civil War Improv,” exhibit tours and music by Little Country Giants. Entry for afternoon and evening events included in cost of regular admission. 130 W. Paces Ferry Road NW, Atlanta. 404-814-4000, www.atlantahistorycenter.com/battle.
4-7 p.m. Sunday: The drama of the Battle of Peachtree Creek will unfold as the history center blog posts real-time updates, personal accounts, images and artifacts from the Battle of Peachtree Creek, at AtlantaHistoryCenter.Tumblr.com.