Today I drove up to Russellville, TN for the opening reception of a Civil War Art exhibition. The collection consisted of a number of really beautiful original paintings by Marie Merritt covering the civil war, and included one painting of General Longstreet Marie painted for the museum and which was unveiled at the showing. And you could not have a better location for the showing than an antebellum American house that General Longstreet occupied during the winter of 1863-1864.
The historic Nenney House served as the winter headquarters for General Longstreet just after the Battle of Bean’s Station in December of 1963. Russellville became the winter camp for his Confederate army. The house has been painstakingly restored by the Lakeway Civil War Preservation Association to serve as a museum. It is the centerpiece of the Civil War Trail in the Lakeway area. The museum’s gift shop also contains an excellent Tennessee Civil War history reference library and Civil War related souvenirs and publications. The museum hosts several special events throughout the year. A reproduction of an 1860’s era tailor shop features both Confederate and Union uniforms and other period dress. It is a perfect setting for an exhibit like this one.
Paintings by Marie Merritt
That is Marie Merritt standing on the staircase in the Nenney House with some of the “reenactors” who were present for the event. I first met Marie at a gallery on Gay Street in Knoxville, TN through my friend, Vicki Goforth. I met Vicki back in my ballroom dancing days and we have remained friends over the years. I enjoyed Marie’s paintings at the gallery, so when I received an invitation to attend the exhibition at the General Longstreet Museum, I had to go. I am a military history buff after all. To be honest, I had no idea this little gem of a museum even existed. What a great surprise. It is definitely worth a visit and I recommend stopping by if you are in the area.
Here is a picture of several of the paintings mounted on a wall in what was probably the sitting room of this historic old house. That is my friend, Vicki, in the red jacket.
One of my personal favorites was this painting below of a Confederate sharpshooter.
Sadly, I must confess that at the time I was taking pictures, I did not know about the special painting of General Longstreet Marie did for the museum which sat to the side on an easel. And somehow, I missed getting a picture of it. But on the bright side, that gives me an excuse to make another trip up to this great little museum in the not-to-distant future.
And here is one picture that might be a little off topic, but I still had to share it. General Longstreet’s staff probably sent messages on this very telegraph. This is probably one of the earliest known predecessors to the smartphone!
It was a dark, moonless night. The humid air lay heavy, almost suffocating those trying to sleep after the day’s long battle. A lone Union sentry, posted about twenty yards from the general’s tent, shifted his tired feet. He glanced nervously around. He could feel it … an unconscious foreboding nagging at his conscious mind. There was a sense of death on the night air. His post was deep within the Union encampment. A safe enough post. The sentry listened … hearing only the buzz of mosquitoes and the constant chirping of crickets.
In the tent, a mosquito buzzed the general’s ear. He swatted at it futilely, then rolled over on his cot. Despite the heat, he pulled the wool blanket up over his head … protection against the buzzing insects. Grant was exhausted. Today, he’d sent three divisions to push the Confederates from Big Black River Bridge. They’d captured over 1,800 enemy soldiers. Tomorrow, he would lay siege to Vicksburg. Grant’s mind kept churning over the many important preparations for tomorrow’s action.
Damn Mississippi. Nothing but swamps, rebels, and mosquitos, he thought to himself. Gradually, the physical need for rest overpowered the general’s brain, and he drifted off into a fitful sleep.
Saitō was the night. He was invisible, a lethal force hidden in the darkness; unstoppable. The sentry died. A small shuriken, its points dipped in deadly toxin distilled from chrysanthemums, nicked his neck. The poison did its work. Saitō caught the sentry as he fell, dragging him into the tree line. Saitō crept up to the tent where Grant lay sleeping. Concealed in the shadows, he listened to the snoring emanating from the other side of the canvas. His target slept. Time to complete his task.
Saitō scanned the encampment. All was still quiet. A living shadow, Saitō moved stealthily toward the front flap of the tent. An imperceptible movement of the flap and he was inside. Saitō rose silently from the plank floor of the tent platform, sliding a tanto from the scabbard in the small of his back. He approached the cot where the general lay sleeping. The tanto was poised, ready to stab downward. Grant’s death would breathe new life into the Confederacy. It was why he’d been paid.
“I wouldn’t,” a voice spoke from a corner of the tent. Even in the dark, Saitō could make out the seated figure of a man, his feet propped up on a wooden whiskey keg. The man’s hand rested on his right thigh inches from his holstered .45 Colt Peacemaker. Moving like the wind, Saitō whirled, changing his grip on the tanto, ready to kill the impertinent fool interrupting his work. The man’s hand flashed. The colt barked, a bullet stuck Saitō, centered between his two black eyes.
Grant sat up in his cot.
“What the … ?”
“It’s alright, Sir. I’m Agent Jim West of the U.S. Secret Service. President Lincoln assigned me to keep an eye on you. You’re safe now. Better get some more rest. You’ve a big day tomorrow.”
Memorial Day Giveaway Reminder
My Memorial Day Kindle giveaway of Serpents Underfoot has been a huge success so far. Over 150 fans have downloaded Kindle versions of the book. A few hours remain … click here get your copy now while they are free. There are no gimmicks or requirements. I am simply holding this giveaway in honor of those who have made the ultimate sacrifice to keep our country free.