Thursday, December 11, 2014

Exploring Winchester: Old Courthouse Civil War Museum

Old Courthouse in Winchester
In the northwest area of Virginia is the historic City of Winchester. Until recently, I'd only casually driven this city, usually on my way to other destinations. This past weekend, however, we did drive west and explore Winchester. One of our stops was the Old Courthouse Civil War Museum.

The structure was built in 1840 and not only served as a courthouse, but also a prison and hospital during the Civil War. 

Due to its location, the building had been under both Confederate and Union control at various times during the war. According to the museum, Winchester changed hands more than 70 times in those years. 

Today the courthouse stands as a reminder of the past and, in addition to its gorgeous and original architecture, it houses an impressive Civil War collection.

The lower floor of the building has the original layout of the courthouse. Some of the interior was reconstructed as it had been used for firewood, but much of the original remains. 

historic buildings in Winchester Virginia
Trials in the 19th century in this court was set up a bit differently than you'd see today. The Judge would sit behind the barrier and in front of the window, the jury would sit on the (dark brown) bench facing the court. The witness would sit in the lone chair behind the rail. Both the prosecutor and the defense would sit behind the witness chair. This whole area is raised above the rest of the courtroom where spectators and other interested parties sat.
Upstairs is the Civil War collection. The collection includes thousands of items including buttons, buckles, ordnance and other personal belongings of soldiers.  In addition to the relics, you can see several sections of graffiti etched in the walls.

inside of the Old Courthouse Civil War Museum
Signature left behind by Confederate soldier 1st Lieutenant John E. Wills

inside of the Old Courthouse Civil War Museum
A curse to Confederate President Jeff Davis. It is unknown who left this graffiti, but it could have been written by either a Union or Confederate soldier.

Collection inside the Old Courthouse Civil War Museum in Winchester

Civil War memorabilia insde the Old Courthouse Civil War Museum in Winchester
There are literally dozens of these cases containing Civil War relics in this museum. I thought it was an impressive collection.

If you love American history, Winchester is a great place to visit. Due to the heavy rains, we did not get to see as much of the city as I would have liked, but saw enough to entice me to want to return again. If you are in Winchester, I highly recommend a stop at the Old Courthouse, especially if Civil War history intrigues you. The museum is located at 20 North Loudoun St., Old Town Walking Mall in Winchester.

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