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Sophienburg’s Civil War exhibit opens Saturday

By Myra Lee Adams Goff

The Sophienburg’s Civil War exhibit will open this coming Saturday, May 19th.  and that day has been designated as a “free museum day.” The exhibit will focus on Comal County’s part in the war and will be on display until spring 2013.

Here is a thumb-nail refresher course in Civil War history before you come:

The conflict between the industrial north and the agrarian south had been going on for years. Ferdinand Lindheimer, editor of the Neu Braunfelser Zeitung wrote editorials in the newspaper in favor of secession. He was an advocate of state’s rights to the end.  Even  Gov. Sam Houston didn’t have as much influence as Lindheimer in the county.

A state Secession Convention was held in Austin on Feb. 1, 1861. Representing Comal County were Dr. Theodore Koester and Walter F. Preston, native of Virginia, who had bought the Meriwether farm on the Guadalupe River near New Braunfels. The majority of the convention voted for secession.

A statewide election was to be held over the issue. Comal County Chief Justice Hermann Heffter called for an election to vote “for” or “against” secession on Feb. 23, 1861. Of the total voters (men only) 239 voted “for” and 89 voted “against”. Comal County was the only primarily German community to vote to secede.  Do you think the vote would have been different if women also had the right to vote? I don’t know.

On April 26, 1861, the Neu Braunfelser Zeitung published the Constitution of the Confederate States of America on its front page. In keeping with a resolution of the Feb.1

Convention in Austin, 10,000 copies were to be distributed across the state, 1/5 of which were in German and Spanish.

Ultimately, the secession bill was ratified and Texas once again became a free sovereign and independent state with its capital in Montgomery, Alabama.

Now that Texas was part of the Confederacy, military forces had to be obtained. The first Confederate legislative act called for volunteers to serve 12 months and state militia volunteers to serve six months. By Dec. 1861, the Texas legislature passed a law for men from 18 to 50 to sign up for frontier defense. In Comal County, by March 15, 1861, three militia companies had been organized.

The July 4th parade was “dignified”. The home-guard militia and the bugle corps marched in the main streets to the beat of a single drum. At the plaza a military review was staged.

Now back to the exhibit: The Iwonski art exhibit that I told you about in my last column is part of the over-all exhibit. Outside, the Sons of the Confederacy in uniform are setting up an encampment with tent, cannon and many other archives.

Now go inside the museum. There are vast amounts of Civil War era artifacts in the Sophienburg collection and they will be displayed throughout the museum.

The first display that will catch your eye is the cabin reproduction. The story from the Landa family goes like this: Joseph Landa was in exile in Mexico as a result of his being tried by an anti-abolitionist secret society for freeing his five slaves in 1863. His wife, Helene, stayed behind to run the store and other businesses. A gang of “ruffians” invaded the store and Helene held them off with a six-shooter.

Every segment of the museum will display something that involves the Civil War period. The medicines in the Doctor’s office, alcohol  in the saloon, guns, clothing, and the Ladies Aid Society’s role in the war effort.  By the wall painting of the Comal Springs is an exhibit of saltpeter production used in gunpowder. There are panels of old photos and a vast amount of information about participants in the war effort, from the leaders Hoffmann, Podewils, Bose, and Heidemeyer to everyday people.

Sophie’s Shop has the largest collection of Comal County books for sale in town. There are three Civil War books, two about Comal County and also a beautifully illustrated Smithsonian collection.

It was a confusing time. Excerpts from this folk song by Irving Gordon tell it all:

Two brothers on their way…
One wore blue and one wore gray…
Two girls waiting by the railroad track…
One wore blue and one wore black…

Volunteers Janis Bodemann and Ann Giambernardi examine the clothing of the Landa mannequins inside the museum. The Landa story is part of the Civil War Exhibit beginning May 19th at the Sophienburg.

Volunteers Janis Bodemann and Ann Giambernardi examine the clothing of the Landa mannequins inside the museum. The Landa story is part of the Civil War Exhibit beginning May 19 at the Sophienburg.

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Books Available in Sophie’s Shop