WILLIAMSPORT - The Thomas T. Taber Museum of the Lycoming County Historical Society has opened a summer exhibit entitled To Arms!: Civil War Weaponry, to coincide with the 150th anniversary of the Civil War. The Civil War will be remembered from 2011-2015 at museums throughout the country.
The Taber exhibit will include items drawn from the permanent collections of the museum as well as key items from several private collections. The exhibit includes a number of guns that were developed during the War with an urgent need for accuracy and rapid-fire. During the beginning months of the War, men often took their own firearms into battle. The governments of the north and the south soon realized the necessity for weapons that could fire with accuracy, at a greater range. Guns that could shoot more than one bullet without reloading were also desirable.
Among the weapons exhibited are four LeMat revolvers. The LeMats were utilized by the Confederacy and were developed by Dr. Jean Alexandre LeMat of New Orleans. The LeMat was recommended for usage by P.G.T. Beauregard, who was elevated to the rank of General during the Civil War. It was the favored weapon of Major General J.E.B. Stuart.
An exhibit of Civil War weaponry is featured at the Taber Museum from June 12 until August 26. Two Palmettos, used during the Civil War by the Confederacy, are displayed in front of one of the cabinets. LeMat revolvers, also used by the Confederates, are seen in the background
Also on display are a pair of derringers, identical to the pistol used by John Wilkes Booth to assassinate President Abraham Lincoln April 14, 1865. The small pocket pistol was developed by Henry Deringer in Philadelphia and many competitors sought to duplicate Deringer's efforts.
The pistol became generically known as the 'derringer', a misspelling of the original producer of the pistol. The derringer became a favorite of ladies, who wished to protect themselves. They often concealed their derringer in their purse, their fur muff, or in their stocking's garter.
The exhibit also highlights two repeating rifles- the Spencer and the Henry. Ownership of a Henry was a source of pride, many soldiers purchasing a Henry with their own monies. The Henry was capable of firing 28 rounds per minute and because of this capability, the Confederates referred to it as "that damned Yankee rifle that they load on Sunday and shoot all week."
Several Springfields are on display. The Springfield was the most common weapon to be carried by the Union infantry. By the end of the War, the Springfield Armory had produced 1.5 million weapons. Springfields were equipped with bayonets. A Remington Model 1862, with sword bayonet, is also on display. Known generically as the 'Zouave', the U.S. Army ordered 10,000 rifles. Ultimately, the rifles were not issued during the course of the War and remained in storage at the Watervliet Arsenal in New York, as late as May 1866. They were later sold for $.54 each, including their sword bayonets.
The weapons reveal a fascinating era of American history. The exhibit also includes Colts, Smith & Wessons, Sharps, carbines, and several swords. The exhibit will continue through the summer ending on Sunday, August 26. Admission is charged. Hours for the exhibit are during normal operational hours: Tuesday through Friday 9:30am-4:00pm; Saturday 11:00am-4:00pm; and Sunday 1:00pm-4:00pm. The Museum is closed on Mondays and major holidays. The Taber Museum is located at 858 West Fourth Street in Williamsport. Ample parking is available behind the museum or on the street. For more information, visit our website at www.tabermuseum.org