Leading up to Thursday, July 4 individuals from around the nation remembered the 150th Anniversary of the Battle of Gettsysburg, a conflict described by many historian as a turning point in the Civil War. Fought over a three-day period in and around Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, the iconic battle took an estimated 50,000 lives between Union and Confederate soldiers.
A dedication to one local soldier that served the United States during the Civil War can be found outside the Milford Museum. Standing tall in front of the museum is a seven-foot bronze statue of General Alfred Torbert, a civil war hero, and Milford’s highest ranking military figure. Torbert received the opportunity to become first lieutenant in the Confederate army but turned down the commission to show his loyalty to the Union. Torbert accepted an appointment as colonel of the 1st New Jersey Infantry in 1861, in the Army of the Potomac. He then was named brigade commander of the Sixth Corps in August 1862 which lead to his promotion to brigade general. Torbert led his army in battles of Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, and Gettysburg.
Marvin Schelhouse, a marine veteran and civil war historian, has been researching Torbert’s life since 1964 and has built a great appreciation to the general. That appreciation and dedication led him to start the project of getting a statue built in the general’s honor. The late Richard Johnson was instrumental in helping raise the money for the statue and committed $36,000, of his own money, of the $100,000 dollars it took to build the statue.
Two years ago, Schelhouse began working with the Milford Museum in downtown to honor soldiers that fought during the American Civil War. Now in honor of the Battle of Gettysburg, he is expanding the Civil War exhibit to tell the story of the men that fought and died during the fight that took place July 1 through July 3 in 1863.
“The Battle of Gettysburg was the most critical battle of the War,” commented Schelhouse. “Until this time the South was winning a lot of battles and they continued to march north, placing the North in a defensive position. During this battle the North took an offensive position and it became a turning point in the larger War.”
Featured in the Battle of Gettysburg exhibit, individuals will experience stories and view artifacts, including photographs, sabers and rifles, from soldiers that fought in the Pennsylvania town. As an addition to the already constructed Civil War exhibit that includes Fort Sumter, the first engagement of the Civil War, and President Abraham Lincoln, visitors to the Museum can observe the first three years of the historical war.
“These exhibits become very emotional,” commented Schelhouse. “Being in the Vietnam War, I can feel the suffering of what these guys went through as I hold the artifacts or put together the parts of the exhibit.”
During the two remanning years of the sesquicentennial remembrance of the Civil War, Schelhouse will continue to expand the exhibit to include the remaining battles and events of the Civil War including the battles that took place in 1864 in the Shenandoah Valley and the surrender at Appomattox in 1865. Marvin encourages families to bring their children to learn about the rich history of the United States during these times of turmoil.
“It is important for young kids to know the history of this country,” stated Schelhouse. “It really impacts the kids when they are able to see the artifacts and experience what has happened. We have such a rich history in this country, unfortunately we have been through many wars in that time.”
The new exhibit is open to the public at the Milford Museum, located at 121 South Walnut Street in downtown Milford. For more information about the Battle of Gettysburg exhibit or the museum visit http://www.milforddemuseum.org or call Claudia Leister, Director of the Milford Museum, at 302-424-1080.