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Texas Civil War Museum

Texas Civil War Museum
760 Jim Wright Freeway North
Fort Worth, 817/246-2323; texascivilwarmuseum.com
Hours: 9am–5pm Tues–Sat
Admission: $6 adults; $3 children ages 7–12; free for children 6 and younger. Parking is free.
It’s summer, and your kids are in full school’s-out mode. But while they want to run around and take advantage of their short-lived freedom, you want their minds to stay sharp too. So take a family field trip this August to Fort Worth’s hidden gem: the Texas Civil War Museum. This extensive collection housed in a manageable space will entrance even the littlest historian and give everyone in your family an educational break from the heat.
Start your tour in the theatre, where you’ll be treated to a unique film about Texas’ role in the Civil War. About 90,000 Texans participated in the war that raged 150 years ago, and the video is an introduction to their stories. While informative, the video is not graphic, so the little ones can watch, too.
Before you plunge into the exhibits, grab a clipboard and a pencil and send your child on an old-fashioned scavenger hunt through history. The Museum provides an ABC checklist for the youngest explorers and a clues-based hunt for older ones. Let your children roam – the museum is laid out so that you can’t lose them – or walk through the exhibits with them and search for the answers together. (Sweet secret: if your kids complete the scavenger hunt, they’ll receive an old-fashioned candy treat.)
As you walk through the galleries, you’ll notice Union artifacts on your left and Confederate artifacts on your right. The Museum does a good job of contrasting the two sides and illustrating the gulf in quantity and quality between Union resources and Confederate resources. In your tour through our nation’s bloodiest war, you won’t be spared the gory details (a blood-stained New Testament and a bullet-pierced powder flask are on display), so this may be a good opportunity to teach older children about the serious nature of the Civil War. But you will also encounter whimsical musical instruments, outlandish and outdated medical equipment, and weaponry that may inspire those childish delusions of grandeur you amassed during stick sword fights in the backyard.
As you leave Civil War medicine in the past (where, as you’ll learn, it belongs), you’ll step into the stories of soldiers from Texas. Have you heard about the Houston bartender who led 50 troops against 4000 – and won? Find his story and more in this collection of artifacts from the home front. Spend some time browsing the collection of Texas flags on display – it’s the largest in the state.
Men may have dominated the battlefield, but women round out the Museum’s collections. You may have to contain your urge to play dress-up as you wander through the impressive display of Victorian dresses such as Texan women and girls would have worn during and after the Civil War – though some of the “underpinnings” and other figure-trimming accouterments look downright uncomfortable. You and your girls will definitely gain a greater appreciation for nineteenth-century handiwork and twenty-first century comfort.
Docents are in and out; you may encounter a period-costumed volunteer who will answer queries and perhaps allow you to touch swords, cannonballs, and other museum artifacts. Or for your own piece of history, stop by the gift shop for cute old-fashioned kids’ toys, like cornhusk dolls and wooden tops, or stock up on costume supplies for your child’s next dress-up day.