Author: John M. Coski

historian and director of library and research at the Museum of the Confederacy in Richmond

The American Civil War Museum

The American Civil War Museum, formerly known as the Museum of the Confederacy, opened in the former Confederate capital of Richmond in 1896 as the Confederate Museum. One of Richmond’s oldest museums, it is the only institution in Virginia that began as a Confederate shrine and transformed itself into a modern history museum. The museum was a preservation effort on two levels: it rescued from destruction the former Confederate executive mansion and displayed in the mansion’s rooms the artifacts—”relics” as they were called in the 1890s—of Confederate soldiers and civilians from the American Civil War (1861–1865) and the postwar Lost Cause era. In 2014, the Museum of the Confederacy became the American Civil War Museum.


Jim Limber

“Jim Limber” or James Henry Brooks—his legal name and his life dates are uncertain—was a free, mixed-race child in the Confederate capital of Richmond during the American Civil War (1861–1865) who lived for slightly more than a year in the household of Confederate president Jefferson Davis. Contemporary accounts suggest that he enjoyed an intimate relationship with the Davis family, leading some modern observers to make unverified claims that he was “adopted” and effectively became a member of the family. In the beginning of the twenty-first century, the child has become a symbol of the Confederate first family’s supposed liberality on racial issues.


James Lawson Kemper (1823–1895)

James Lawson Kemper was a Confederate general during the American Civil War (1861–1865), who later served as governor of Virginia (1874–1877). Kemper volunteered in the Mexican War (1846–1848), but returned to his civilian life as a lawyer. He served five terms in the Virginia House of Delegates (1853–1863), including time as Speaker of the House (1861–1863). There he garnered a reputation for honesty and attention to duty. Kemper volunteered for service in 1861, and with his promotion in June 1862 became the Confederacy’s youngest brigade commander. Badly wounded at Gettysburg in July 1863, Kemper oversaw the Virginia Reserve Forces for the remainder of the war. He helped found the Conservative Party during Reconstruction (1865–1877). Soundly defeating the Republican candidate in the 1873 gubernatorial race, Kemper found himself, as governor, at odds with previous supporters over his progressive stance on civil rights, prison reform, and public school improvements. Still suffering from his wound, Kemper retired to his law practice, and died in Orange County in 1895.


James River Squadron

The James River Squadron was one of the eight major forces that the Confederate States Navy created to defend its rivers and waterways during the American Civil War (1861–1865). At its apogee, the squadron consisted of three steam-powered ironclad warships—including the CSS Virginia, which famously dueled the Union’s ironclad USS Monitor at the Battle of Hampton Roads (1862)—and more than a half-dozen small gunboats, converted civilian vessels, and torpedo boats. As was true with the Confederacy’s other naval forces, the James River Squadron saw little action and was destroyed by its own men as a result of the defeat of Confederate land forces.


Abram Brown (d. 1840)

Abram Brown was a Baptist lay leader in Charles City County who helped found Elam Baptist Church in 1818. Born free, Brown farmed on land he inherited from his father and was wealthy compared to most African Americans of his day. He joined a Baptist church in Petersburg but soon after established a separate church on his Charles City County land and took a leadership role in his local religious community. In 1818 he transferred the land to the church, thus taking credit as founder of Elam Baptist Church. Little else is known about Brown’s life. He had at least eight children, many of whom, along with their own children and grandchildren, played important roles in the African American community of Charles City County. Brown died in 1840.


Lemuel E. Babcock (1809–1897)

Lemuel E. Babcock represented Charles City and New Kent counties at the Convention of 1867–1868, called to write a new state constitution. The New England–raised Babcock moved to Virginia sometime during the 1840s. He eventually settled in Charles City County, and in 1860 he owned the locality’s second largest lumber business. During the American Civil War (1861–1865), Babcock remained in Virginia as a slaveholder despite his support for the Union. In 1864 state authorities erroneously arrested Babcock as an enemy agent. The incarceration backfired on Confederate authorities since it drove him to begin giving intelligence to the Union army. He was arrested again in February 1865, imprisoned at Castle Thunder, and escaped while being transferred from Richmond to Danville. Babcock resumed his lumber business after the war and won election to the state constitutional convention two years later. He moved to Vermont in 1871 but retained strong ties to the Charles City County, where his son served as county treasurer for twenty-three years.