The Trevilian House, which was at the center of a Civil War battle in Louisa County, opened its doors on Dec. 7 for the public to peer through the periscope of time and see what Christmas would have looked like there in the mid-19th century.
Ed and Charlaine Crebbs of the Trevilian Station Battlefield Foundation wore period garb as they greeted visitors. They showed off furniture recently acquired from an auction in Richmond, including items from the set of the PBS drama Mercy Street, set in 1860s Alexandria.
Crebbs, the foundation’s secretary, said that it was pure serendipity that enabled him to acquire the furniture.
“[Foundation vice-president] Kathy Stiles had heard through a family friend about the auction,” he said. “At the end of the event’s first day, we actually called and asked if we could use more money because we’d spent 80 percent of what we’d allotted.”
Some of the pieces are exact matches for furniture that can be seen in photographs of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee’s surrender to Union Gen. Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Court House. Crebbs pointed to an end table in Trevilian House as an example.
“If you were to look at the photograph, you’d see a picture of Grant and five generals, then Lee and two generals, then the table right next to them, which tells me this table is pre-1870,” he said.
The foundation also acquired a piano with direct ties to Appomattox. The instrument is believed to have been located in General Grant’s headquarters near the surrender site. Together with a plaque that tells more about the history of the piece, the piano is a prominent part of the house’s living room.
“It’s missing the ivory on top one of the keys near middle C,” Crebbs said. “That piece of ivory still sits in a display case at Appomattox.”
Reenactors from the 23rd Virginia Infantry Regiment participating in the open house portrayed how soldiers would have celebrated Christmas.
The open house was a great way for families and history buffs alike to look into the past and get an idea of what the holidays were like during the nation’s fight for unity.