For a brief second, the room went dark and quiet. Gunfire started popping above me. From my peripheral vision I saw rifles take aim then fire across the battlefield. Explosions of cannon fire found my backside, and as I caught my bearings, a soldier pointed his musket in my direction. With a loud crack, smoke billowed from the barrel of his weapon and a burst of cold air shot down on my head.
The Upper Middle West troops from Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan, Iowa and Indiana were engaged in battle, and we were surrounded in every direction. Was I dreaming of being in the middle of war or experiencing it firsthand? No. I was watching the new ten minute movie “Seeing the Elephant” on the 360 degree screen at the Civil War Museum in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
Lying close to the shores of Lake Michigan, this 57,000 square foot museum won an architectural award for its design that resonates with its theme. The exterior structure is built to resemble a fort from the East Coast with the main hallway being designed to model the old railroad trestles of 1800’s. The six states that were in the Upper Middle West during the Civil War are represented with their state flags hanging from the ceiling along the main entryway.
Travel back in time by walking through “The Fiery Trial” – the main exhibit in the museum. State-of-the-art museum technology allows visitors to experience firsthand the political, economic and social climate starting from the 1850’s leading up to the Union in crisis and eventual war with the Confederacy.
Through the eyes of the soldiers, nurses, countrymen, children and slaves, visitors will learn about the Upper Middle West’s role in supplying resources to the war effort. With rare artifacts on display from the six different states that participated, guests will be able to see and learn about the many contributions and sacrifices every man, women and child made to support their loved ones.
On the second floor, the John M. Antaramian Gallery hosts changing exhibits that explore various aspects of the war. From the “Gettysburg and Vicksburg” exhibit that highlights the two major victories that helped secure the Union’s victory in the war, to the upcoming “A House Divided – Illinois and the Civil War,” visitors will have many reasons to revisit the museum to gain a deeper appreciation of what many families went through during this turbulent time in U.S.history.
Throughout the year, the Civil War museum hosts various reenactments where the actors dress in full uniform and walk around in character. Some reenactments are of battles while others are interactive presentations. This award winning museum has something for everyone to enjoy.
Friends of the Museum members – Free
Youth ages 15 and under, accompanied by adult – Free
Adults $7.00 – Kenosha/Somers Residents $5.00