Longstreet Museum holds Christmas open house

Santa stopped by the General Longstreet Museum in Russellville Sunday afternoon.

The General Longstreet Museum has long been a site for Civil War enthusiasts to come and learn about East Tennessee’s role in the war between the states.

Sunday was different as the museum held its Christmas Open House at the property on U.S. Highway 11E.

Santa, dressed in the classic style of cartoonist Thomas Nast from the 1860s, was there, along with reenactment soldiers representing the 1861-1865 period, ladies in their period finest and members of a fife and drum corp. The drum corp is open to ages 8-18 and meets weekly.

“We’ve decorated for the people in the community to come, to have a little goodwill for Christmas and to let people know about the Longstreet Museum,” Mike Beck, a volunteer at the museum, said. “This is a good day, good weather. We’ve had a great turnout.”

The house was decorated with real greenery to resemble how a Victorian Christmas was celebrated in the 1860s. With smaller trees and candles on the tree, the Victorian style differs greatly from how Christmas is celebrated today.

The Lakeway Civil War Preservation Society Association has owned the property for 13 years.

“A few years after we got organized, we opened the house,” Beck said.

The house, also known as the Nenney family home, served as the Winter Headquarters for Confederate General James Longstreet in the winter of 1863. Longstreet had led a campaign across East Tennessee that included the battles of Mossy Creek, Dandridge and Fair Garden.

Like most museums, the Longstreet Museum is always in need of donations to keep the historic site operating.

“We’re about awareness and donations. All museums need donations to add new displays and everyday upkeep. We’re no different than the rest of the museums (in that regard).

Beck said that many people enjoy studying about the Civil War period.

“A lot of people enjoy that time period of history, even though it was very controversial. To this day, it’s still controversial, depends on how one wants to view it. Our mission here is just to interpret history in a true way and let the public decide what they want of it. We’re just here as a historical landmark and to share our rich East Tennessee history.”