Longstreet Museum now open

Kelly Ford, a tour guide with the General Longstreet Museum in Russellville, stands near an outdoor informational display at the museum Saturday. The museum is now open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.

If you are looking for a cure for cabin fever, there’s something that might fit the bill just down the road.

The General Longstreet Museum had a soft reopening on May 5.

Mike Beck, volunteer at the Longstreet Museum, has been with the museum since before it opened in 2006.

“We have artifacts that relate to the (Lakeway) Region,” Beck said. “We have a communication room set up with Tennessee State Historian Dr. Carroll Van West. We’re just trying to have an honest interpretation of the local history from the confederate’s side as well as the union side what happened in our area.”

Longstreet was second in the command to Gen. Robert E. Lee, Lee’s “right-hand man,” according to Beck.

“He was the commander of the First Corps, the Army of Northern Virginia,” Beck said. “A lot of people overlook the significance of that, in having the First Corps here in East Tennessee. Gen. Lee gave Longstreet his nickname, his ‘Old War Horse.’ That was Lee’s respect to General Longstreet. “

“It’s been a soft opening, like you would assume,” he said. “We’ve had some visitors and some good interest. It’s about what we had assumed. It’s going to take time with everything, with people wanting to get out more and do things and realize that we are here.”

One thing Beck looks for is for people wanting a day trip to cure “cabin fever.”

“A lot of the kids have been out of school. This gives them an opportunity to learn more about our local history,” Beck said.

Also, when tourism gets kicked off later, the museum garners interest from other areas.

“We’ve had visitors from all across the country and out of the country in the past,” he said.

The museum hosts an occasional genealogy fair.

“We partner with the Sons of Confederate Veterans and the Daughters of the Confederacy, as it’s their project as well,” Beck said. “This is to grow membership and also to grow awareness about your family history. When we have those, it usually works out really good and how satisfied the public is that we offer that. They’re just amazed when they’re lucky enough to find the right family information.”

Beck said that given the location of the Lakeway Area, it’s not surprising that some families have members on both sides of the Civil War.

“As a native East Tennessean, I can say that,” he said. “What’s interesting is a lot of people come by are not from here. That’s just the way society operates. The local people take the local assets for granted. It’s usually the people who have moved in here who try to learn the culture, history and to assimilate into our population.”

Beck thinks as the season progresses, the museum will have more visitors.

Kelly Ford, tour guide at the Longstreet Museum, said life at the museum continues even during the time of COVID.

“We’re still doing the drums, fife and bugle classes for boys ages 10 to 18,” Ford said. “We’re getting ready to take them to an event in Virginia in July. We’re going out and doing stuff. The classes are free.”

Hours at the museum are from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.

The museum is always looking for volunteers to help.

“We’re always looking for volunteers who want to get out of the house and do something that’s outdoors,” Ford said. “We do everything from moving bricks to research to arts and crafts.”

The museum is located at 5915 E Andrew Johnson Highway in Russellville. For more information, call 423-438-0968.