A journal following the history, design, construction and operation of Bernard Kempinski's O Scale model railroad depicting the U. S. Military Railroad (USMRR) Aquia-Falmouth line in 1863, and other model railroad projects.
©Bernard Kempinski All text and images, except as noted, on this blog are copyrighted by the author and may not be used without permission.

February 25, 2012

White Oak Civil War Museum - A Hidden Gem!

Replica winter camp at the White Oak Civil War Museum

This weekend Alicia and I went to Ashland to present my talk, "Introduction to the Railroads of the Civil War." The talk was sponsored by the Virginia Train Collectors. Over 70 people attended the talk along with special guest Dr Gerry Fitzgerald, who came over from Charlottesville to take it in. I was very pleased to see that three members of the audience came dressed in period Confederate attire. I was promised safe passage by my hosts, so I needed not fear a visit to the infamous Libby Prison. But it was fun to see people getting in to the topic.

The talk was very well received and I got invited to do it again for the Richmond National Railroad Historical Society.

We spent the night before the talk at the Henry Clay Inn, in Ashland, VA. This is a charming inn in a charming town. The inn stands right behind the railroad tracks and is a great place for a rail fan to stay. The inn is very quaint and attractive. You shouldn't hesitate to bring your spouse along.

Alica posing by a Sibley Tent pole and stove.
On the way home we stopped at the White Oak Civil War Museum just across the river from Fredericksburg, near White Oak Church. I had been contacted by Ken Pitts of that museum to help with some research on a park they are building near Accokeek Creek where the Union army had installed some fortifications and a corduroy road. We had a brief meeting to discuss future cooperation.Then one of the musuem docents gave me a quick tour of the exhibits. This has got to be one of the least heralded but most interesting museums, especially if you are building a model of the Aquia Line!

Built in an old school house the museum has ample space to display an incredible array of artifacts found at the sites of the former Union encampments. They had sections of the original strap rail from the RF&P, pieces of T Rail from the Union Army Potomac Creek Bridge, and even sections of wood from the wharves at Aquia Landing that were under water and thus saved from the fires that consumed the rest of them. The Minie balls, belt buckles, bayonets, knives, tools, telegraph insulators, Sibley tent pole, stove, and thousands of other artifacts was just mind blowing.

Inside the museum they had a diorama of a
camp with some typical soldier's gear
They have an indoor diorama showing what the  4 man shelters at the winter camp looked like. These included lots of neat artifacts and embellishments like birds, canteens, bottles etc.

But outside was a full scale replica of a winter camp that you could wander around, go inside and just experience like no other museum I have visited.  This is a great museum to visit if you are at all interested in the Aquia line or the civil war in general. As proof, even Alicia said it was interesting.

Standing in front of the remaining stone abutment at Potomac Creek

As we drove home, we stopped at the Potomac Creek bridge site. I was told that remnants of the bridge piers still exist. I could not see them when I visited in the late summer a few years back due to the over grown trees and leaves. So I took this opportunity to search for them with the leaves off the trees. Alas, I could find nothing. However, I did see an unusual brick abutment on the north side of the canyon. It was heavily obscured by trees, so I could not make it out clearly. I don't know what it could be, but it was not in the correct position to be the northern bridge abutment.

Strap rail from the RF&P

Note how crude the pieces of lumber are.

Nice chimney work on this shelter

Looks cozy, doesn't it?

Interesting variety in shelter types at the replica camp

Inspecting the camp

Inside a 4 man shelter

Different kinds of shelters at the White Oak Civil War Museum

Replica grave yard at the White Oak Civil War Museum

The Amtrak Station in Ashland has a nice visitor's center


  1. If my yard was only a bit bigger I'd build a copy of that shelter near the flag pole that you noted has the fine chimney. Thank you for posting the photos of your tour.

  2. Bernie-

    Sorry I missed your presentation. I had the wrong Saturday marked on my calendar. I live just a few miles south of Ashland off I-95, would have been great if you could have stopped by to see my layout. Maybe next time.

    Mark Chase
    Richmond VA