As a child, Dr. Norman Haines would wander through the Antietam battlefield near his home in Maryland, sometimes picking up bullets, rusted bayonets or other Civil War artifacts.
The Pensacola physician later received his first serious collectible item, a Confederate musket, as a present on his 14th birthday.
“From that point on I was hooked,” Haines, 45, said. “I just started more reading, more studying.”
And more collecting.
His Civil War collection eventually outgrew his home and most of it was put in storage until this year. Inspired by an advance copy of Ken Burns’ Public Broadcasting System series on the Civil War, Haines bought and refurbished a building in downtown Pensacola to display his artifacts.
In late August, he opened the Civil War Soldiers Museum. Its focus, as the name implies, is on soldiers. Haines himself is a direct descendant of five Union veterans.
“I wanted to emphasize that we were not glorifying war,” Haines said. “What I am interested in is how the soldier lived and died in that period of time. We wanted to emphasize that it’s a soldiers museum, not a war museum, not a Northern museum, not a Confederate museum.”
Haines hopes entry fees of $3 for adults and $1.50 for children 6 to 12 and sales of gifts and books will pay the monthly bills. He intends to operate the museum until he retires and then find an organization that can keep it going.
Artifacts on display include personal items such as stencils for marking clothing, dog tags soldiers bought from camp followers because neither army furnished them, matches, shaving equipment and a carpetbag.
A tiny hand-carved set of bone dominoes and a roll-up wooden checkerboard could be stashed in a pocket or pack. There are poker chips and playing cards soldiers would toss away before battle to avoid the taint of anyone finding gambling material on their bodies, Haines said. After battle, survivors would retrieve the cards.
Uniforms, musical instruments, cooking gear, documents, money, photographs, paintings and a few weapons also are on display.
One room of the 4,200-square-foot museum is devoted to Pensacola. Many thought the war would start in this Florida Panhandle city because Ft. Pickens was the southernmost of the Union’s two major strongholds in the South. Ft. Sumter in South Carolina was the other.
But Florida Sen. Stephen Mallory, later secretary of the Confederate Navy, wanted to avoid war. Through his effort a truce was signed. The South agreed not to attack if the Union didn’t reinforce Pickens. The Confederates instead fired on Sumter.
Another section combines Haines’ medical and Civil War interests. It includes a life-size diorama of a Confederate surgeon amputating a soldier’s hand at a field hospital.
On display are bone saws, medicine bottles and a lead round with teeth marks apparently left by a patient who had to “bite the bullet.” One interesting item is a suppository mold that a previous owner had mistaken for a bullet mold.
At one time Haines did his collecting at flea markets and antique shops. Those sources dried up about 10 years ago. Civil War collecting has become a business, and he now buys from dealers.
“They scour the country, and before it ever gets to the places where I can be traveling through and find it, the dealers have it,” he said.
Haines attributed his boyhood fascination to the uniqueness of the Civil War.
“There was nothing like it before and nothing since,” he said.
It was a time of transition. What started as a traditional “gentlemen’s war” was transformed by advances in weaponry and photography, which gave the public its first realistic look at war’s horror, into a modern, total conflict. Guerrilla and trench warfare appeared. Rifled cannon made forts obsolete.