Historians, artists, fans and friends gathered in Marlinton on Sunday to dedicate a stunning artwork by Molly Must – an outdoors Civil War theme mural. The ceremony was scheduled on Palm Sunday to coincide with the surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia on Palm Sunday in 1865.
The mural is painted on the side of the Motor Parts building on Route 39 East in Marlinton. The location provides a conspicuous view to eastbound passing motorists and easy parking for those who wish to stop and take a closer look.
Must described her inspiration for the mural.
“When I was asked to paint his mural, it took me awhile to figure out what direction to take,” she said. “I began by doing a lot of research. Somehow, I’d either forgotten the Civil War history I’d learned in school or maybe I just never learned enough. I was taken aback by the basic statistics and fascinated by stories I began to uncover. After just a few weeks of research, the war suddenly became more real, personal, poignant and more significant than I ever knew.”
After extensive research, Must decided on a theme.
“More pervasive than violence was the simple everyday struggle of families to sustain themselves in the absence of those who left to join the armies,” she said. “Women were left alone to tend farms and businesses and defend their families and food stocks against passing troops, marauders and outlaws. This mural is about the hometown strife of wartime, more than it is about the more famed losses and victories.”
Must described the various elements of the mural, which include women, African-Americans, military symbology, a burning barn, marching soldiers and text. A complete explanation of the mural elements can be found at pocahontascountywv.com/murals.
Paul Quigley, Director of the Virginia Center for Civil War Studies at Virginia Tech, gave his impressions of the mural.
“I really want to thank Molly for providing us with this magnificent piece of work, which to me represents a refreshing new breath in the public art of the Civil War,” he said. “It’s certainly not your granddaddy’s Civil War memorial. It really represents to me the diversity of Civil War history, that we’re still learning about, still studying, still talking about and writing about 150 years after the event.”
Quigley contrasted Must’s work with more traditional Civil War memorials.
“The theme of most of those relics of the Civil War is that they portray the Civil War as primarily a military event, primarily an event that involved men and primarily an event that involved white Americans,” he said. “So, one of the things I admire most about Molly’s mural is that she’s been able to capture so many different dimensions of Civil War history in this one piece of work, and really very strongly and persuasively makes the argument that the Civil War took place on and transformed the home front just as much it transformed the men who were fighting on the battlefields.
“I don’t want to dismiss Civil War military history entirely, by any means. You can’t really understand the war without understanding the men who were marching out, without understanding the death and other kinds of suffering that they experienced on the battlefield. But nor can you understand the Civil War without understanding something of the home front.”
Bedecked in a period dress, Bartow music instructor Julia Bauserman performed Amazing Grace and Battle Hymn of the Republic on a recorder, providing an appropriately somber musical backdrop for the event. Jason Bauserman portrayed Civil War era minister Elder John Kline as he gave a benediction.
The mural project was supported by the West Virginia Sesquicentennial Commission, the Pocahontas County Commission and the Pocahontas County Convention and Visitors Bureau.