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A Mew-seum? Civil War Stories, Told With Tiny Tails

A close-up of soldiers in a diorama called "Desperation at Skull Camp Bridge." Here, Union cavalry tries to stem a Confederate breakthrough.
Ruth Brown
Courtesy of Civil War Tails
A close-up of soldiers in a diorama called "Desperation at Skull Camp Bridge." Here, Union cavalry tries to stem a Confederate breakthrough.

There are plenty of Civil War museums in Gettysburg, Pa., but none of them recreate the drama of the battlefield quite like the Civil War Tails at the Homestead Diorama Museum.

It boasts a collection of dioramas — miniature models of important Civil War battles — painstakingly sculpted by Rebecca Brown and her twin sister, Ruth. The stars of the exhibits are the tiny clay soldiers — nearly 2,000 of them. They're less than an inch tall and meticulously detailed right down to the patches on their blue and gray uniforms.

"For Confederate officers we'll do the insignia. We have red piping on the uniforms of the 72nd Pennsylvania because that's what they looked like," Rebecca says. "Sometimes people look real close and go, 'Is that a tail?' "

Yes, tail. That's because all the Union and Confederate soldiers are depicted as tiny cats.

"We've always had cats as pets. When we were young, we would pretend we would be Robin Hood and his guys and we would be cats and the Sheriff of Nottingham and all of his guys would be dogs," Brown says.

The other reason they created feline soldiers was because it's really hard to sculpt itsy-bitsy people.

"We did try making people. We made like three, and it just didn't work so they've always stayed cats," she says.

Brown says visitors to their Civil War museum don't seem to mind that the preservation of the union has been credited to cats.

"The whole purpose of our dioramas really is to tell the stories of the men. You don't have to know that you're looking at cats to really enjoy it," she says. "At the same time, if you're a cat person and you're coming in because they're cats you still get an appreciation the history they're reflecting."

Morning Edition is visiting unsung museums all across the county, those little-known but ridiculously interesting gems you're glad you stumbled across.

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