Civil War Tails
Civil War Tails at the Historic Homestead is an attraction in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Located in the National Soldiers’ Orphans’ Homestead—used as an orphanage for soldiers’ children after the war—Civil War Tails is a museum featuring dioramas populated with hand-made miniature soldiers, trees, horses, cannon and ships. The “tails” part of the name is not a mistake—the miniature soldiers are actually cats, individually sculpted out of clay and painted to resemble Union or Confederate soldiers.
I shouldn’t have to explain why I wanted to visit a museum with dioramas filled with miniature cats, but unique, passion projects like Civil War Tails are my very favorite thing to see on road trips. The museum was started by identical twin sisters, Rebecca and Ruth. They both shared a love of cats, and an interest in the Civil War was sparked when they were young and read the biographies of Civil War generals Robert E. Lee and Ulysses S. Grant. Cats were easier to sculpt than humans, and thus Civil War Tails was born.
Every diorama is made on a one-to-one ratio with to-scale figures—each cat represents one soldier. The detail is incredible, and they continue to create new dioramas and improve upon their techniques. Current scenes include Fort Sumter, Pickett’s Charge, Little Round Top, Andersonville Prison and even photography pioneer Matthew Brady setting up his camera on the battlefield.
We were the only visitors the the Homestead, so we got a private tour led by one of the twins. She was clearly passionate about each scene and described them in great detail. There is a exhibit showing the evolution of the sisters’ craft, and you can take home a tiny clay cat souvenir if you wish. My favorite part about Civil War Tails was the ticket itself—an optimistic punch card that awards visitors with free admission on their tenth visit.