In 1972, Lewis Smith bought his first Civil War relic, an 1863 tower rifle, at an antique shop in Kirksey, S.C., on a whim. Since then, he has spent nearly 40 years amassing a collection of artifacts, including historical maps and letters, photographs and authentic weapons.
His collection, along with items borrowed from local collectors, is on display at the McDuffie Museum and will be there until January. The exhibit, An Observance of the 150th Anniversary of the Beginning of the War Between the States, features more than 160 items.
"I always liked history," Smith said. "I wanted to do something on weekends, so my wife and I started to go antiquing."
That hobby introduced him to a community of dedicated, knowledgeable collectors who attend Civil War shows, buy pieces at auctions and constantly trade with each other.
A number of local collectors have loaned items from their personal collections to the museum as part of the exhibit, including a sword from Dearing resident Willis Howard and an 1866 tax digest from Tom Wells.
Smith said museum visitors always enjoy looking at the guns and swords on display, but every historical piece in the exhibit is fascinating - an 1853 land transaction written and signed by Abraham Lincoln himself, for example.
Two of Smith's favorite objects in the collection are a pair of maps created in 1864, before the Battle of Atlanta.
The exhibit has local historical significance as well. It will include Tom Watson's grandfather's sword from Hickory Hill and the campaign chest of Maj. Gen. Lafayette McLaws, an Augusta native who served as a colonel for the Thomson Guards of the 10th Georgia Regiment.
The museum at 121 Main St. is closed Monday, open from 12-5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and 2-5 p.m. Sunday. Tours during non-business hours can be arranged.
For information, call (706) 595-9923.