FLORENCE, SC (WMBF) When you look at the history of Florence County, you are really seeing the history of South Carolina. The people in the Florence community have played a huge role in shaping not only the state, but the south, both past and present.
A significant part of that history can be found inside a modest home, tucked into an otherwise typical, Florence neighborhood.
It's certainly one of the most talked about, perhaps the most written about conflicts in American history, the Civil War.
Yet, getting your hands on actual artifacts from that period can prove difficult, particularly here in South Carolina. That is until you visit a place like Florence, and the War Between the States Museum, which is perhaps South Carolina's best kept secret.
Once inside this modified, early 20th century colonial, the most significant four years of 19th century America comes alive.
The Civil War from a very southern perspective is archived, and on display.
"We wanted to start a museum because the Florence Museum rarely displayed Confederate artifacts. We had some and we wanted to display them to the public," Carl Hill said.
Carl Hill is the museum's director and an expert on the men, the battles and the culture that existed when "the brother's war" was waged.
WMBF News Anchor David Klugh asked, "What's the biggest surprise you think people get out of a place like this?"
"I think the biggest surprise is, I've got stuff in here that will open your mind up…About the reasons of the war, why it was fought," Carl answered.
Carl insists what you learned in school about the Civil War is little more that selective history.
Open just two days a week, the museum sees a steady stream of history buffs, many wishing that school aged crowd would take more of an interest in where they came from.
Carolyn McCann says, "Young people don't seem to care about anything and they should come here and see what people did to sacrifice themselves just like the boys that are over there in Afghanistan and Iraq now."
For those us with roots in the south, Carl Hill offers another complimentary service for guests - Civil War era research on your own family.
One of the things David Klugh asked Carl to do was to research his own ancestry in the Confederate Army, because David has four generations of family from the Pee Dee area.
And Carl did just that. He found Henry G. Klugh, a doctor in the confederate army. He was a doctor in Holcomb's Legion.
His research even found Henry Klugh's doctor's bag and uniform at a museum in Columbia.
As for artifacts Carl holds dear, there is one that stands out above all others, a snuff box filled with coins, Confederate cash and a note from a soldier on the front line near Charleston.
Carl says of the note, "It says, Mama, its cold here on river. Won't be long til I come home. I send you this money for to help you. I keep it in the can and hide at night to keep from taking it. Supposed to move out at daylight to move to Charleston in South Carolina."
That money never made it to Mama, but the can and its contents say a lot about a difficult time most of us could never imagine.
One of the more difficult things Carl Hill faces everyday centers on this battle flag, a once proud symbol of the south and now arguably one of the most profound symbols of racial inequality. Carl says he's never seen the stars and bars as anything but another piece of history long gone.
"This flag is no more racist than the US flag or the Christian flag which has been used by the KKK," Carl says. "How many confederate flags flew over slave ships? Zero. How many US flags flew over them? I couldn't count how many."
Carl also can't count the number of photographs and artifacts that he and his fellow historians have discovered, contributed and have now displayed to satisfy your curiosity. Discovering something about the 'War Between the States' you did not know when you arrived is nothing short of a guarantee.