The building sits just off the beaten path in the Sunset subdivision west of Starkville.
From the outside, it has no distinct features. The brown metal, coupled with white bay doors, gives the 2,200-square-foot structure the appearance of a storage unit. It doesn”t even have an address.
But a step inside takes visitors back to the 1860s.
It”s the Starkville Civil War Arsenal and it opened recently under the auspices of curator Duffy Neubauer, a seasoned battle re-enactor and Civil War artifact collector who has called Starkville home since the early 1970s.
Neubauer, who spends his days as operations coordinator at Mississippi State University”s Humphrey Coliseum, became interested in cannons and other military ordnance when he was growing up in Wisconsin. He became a full-fledged collector 35 years ago and only recently put those items on display at the Starkville Civil War Arsenal.
When visitors enter the Arsenal, they encounter Neubauer dressed in Civil War garb. After a short presentation, visitors can tour the collection of rolling stock and carriages which made up Union and Confederate battery during the Civil War.
Among the collection sits three cannons that were used in the war. One dates back to 1861, another to 1862 and the third was constructed in 1863, though Neubauer built each of the carriages on which they rest. The cannons still fire. Neubauer also put two replica cannons on display.
About two dozen authentic Civil War projectiles, from 3-pound shots to a 100-pound shell, also are featured, along with 150 to 200 period tools, photographs and other items.
When asked how he assembled so many Civil War artifacts, Neubauer”s answer is simple.
“Thirty-five years of collecting,” he says with a grin.
The Arsenal also features items Neubauer built himself, including a re-creation of a Civil War-era forge, which was used by blacksmiths to melt steel; a battery wagon, which was used to transport tools and spare parts; and a caisson, which was used to transport ammunition and other things. The caisson was used in the funerals of two Civil War veterans whose bodies were discovered in recent years, Neubauer said.
The Starkville Arsenal is one of only three locations in the U.S. where visitors can view all of the specialized artillery rolling stock used in the Civil War at the same time in one place, Neubauer said.
After viewing the collection, visitors can sit down with Neubauer for a question-and-answer session. To complete the experience, he lets visitors choose a lecture on any number of Civil War topics, such as ammunition, the sighting of cannons or the organization of manpower, to name a few.
In the tours Neubauer has given over the past few months, he occasionally has been asked if the cannons on display killed soldiers during the Civil War. He admits it”s very possible.
“I don”t glorify the war, but it happened,” he says.
Neubauer is encouraging the public to visit the Arsenal, whether it is Boy Scout troops, church groups or individuals who want to check out the collection.
There is no admission fee, but donations are welcome to help with maintenance and operation costs. To schedule a tour of the Arsenal, contact Neubauer at 323-2606.