League City resident hopes dioramas spark interest in Civil War battles
Since suffering a stroke about six years ago, League City resident David Williford, has been working on detailed dioramas depicting key moments from the Civil War.
Two of his pieces are on display at the Museum of Southern History in Houston Baptist University's Cultural Arts Center.
A third is lined up to go to the Civil War Museum, 200 Noble, No. 6, in Old Town Spring.
The damage from his stroke made the work challenging, Williford said, but he managed to create the scenes with exhaustive attention to detail.
"I built them with one hand because the other hand is useless," Williford said. "If you were to see them, you'd say, 'How in the world did he do it?' I don't know how I did it."
The scenes at the Museum of Southern History, based on photographs, depict the Battle of Chancellorsville, April 30-May 6, 1863, and the Battle of Antietam, Sept. 17, 1862.
They've been at the museum for about a year, curator Erin Price said. "They allow you to tell a good story about the Civil War," Price said. "Both battles were pivotal."
Price said she's impressed with the quality of Williford's work. "I think he did a wonderful job. It took a lot of time, a lot of effort, a lot of patience."
Kraig White, a volunteer at the Civil War Museum, said he's working on arrangements now to transport a third diorama from Williford's house to the museum in Spring. White figures he'll need four or five people to move the large scene, another look at Chancellorsville.
This diorama shows Union soldiers gathered at a farmhouse near the battleground just before or after the battle.
"It's pretty historically accurate," White said. "He put a lot of detail into it."
The Civil War Museum is open 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Tuesdays-Saturdays. For more information, call 713-377-2929.
Williford has never shied away from big jobs and big adventures. In 1974, he hitchhiked across America to raise money for the American Heart Association. During a radio station promotion, he agreed to sit in a car suspended 35 feet above the ground. "At that time, I'd do anything crazy if I didn't think I'd hurt myself."
But the big injuries didn't occur until later in life. After his stroke, on a walk near home, a truck backing out of a driveway struck Williford. The accident forced him to return to the hospital and undergo hip surgery.
He said he has tried to look at the situation with a sense of humor and to keep on going. "I never looked back; I always looked forward."
He said he has relied on the encouragement of his wife, Delores, daughter Lynn Crowl and grandchildren Tyler and Sean.
The Civil War dioramas, meanwhile, were a positive use of his energy and a way to share something he loves with others.
Williford said he focused on the Chancellorsville battle in Spotsylvania, Va., because of its importance in history. "It's the only battle that (Gen. Robert E.) Lee won," Williford said. "He took them by surprise."
The victory was offset by the death of Gen. Stonewall Jackson, who was hit by troops from his own side in that battle.
Williford's dioramas also include the scene in Appomattox when Lee surrendered to Gen. Ulysses Grant and brought the war to a close.
Williford said he has been fascinated by the War Between the States for years. "It's the only time you've had Civil War in this county; it was brother against brother," he said.
He said he hopes his dioramas will encourage people to learn more about the war and to appreciate those who fought in it.
"It's sad more people don't enjoy studying the Civil War; we're losing our history."
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