State Civil War Sesquicentennial Quarterly Review
Updated April 28, 2011
Prepared by the Civil War Trust (www.civilwar150.org)
With the 150th anniversary of the first shots at Fort Sumter taking place this month, many states are taking measures to commemorate the war’s memory. As of April 5, 2011, twenty-two states have formed commissions or established initiatives to commemorate the Civil War sesquicentennial (hereafter referred to as CW150), with Oklahoma becoming the most recent state to announce its commemoration plans. Official “kick-off” events are taking place in many states, including Arkansas, Connecticut, and Vermont. Virginia will hold its third signature conference in May, and Missouri is hosting many of the first 150th anniversary reenactments. Budget constraints continue to hinder some state-sponsored CW150 commemorations, but local organizations, historical societies, and other groups are working to fill in these gaps. In New York, for example, an all-volunteer committee recently formed with the goal of getting formal endorsement from the state. Around the country, organizations are beginning to host events commemorating the specific anniversaries of battles, proclamations, votes and other significant milestones that occurred during the spring of 1861. Many of the details for events prepared by state and local communities can be found below.
The following states have established commissions or initiatives to commemorate the CW150, often through or in conjunction with the state’s historical society.
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Alabama: Alabama’s statewide partnership “Becoming Alabama” has released an educational booklet and timeline for children to learn about the anniversaries of the Creek War, Civil War, and Civil Rights movement. The University of Alabama’s Summersell Center for the Study of the South will host a roundtable discussion panel on April 11 focused on the significant military, political, social, and cultural considerations that faced the United States as it prepared for war. Marriott also recently announced plans to commemorate the CW150 at the Grant Hotel in Point Clear. Each afternoon, a military procession travels through the resort, followed by the firing of a 1840s-era cannon.
Arkansas: The Arkansas CW150 Commission continues to provide a detailed calendar of statewide CW150 events on its website. The commission will hold its kick-off event on April 30 at the Old State House Museum in Little Rock, and has already begun a “passport program” encouraging visitors to tour battlefields and museums around the state. Arkansas also recently announced a new Civil War Heritage Trail that makes battle sites easily accessible by motorcycle. The Fort Smith National Historic Site will kick off its CW150 commemoration on April 23, the anniversary of the day the fort fell under Confederate occupation. On April 30, the Historic Arkansas Museum in Little Rock will open tandem exhibits entitled “Reel to Real: Gone with the Wind & The Civil War in Arkansas” comparing the romanticized vision of the “old south” with life in Civil War Arkansas. The Old State House Museum will also open the first of five Civil War exhibits, “An Enduring Union” on April 30. The exhibit will explore why Arkansas commemorates its Civil War veterans and will feature artifacts from veteran reunions.
California: The San Francisco Chronicle recently published a list of five places to learn about Civil War history in California.
Connecticut: The Connecticut CW150 Commission will host its kick-off event at Central Connecticut State University on April 16-17. The commission also provides a calendar of statewide CW150 events on its website.
Delaware: The Hagley Museum in Wilmington will open an exhibit “An Oath of Allegiance to the Republic: the du Ponts and the Civil War” on April 30.
District of Columbia: The Washington Post has ongoing special coverage of the CW150, including local event listings, timelines, photos, book reviews, and videos. On April 12, the Library of Congress is opening an exhibit “The Last Full Measure: Civil War Photographs from the Liljenquist Family Collection” featuring 379 portraits of enlisted Union and Confederate soldiers. The exhibit will run through August 2011. The second part of the National Archives’ exhibit “Discovering the Civil War”, focusing on the consequences of the war, will run through April 17. In commemoration of the CW150, the Smithsonian Institution has introduced a series of events and exhibitions. The Jack Miller Center at American University will also be holding the final two sessions of a semester-long Civil War seminar on April 7 and April 22.
Georgia: Georgia has a detailed list of upcoming events on its official CW150 website. The Booth Western Art Museum in Cartersville will host the “Civil War Comes Alive!”, a day-long event on April 30 featuring live music, canon demonstrations, living history exhibits, and Civil War art and artifacts. The Museum will also host an exhibit “Mort Künstler’s Civil War Art: For Us the Living” through September 4. As part of their historical markers program, on April 11 the Georgia Historical Society and Georgia Department of Economic Development are dedicating a marker remembering the burning and destruction of Atlanta.
Illinois: In February, Illinois launched a CW150 website featuring an interactive timeline, curriculum materials, and a calendar of upcoming events. On April 12, the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield will open an exhibit called “Illinois Answers the Call: Boys in Blue”. Focusing on Illinois’ initial response to the call-to-arms at the outbreak of war, the exhibit will run through the end of 2011 and joins current exhibit, “Team of Rivals: Lincoln’s Cabinet at the Crossroads of War”, open through August 2011. The Lake County Discovery Museum also has a special website dedicated to the CW150, which includes information about upcoming events.
Indiana: On April 12, the Indiana Historical Bureau (IHB) will launch its new “Hoosier Voices” project; the first entries will focus on Hoosiers’ reactions to the fall of Fort Sumter. The project as a whole will focus on samplings of Indiana newspapers’ reactions to major events throughout the commemoration, as well as individual voices from contemporary letters and journals. Communities throughout the state will be encouraged to create their own take on “Hoosier Voices”, which will then be promoted via the IHB’s website.
Iowa: The State Historical Society of Iowa is rolling out a traveling exhibit on April 12 called “The Fiery Trial: Iowa and the Civil War”. The state’s CW150 commission also offers an extensive list of endorsed activities on its website, which includes information on the University of Iowa’s ongoing exhibit, “Do Not Let Your Courage Fail: Voices from the Civil War.” The exhibit runs through July 19, 2011, and features “the letters and diaries of three ordinary families from the Midwest,” inviting participants to “discover the history of the war through the lens of their experience.”
Kentucky: The Kentucky Historical Society is currently working with the Kentucky Department of Travel and Tourism and the Kentucky Heritage Council on a new, statewide Kentucky Civil War Heritage Trail project. Last quarter, the state sponsored a Kentucky Civil War Sites Summit, which updated attendees on current initiatives and included more than 100 participants. Beginning in June 2011, the state will offer a tour of the Old State Capitol every Saturday at 1:30 p.m. which will give visitors the opportunity to experience the sights and sounds of debates and battles that occurred in and around the Old State Capitol during the first years of the Civil War. In addition, Kentucky’s NPR station has a weekly program called “Kentucky’s Civil War Dispatches” that looks back at events that occurred in Kentucky 150 years ago. Broadcasts are available online. The Kentucky CW150 commission website also provides a list of upcoming events and exhibits.
Maine: In honor of the CW150, the Maine State Archives has digitized many Civil War letters of prominent Maine citizens. On June 4-5, living historians interpreting Confederate and Union infantry and artillery will scrimmage on the grounds of the 19th century settlement, the Norlands. Additionally, with the Fifth Maine Regiment Museum taking the lead, twenty-eight of the state’s museums are currently working together to develop the Maine Civil War Trail, each with an eye on mounting Civil War-themed exhibits simultaneously during the summer of 2013. The group plans to start a website, MaineCivilWarTrail.com, and publish a brochure to be distributed across the state.
Maryland: The Heart of the Civil War Heritage Area, encompassing Frederick, Washington, and Carroll Counties, continues to provide opportunities to commemorate the CW150, including battlefield tours and expert sessions. The city of Frederick will begin its CW150 commemoration in April, which will include a program entitled “The Burning Question of Secession: The Maryland Legislature Meets in Frederick” on the weekend of April 29-May 1. Montgomery Heritage has produced a documentary film entitled “Life in a War Zone: Montgomery County during the Civil War” and a corresponding brochure, now available online. The city of Baltimore is hosting an array of CW150 events on April 15-17, including a Civil War encampment, exhibitions, and candlelight tours. On April 15, the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Museum is also opening an exhibit entitled “The War Came by Train”, which will run through May 2015.
Michigan: The Michigan CW150 Commission continues to provide a list of upcoming events on its website. The site features copies of all of the Civil War documents, photographs and manuscripts held in the Archives of Michigan. The Michigan Historical Center’s ribbon-cutting for its first Civil War exhibit, Plowshares Into Swords, is April 12. The Grand Opening Event for its CW150 commemoration will take place on April 16.
Mississippi: The Sons of the Confederate Veterans move to put Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest, a founding member of the Ku Klux Klan, on the Mississippi license plate has recently received media attention. The Mississippi Hills National Heritage Area has developed a CW150 commemoration website, which includes links to educational resources and attractions.
Missouri: As host to many of the first battles of the western war, Missouri has an array of CW150 commemorations planned for 2011. In January, a reenactment of a slave sale at the Old Courthouse in St. Louis made headlines when it brought many in the audience to tears. The 150th anniversary reenactment of the Camp Jackson affair will take place at Jefferson Barracks on April 29-May 1. The sesquicentennial reenactment of the Battle of Carthage, the first full-scale land battle of the war, is scheduled for May 14-15. The Battle of Boonville sesquicentennial reenactment will take place on June 17-19. Preparations are also underway for the Battle of Wilson’s Creek 150th anniversary reenactment to take place on August 12-14, 2011. The reenactor registration deadline is July 1. Information on other upcoming reenactments can be found here. On Thursdays in April, the National Frontier Trails Museum in Independence is offering guided gallery walks entitled “Civil War in the West”. On May 7, the Missouri State Museum in Jefferson City will open an exhibit “Civil War Missouri: A House Dividing” with a day of family-friendly activities. The exhibit will run through June 2014. The Missouri CW150 Commission website provides an invaluable resource for information on other upcoming events.
Nebraska: In honor of the CW150, the Eighth Fort Robinson History Conference will be on “The Civil War in the American West.” The conference will take place April 28-30 at Fort Robinson State Park in Crawford.
New Jersey: The New Jersey CW150 Committee has a list of upcoming events on its website.
New York: Although budget problems have hindered a statewide commemoration of the CW150, a volunteer committee has recently formed to honor New York’s contribution to the war. The committee’s first goal will be to obtain formal state endorsement. Local groups have also been filling in the gap left by the state by planning numerous CW150 events, many of which are detailed on the committee’s website. In honor of the CW150, New York Public Library will arrange, repair, and hand-wash records of United States Sanitary Commission, an organization founded in New York City in 1861 to disperse supplies to soldiers, inspect hospitals, and help soldiers collect pay and pensions. On April 30, the town of Oswego will dedicate a 6-foot-tall bronze statue honoring local Civil War surgeon Dr. Mary Walker, the only woman ever to be awarded the Medal of Honor. In Rochester, the George Eastman House is hosting an exhibition “Between the States: Photographs of the American Civil War” through June 12. The Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn will be hosting New York City’s CW150 commemoration, with kick-off events taking place Memorial Day weekend. The New York Times also offers an on-line timeline which features contemporaneous coverage from the Times’ article and photo archives.
North Carolina: On May 20, the North Carolina CW150 Committee is hosting its first of three symposiums, entitled “Contested Past: Memories and Legacies of the Civil War”, at the North Carolina Museum of History in Raleigh. University of North Carolina Chapel Hill’s Wilson Special Collections Library will be hosting a series of exhibits and lectures, beginning with an exhibit entitled “Home Front on the Hill: Chapel Hill and the University during the Civil War”. The exhibit will run through May 8. Information on other events is available on the CW150 Committee’s calendar. The North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources also provides a list of CW150 programs and resources.
Ohio: The Ohio CW150 initiative’s website provides a calendar giving information about a variety of events throughout the state. Licking County continues to put on a wide variety of Civil War-themed events, including movie screenings, concerts, and exhibits. The Butler County Historical Society also has a calendar highlighting a number of events, including lectures and Civil War park days. The Sherman House in Lancaster will host a Civil War symposium on April 15-17 and will be firing a Civil War-era cannon on June 25. The State Library of Ohio will host an exhibit entitled “Forever Free: Abraham Lincoln’s Journey to Emancipation” through April 15. An event will take place at the Ohio statehouse on April 10 to commemorate the mustering of the first Ohio regiment into service. The statehouse will host a series of sesquicentennial events over the coming months, including lectures, a Civil War encampment, and a photographic exhibit on Lincoln’s funeral voyage. The Maumee Valley Historical Society, the Wood County Historical Center, and other local organizations are hosting a number of Civil War-related workshops, events, and presentations.
Oklahoma: The Oklahoma CW150 Commission officially announced its Civil War commemoration plans on January 19, 2011. Preservation efforts will be the focus at the five historic sites owned by the Oklahoma Historical Society: Honey Springs Battlefield, Fort Gibson Historic Site, Fort Towson Historic Site, Fort Washita Historic Site, and the George Murrell Home. The Commission’s website includes listings for events, sites to visit, and educational resources.
Pennsylvania: The centerpiece of Pennsylvania’s commemoration activities is the Civil War Road Show, an emotionally powerful mobile exhibit experience—based in a 53-foot tractor-trailer. From 2011 through 2014, it will travel throughout the state (making stops in all 67 counties), bringing interactive exhibits and activities in the expandable trailer. At each host location, unique Civil War programs and performances will provide additional insights and excitement. The Pennsylvania CW150 Planning Committee’s website provides an invaluable resource for information on the vast number of events taking place in the state. Philadelphia’s Rosenbach Museum & Library will display its exhibit “The Civil War Begins” through July 17. On May 6-8, the Senator John Heinz History Center and Fort Pitt Museum will kick off the Western Pennsylvania CW150 commemoration, featuring Civil War re-enactors, encampments, demonstrations, interpreters, and musicians. The National Civil War Museum in Harrisburg will hold an exhibit on the first year of the war through December 2011. Gettysburg College’s annual Civil War Institute Conference on June 26-July 1 will focus on political and military events in 1861. The “Invasion of Pennsylvania” commemoration in Adams County will kick off in April with a 150-cannon salute at Gettysburg and events at other local communities. The U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center in Carlisle will present the first in a series of yearly exhibits on the war beginning in April, as well as a Civil War photography exhibit in late June. A traveling NEH and Gilder-Lehrman exhibit on Abraham Lincoln will be located in Chambersburg in April and May; the city will also host an exhibit on the Underground Railroad through the end of the year. Events in Philadelphia include tours of Laurel Cemetery, lectures, and a commemorative ball. The Gettysburg area is also home to numerous sesquicentennial activities, which can be found through the town’s website. There are also numerous reenactments, living history events, tours, and other activities in Bethlehem, Carnegie, Lemoyne, Warren, York, Doylestown, and other towns.
Rhode Island: Rhode Island College will commemorate the beginning of the war on April 8 with various demonstrations, including a reenactment of an 1864 baseball game. On April 12, the Community College of Rhode Island will commemorate the firing on Fort Sumter with presentations on the war’s origins and the Rhode Island Civil War records. The Cranston Historical Society will host an event featuring Civil War-themed gingerbread creations at the Sprague Mansion on April 16. On June 18, the Hearthside House will host a Civil War picnic.
South Carolina: The first shots of the Civil War were fired at Fort Sumter on April 12, 1861, giving South Carolina a central place in 2011 sesquicentennial events. The Fort Sumter-Fort Moultrie Historical Trust has partnered with the National Park Service and local governments such as the city of Charleston to organize the Low Country’s observance, including an event on April 11 commemorating the first firing on Fort Sumter that may be attended by President Obama. The 150th anniversary of the firing on Fort Sumter will be marked by a series of reenactments and historical events in a variety of South Carolina towns, including a series of events at Patriot’s Point in Mount Pleasant, a historical monologue in Florence, and a first shot commemoration at James Island. Several conferences will discuss the causes and repercussions of the war. The Low Country Sesquicentennial Coordinating Committee will host a seminar on April 9-12 focusing on the causes of the war that will include James McPherson and Edward Ayers. Beyond this seminar, the committee will be putting on many events surrounding the sesquicentennial of the firing on Fort Sumter, including film screenings, harbor tours, concerts, and other events. The full calendar can be viewed here. The College of Charleston will host a conference on May 25-26 on “Jews, Slavery, and the Civil War” to discuss the Jewish experience during and after the Civil War. To commemorate the CW150, The Post and Courier is also running a 20-part series that chronicles life in Charleston throughout the conflict.
Tennessee: The Tennessee CW150 Commission is sponsoring a series of annual signature conferences at locations across the state; the 2011 conference, “The First Shots of Tennessee’s Civil War,” is slated for September 6-7 at Cookville’s Tennessee Tech University. Presenters will discuss the battles, events, and stories of the Civil War, as well as offer brief dramas and musical performances as part of the day’s events at each conference. Additionally, the state has announced that there will be an official sesquicentennial license plate. Tennessee’s Civil War Trails program, which began in 2008, now has 201 new interpreted markers in 70 counties. Additionally,. At Vanderbilt University, two talks on April 7 and April 21 concluded a series of Civil War lectures hosted by the university’s history department.
Texas: The Texas Historical Commission’s (THC) Texas Sesquicentennial of the American Civil War Initiative will feature balanced, inclusive and compelling commemorative projects that showcase THC assets which tell the story of Texas’ involvement in the Civil War. On May 10, THC will dedicate a new radio broadcast repeater system at the last land battle of the war — the Battle of Palmito Ranch. Texas visitors interested in the CW150 can access THC’s travel guide, “Texas in the Civil War,” via the commission’s website for additional information on the Lone Star State’s Civil War sites.
Vermont: Vermont’s CW150 Commission hosted a sesquicentennial kick-off event on April 6 at the statehouse in Montpelier, drawing over 350 attendees. Various organizations within the state are presenting programs in the coming months, including a presentation on Vermont and the Civil War by historian Howard Coffin, a talk by former Vermont Chief Justice Jeffrey Amestoy on “The Supreme Court Argument That Saved the Union,” a seminar on Vermont-related Civil War research, presentations on song and the Civil War, and a talk by Harold Holzer. The state has recently made a number of major enhancements to its CW150 website, which can be found here.
Virginia: The Virginia CW150 Commission’s website has an extensive list of Civil War events taking place in the coming months, as well as a list of local sesquicentennial committees. The commonwealth’s CW150 commission is working on two major events in the coming months. The first is the latest it its series of signature conferences on “Military Strategy in the American Civil War,” which will be held on May 21 and will feature James Robertson as its keynote speaker. The other major event is a commemoration of the Battle of First Manassas to be held on July 21, 2011; the keynote speaker will be Edward Ayers, and Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell has been invited to speak. Local ceremonies will commemorate several other events, including the Battle of Big Bethel, the vote to secede in the secession convention, Robert E. Lee’s resignation from the army, the first shot fired in Virginia, and the popular vote for secession. The Commission and the Library of Virginia continue to participate in their “Civil War 150 Legacy Project”, sending teams of archivists to local communities to locate and scan letters, photographs, diaries, maps, and other Civil War-era materials. The Virginia State Capitol Visitor Center opened an exhibition called “The Struggle to Decide: Virginia’s Secession Crisis,” which will run through October 2011. The Library of Virginia is hosting a companion exhibition entitled “Union or Secession: Virginians Decide.” The Virginia Historical Society has opened an exhibition entitled “An American Turning Point: The Civil War in Virginia” that will remain open through December 2011. The Barter Theatre will be running through April a show entitled “Civil War Voices,” featuring stories and music from the Civil War.
Washington: On April 5, the Secretary of State’s office in Olympia opened a display on Isaac Stevens, a West Pointer and Washington’s first territorial governor, who was at the center of 1860 presidential politics and died at Chantilly in 1862. Additionally, there will be reenactments at the end of April at Fort Steilacoom, which dates from 1849.
West Virginia: The West Virginia CW150 Commission has a list of upcoming events on its website. The State Historic Preservation Office has published “The Civil War in West Virginia,” a 13-month calendar featuring a timeline of major Civil War events. Upcoming events include a conference on West Virginia statehood on April 6, a Civil War symposium on April 9 hosted by the Mason Dixon Civil War Roundtable, several Civil War weekends (including one commemorating the Jones-Imboden Raid), and a seminar on “1861 in West Virginia” to be held on June 23 at the George Tyler Moore Center for the Study of the Civil War. Several battle commemorations will take place in July.
Wisconsin: The Wisconsin CW150 Commission, organized by the Wisconsin Veterans Museum, has a list of events being planned in the state. In April, there are multiple presentations regarding Wisconsin’s entry into the war, including one on “TheRaising of the 2nd Wisconsin Infantry” and another entitled “Wisconsin Answers the Call”. The Wisconsin Veterans Museum is putting on several events, including a presentation entitled “Coming of Age: Lincoln, the Civil War, and the Transformation of Wisconsin and the Midwest.” The La Crosse Area Historical Society will open a Civil War exhibit in June at its Swarthout Museum and have Civil War-themed topics for its monthly Spotlight Series talks. The Civil War Museum in Kenosha is also putting on many events related to the sesquicentennial, including a series of lunchtime discussions, a Grand Union Ball, and presentations on Louisa May Alcott and other Wisconsinites in the War.
For more information, please visit the Civil War Trust sesquicentennial commemoration website at www.civilwar150.org