State Civil War Sesquicentennial Quarterly Review
Updated January 10, 2011
Prepared by the Civil War Trust
As the 150th anniversary of the first shots at Fort Sumter grows nearer, many states have already taken measures to commemorate the war’s memory. As of January 3, 2011, twenty-one states have formed commissions or established initiatives to commemorate the Civil War sesquicentennial (hereafter referred to as CW150). Budget constraints in many states have hindered CW150 commemorations—recent media attention has particularly focused on the minimal state funding in South Carolina and New York’s lack of a CW150 commission. Some states have found ways to work around fiscal difficulties. For the sake of efficiency in public planning, Alabama recently announced it would combine commemorations of the Creek War, Civil War, and Civil Rights movement in a partnership called “Becoming Alabama.” Despite budgetary constraints, many states have also bolstered their Web presence—in the past three months, Georgia, Michigan, Mississippi, and Missouri have unveiled new CW150 websites. Local and private organizations have also created a wide array of events, exhibits, and resources for commemorating the war. 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: In October 2010, Alabama state and local agencies launched “Becoming Alabama”, a statewide partnership commemorating the Creek War bicentennial, the Civil War sesquicentennial, and the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights movement. In preparation for the CW150, the Alabama Tourism Department recently released a new Civil War Trail brochure, listing 47 sites and attractions. On February 11, the Sons of the Confederate Veterans will host a reenactment of Confederate President Jefferson Davis’s swearing-in ceremony at the State Capitol building in Montgomery.
Arkansas: The Arkansas Civil War Sesquicentennial Commission continues to provide a detailed calendar of statewide CW150 events on its website. The commission will hold public meetings on January 26 and April 27, followed by its kick off event on April 30. Several CW150-related exhibitions are currently open in Little Rock: the Central Arkansas Library System’s “Lincoln: The Constitution and the Civil War” at the Arkansas Studies Institute will continue through January 28, and the Arkansas History Commission’s exhibit “Blue and Gray: Documenting Civil War Arkansas, 1861-1865” will run through March 30. On January 28-29, the Third Annual Fort Smith History Conference at the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith will commemorate the CW150 and its repercussions in Arkansas. The CW150 commission has also started a grant program to help with local events, and in January, plans to begin a program in which visitors can get a CW150 “passport” stamped at commemoration sites.
Connecticut: Connecticut will kick off its commemoration of the CW150 with a conference at Central Connecticut State University on April 15.
Delaware: The Delaware State Archives in Dover has unveiled an exhibit entitled “The Civil War: Five Delaware Soldiers’ Stories” as well as sponsoring a series of lectures on Civil War – related topics on select weekends beginning in February. The Delaware Historical Society is planning a Civil War exhibit for 2011 and will be partnering with the Delaware Underground Railroad Coalition to sponsor a program on the Underground Railroad on January 31 in Wilmington. The Hagley Museum in Wilmington is presenting the exhibit “An Oath of Allegiance to the Republic: the DuPont’s and the Civil War” beginning 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. The second part of the National Archives’ exhibit “Discovering the Civil War”, focusing on the consequences of the war, will run through April 17. On February 11, the Lincoln at the Crossroads Alliance will host a symposium commemorating the Washington Peace Convention of 1861, the final effort by American politicians to avoid the impending crisis of a Civil War. The Lincoln Group of D.C. is in the final stages of organizing a reenactment of President Abraham Lincoln's inauguration, to take place on March 5.
Georgia: In October 2010, the Georgia Tourism Division unveiled the official CW150 website, which features a timeline, photo gallery, interactive map, and information about attractions and upcoming events. The Georgia Historical Society (GHS) has also developed a web site utilizing the 1000 historical markers dealing with the Civil War. Visitors can use Google maps to create their own custom designed tours of the Civil War in Georgia. State agencies and GHS are also sponsoring thirteen new historical markers that include information about African Americans, women, Unionists, guerilla warfare, state politics, and anti-Confederate activities. In October, the Georgia Department of Economic Development, Georgia Humanities Council and the University of Georgia Press released the state tour guide Crossroads of Conflict: A Guide to Civil War Sites in Georgia. The Georgia Department of Economic Development has also released an 80-site tour map that will be available at visitor centers and historic sites around the state. On January 18 and January 21, 2011 Georgia’s Old Capitol Museum Society is partnering with the Georgia Department of Economic Development and other state agencies in “Secession or Surrender: Georgia’s Secession Convention of 1861, A Reenactment.” A group of local citizens are making plans for Coweta County’s observance of the CW150, including a performance of “Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl” at the Centre for Performing and Visual Arts on March 1.
Illinois: Many statewide and local groups in Illinois are focusing commemoration efforts on Abraham Lincoln’s inauguration and early presidency. On November 6, 2010, the Lincoln Home National Historic Site and Old State Capitol State Historic Site kicked off events with a day-long event celebrating the 150th anniversary of Lincoln’s election. The exhibit “Team of Rivals: Lincoln’s Cabinet at the Crossroads of War” opened October 14 at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield and will run through August 2011. Illinois plans to launch a CW150 website in February.
Indiana: In honor of the CW150, the Conner Prairie Interactive History Park announced it will open a Civil War exhibit in June. The exhibit, called “1863 Civil War Journey: Raid on Indiana,” will focus on Confederate General John Hunt Morgan's cavalry raid.
Iowa: The State Historical Society is funding several CW150 projects such as conserving and digitalizing 600 original muster-out rolls and publishing the book Profiles of Valor: Iowa’s Medal of Honor Recipients of the Civil War. A contract has been signed to design and create a mobile exhibit on Iowa and the Civil War that will be ready for the April 12 official observance planned by the Iowa Sons of Union Veterans at the state capital. An endorsement program has also been initiated by the Iowa Civil War Sesquicentennial Committee.
Kentucky: Kentucky plans to commemorate the CW150 with dozens of programs and projects, including the release in February of new state road maps which will designate Civil War sites.
Maryland: The Heart of the Civil War Heritage Area, encompassing Frederick, Washington, and Carroll Counties, provides many 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. The city of Baltimore is hosting an array of CW150 events on April 15-17, including a Civil War encampment, exhibitions, and candlelight tours.
Michigan: In November 2010, the Michigan CW150 Commission unveiled a new website, which includes a list of events, research resources, and a public blog.
Mississippi: In December 2010, the Mississippi CW150 Commission unveiled a new website, which includes a calendar of events, timeline, suggested reading list, maps, and informational links. On January 8, the Vicksburg National Military Park, in partnership with the Old Courthouse Museum, will host events commemorating the 150th anniversary of the Mississippi secession and firing of the “first guns in the West.”
Missouri: In November 2010, the Missouri CW150 Commission launched a new website, which includes attractions, upcoming events, and short histories of battles and figures. In conjunction with the CW150, a driving tour highlighting the life of Ulysses S. Grant will open this spring. The tour will stretch from Pacific to Jefferson Barracks.
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: On December 29, 2010, the New Jersey State Museum in Trenton unveiled four New Jersey regimental flags, as well as one Confederate flag captured by New Jersey soldiers. To honor New Jersey-native Captain John McGowan, who drew the first shots fired by the South in Charleston Harbor in January 1861, the New Jersey CW150 Committee and New Jersey Civil War Heritage Association hope to restore McGowan’s tombstone and dedicate his grave site to reflect these momentous events. The New Jersey CW150 Committee also has a list of upcoming events on its website.
New York: The New York state government has recently received media coverage for its failure to create a statewide commemoration of the CW150. However, local groups are already planning an array of events to commemorate the war’s memory. Historians and Civil War enthusiasts in Livingston County met in late November to discuss upcoming plans, and the Greene County CW150 Committee held its first meeting in December. The Farmingdale-Bethpage Historical Society plans to honor Civil War veterans with a new war memorial, to be completed by Memorial Day, 2011. The New York Times also offers an online timeline which features contemporaneous coverage from the Times’ article and photo archives.
North Carolina: The North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources has begun preparations for the CW150 with 150 programs, educational symposia, and reenactments already scheduled. Thirteen of the twenty-seven state historic sites will participate in a new comprehensive education initiative related to the war. The Historical Preservation Group of Lenoir County has planned a CW150 kick-off weekend for January 28-29. The exhibit “From Slaves to Freedmen” at the Roanoke Island Festival Park will continue through May 13.
Ohio: In commemoration of the CW150, the Shaker Historical Society will host an exhibit “The Civil War and The Shakers: The First Conscientious Objectors” from January 9 to February 27, 2011. Licking County has a detailed commemoration event schedule for 2011, which includes events at The Works: Museum of History, Art, and Technology. The Canton Museum of Art recently announced that it will feature an exhibition “A Nation Divided” in 2011 as part of a broader-based collaboration of several Northeast Ohio cultural agencies to commemorate the CW150.
Pennsylvania: The Pennsylvania CW150 Planning Committee’s website lists many events taking place in the state, ranging from battlefield and historical site tours to lectures and the Civil War Road Show, featuring interactive exhibits in a 53-foot expandable truck, will be visiting all 67 Pennsylvania counties over the four-year commemoration period. In Gettysburg, renovations of historic properties are being undertaken in preparation for the CW150, including plans to convert the 178-year-old Schmucker Hall at the Lutheran Theological Seminary into a Civil War Museum. In Philadelphia, an array of events will take place, including exhibitions at the African American Museum and Rosenbach Museum and Library (which also has started a “Today in the Civil War” blog). 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.
South Carolina: The first state to secede, South Carolina’s commemorations are already underway. In December, the Confederate Heritage Trust’s controversial Secession Ball in Charleston received national coverage. On January 8, the Citadel will host a reenactment of the Star of the West incident. 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 original South Carolina Ordinance of Secession is on display at the South Carolina State House. Several conferences will discuss the causes and repercussions of the war. The College of Charleston is hosting a seminar “Civil War: Global Conflict” on March 3-5. 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. The National Council for History Education Conference on “The Causes and Consequences of Civil Wars” will take place in Charleston from March 31-April 2. To commemorate the CW150, The Post and Courier is running a 20-part series that chronicles life in Charleston throughout the conflict.
Tennessee: Despite a shoestring budget, state agencies in Tennessee continue to move forward with CW150 commemorations. The state plans to add to Tennessee Civil War Trails with the goal of bringing tourism to rural areas of the state, and continues to send archivists to local communities as part its state document digitization project.
Vermont: The Vermont CW150 Commission has announced themes for each year of commemoration, with the theme “The Year Democracy Was Tested” for 2011. The Vermont Humanities Council recently launched a Civil War Book of Days e-newsletter—subscribers receive weekly e-mails on what happened that week 150 years ago. Vermont has also launched a website.
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 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 CW150 Commission is also partnering with the National Park Service to host a 150th anniversary commemorative event on July 21, 2011, at the Manassas National Battlefield Park. The commission will also debut its Civil War 150 History Mobile at the event.
Many communities have recently announced or added to their CW150 plans, including Lynchburg, Manassas, and Richmond. In December, 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 ArtBeat Gallery in Manassas will open an exhibit “Journey Through Hallowed Ground” on January 4. The exhibit will run through February 27. From January 15 to April 3, the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts will host an exhibit “Civil War Drawings from the Becker Collection,” displaying approximately 650 wartime drawings from Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Weekly, the era’s leading illustrated periodical.
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.
Wisconsin: In honor of the CW150, the Bel Canto Chorus of Milwaukee will perform a concert entitled “Remembrance: Legacy of the Civil War” on March 13 in Wanuwatosa. 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 Wisconsin Historical Society is scanning approximately 25,000 pages and documents pertaining to the state’s participation in the war.
For more information, please visit the Civil War Trust sesquicentennial commemoration website at www.civilwar150.org