Charleston Makes Big Plans

Sesquicentennial Commemoration
Hallowed Ground Magazine, Winter 2010

As the sesquicentennial of the Civil War approaches, communities are preparing to commemorate their place in American history. To keep abreast of the latest events—living histories, lectures, exhibits and other special projects—across the country, visit CWPT’s sesquicentennial Webpage at

Few places, however, have as many plans in the works as Charleston, S.C., where the long simmering possibility of civil war became a reality in April 1861. The greater Charleston area has a number of events planned for this winter and spring that will offer everyone the chance to be a part of history. From lectures to exhibits and public entertainment, there is something for every member of the family.

For example, in December, The Citadel and the South Carolina Historical Society will host a series of eminent historians, including James I. Robertson, William C. Davis, William K.  Scarborough, Mark Neeley, WilliamW. Freehling and David Blight, speaking on topics of Civil War memory and the drive to disunion. Then, on December 20, the anniversary of the state’s vote on secession, the Confederate Heritage Trust will hold a theatrical performance and Secession Ball at the Gaillard Auditorium in downtown Charleston. The original copy of the Ordinance of
Secession will be on display during the event.

The College of Charleston will host an international conference considering the American Civil War’s impact on global politics from March 3–5, 2011. Keynote speakers include Richard Blackett, Joan Cashin, James McPherson and E.B. Rugemer. Numerous other panels and presentations are also planned. The National Council for History Education is also holding its annual conference in Charleston to coincide with the anniversary, and will focus on the theme “The Causes and Consequences of Civil Wars.”

As the anniversary of the firing on Fort Sumter approaches, even more events will be definitively scheduled. Among the confirmed commemorative activities is a weekend-long seminar, beginning April 8, sponsored by the Low Country Sesquicentennial Coordinating Committee. Lectures from top historians, including Edward Ayers, Barbara Bellows, Stephen Berry, Vernon Burton, Catherine Clinton, Walter Edgar, Barbara Jeanne Fields, James McPherson, Bernard Powers and Gavin Wright will be presented at locations throughout downtown Charleston. Over the weekend, there will also be multiple free showings of the first installment of Ken Burns’s monumental documentary The Civil War.

On April 11, as the countdown to the anniversary of the Civil War’s opening shots closes in, approximately 60 members of the Charleston Symphony Orchestra will play a free concert of period music, as well as relevant selections by composers Jay Unger and Aaron Copeland, in White Point Gardens on The Battery in downtown Charleston. A more intimate musical tribute will occur at 4:00 a.m. on April 12, marking the moment the first shots were fired on Fort Sumter.

For more information and to keep track of newly scheduled events, visit the Website of the Low Country Civil War Sesquicentennial Commemoration at

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