Tag Archives: Civil War Sesquicentennial

Tweeting the home front

LeRae Umfleet of the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources has set up a Twitter account and accompanying blog that will run throughout the Civil War Sesquicentennial.  Each tweet will be a snippet of first-person testimony from a Tar Heel State civilian who experienced the war on the home front, with a fuller excerpt in the matching blog entry.  Looks interesting.

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Planting trees for the dead

I have mixed feelings about this:

More than 100 miles of Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania roadway is about to get a little more green thanks to funding from the Commonwealth and a vision by Journey Through Hallowed Ground Partnership officials who created a program to honor soldiers who died in the Civil War.

Virginia Secretary of Transportation Sean T. Connaughton, along with journey officials said Friday that the Commonwealth Transportation Board will provide a $300,000 grant to begin the Living Legacy Tree Planting program. Through the program, one tree for every soldier killed in the war will get planted along the journey’s 180-mile National Scenic Byway, which stretches from Gettysburg to Monticello.

Honoring soldiers is a worthy cause, and so is making America a little more green.  Still, three hundred grand is a lot of money.  I realize that for the Commonwealth Transportation Board to shell out dollars the project probably needs to be transportation-related, but every time I see dollars like that getting shelled out I can’t help but think about all the endangered battlefield land and deteriorating artifacts out there.

Wyatt said over the course of about four years, they will plant 620,000 trees – at about $100 each — for the soldiers who perished during the Civil War. The number killed, journey officials said, represented about 10 percent of the nation’s population at the time.

Perhaps you’re wondering where they got that 10% figure.  I’m wondering that myself.  I think it was actually closer to two percent, which is still (as Melanie Griffith reportedly said of the Holocaust) “a lot of people.”

The idea to plant trees developed after each community along the journey’s scenic byway was asked to create a legacy project in preparation for the upcoming sesquicentennial of the First Battle of Manassas. Community officials decided to work collectively with the journey Wyatt said, and they wanted to see something different to honor those who fought .

“The mayors and chairmans [of the communities] said ‘we don’t need another flagpole’…and asked what can we do that would be bigger than any of us,” Wyatt said.

Connaughton said the state really supported this project because it brings together three major issues in Virginia- education, economic development and transportation. This project will be something schools can get involved in and it has the potential to bring more tourists to the Commonwealth.

This “will help future generations of history buffs, students and tourists visualize the sheer scale of the Civil War in this region and remind all of the courage and blood that was shed along this hallowed road and the surrounding landscape,” Congressman Gerry Connolly (D-Va) said

I’m not so sure that this will be enough to draw tourists; I hope it does.  Anyway, trying to help people get their heads around the concept of 620,000 dead is a good idea.  It’s too easy for numbers of that scale to become meaningless abstractions.

I once worked on a temporary exhibit about the Gettysburg Address.  Knowing that it would be difficult for visitors to visualize 51,000 casualties, I briefly flirted with the idea of constructing an acrylic case and filling it with that number of some small object.  I abandoned that plan pretty quickly, simply because assembling 51,000 items of any size in a museum gallery is all but impossible. Even one for each of the dead, leaving out the wounded and captured, would have been highly impractical.  It was a pretty sobering realization.

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USA Today takes stock

…of the uproar surrounding the Civil War Sesquicentennial.  It’s not even April yet, and I’m already getting sick of this.

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And the Park Service historian just sighs. . .

AOL News decided to start the year off with a glance at how America is getting geared up for the Civil War Sesquicentennial, so they called up the usual suspects for sound bites and came away with the predictable rhetoric, guaranteed to be 100% free of any meaningful historic sensibility.

NAACP official Lonnie Randolph compares the South Carolina fire-eaters to Timothy McVeigh, since both parties “disagreed with America.”  A nice grasp of political nuance, that.

Meanwhile, Mark Simpson of the SCV argues that focusing exclusively on slavery as a casus belli “would be like taking a book that has 10 or 15 chapters and tearing all the chapters out except one. While slavery was an issue, it was by no means what brought about the war.”  One wonders what the other nine or fourteen chapters might have been.

Meanwhile, the article reports, “Robert Sutton, the Park Service historian, just sighs.”  I know how he feels.

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North Carolina is gearing up for the 150th

…and they’re pulling out all the stops.  Here’s a press release the good folks at the NCDCR passed along:

Preparations for the commemoration of the Sesquicentennial of the Civil War are underway with 150 programs, educational symposia and re-enactments already scheduled by the N.C. Department of Cultural Resources (www.ncculture.com). For the past year a team of Cultural Resources staff, operating with an experts advisory panel of leading historians, has planned events, lectures, exhibits and informational resources for commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the Civil War.

Activities for life-long learners, travelers, teachers and school children will feature the theme “North Carolina and the Civil War: Freedom, Sacrifice, Memory.”

News and information are available at www.nccivilwar150.com. A logo, designed by the Department of Cultural Resources, presents that theme against a sunburst image, based on the button worn by North Carolina soldiers, 1861-1865.

North Carolina’s planning comes as a similar national effort is underway. Several other states have established commissions or other boards to mark the anniversary. Keith Hardison, Director of the Division of State Historic Sites and Properties, and Michael Hill, Research Branch Supervisor, co-chair the North Carolina group.

In establishing the committee of researchers, archaeologists, librarians, preservationists, educators, exhibit designers and curators, Dr. Jeffrey J. Crow, Deputy Director of the N.C. Office of Archives and History, noted that the Department has long held a commitment to projects associated with the Civil War and that, during the anniversary, those efforts will intensify.

“We anticipate that interest in the Civil War will draw tens of thousands of travelers to North Carolina,” Crow said. “Because cultural and heritage tourists stay longer and spend more than typical travelers, the Sesquicentennial will provide an economic boost. The Civil War was the most critical moment in the nation’s history. Understanding the conflict’s effect on the life of the nation, its institutions, and its people remains as important today as it did 150 years ago.” The Battle of Bentonville 145th re-enactment held in April 2010 drew 50,000 visitors to the Johnston County location, for example.

The group will develop and execute a multiyear program of state-sponsored activities to commemorate, in an appropriate and historically accurate manner, the richness, diversity and significance of the state’s participation in and contributions to the American Civil War. Accordingly, the objective is to extend to North Carolinians and travelers an understanding of the complexity of the issues surrounding the war and to transform the interpretation of the events for a new generation, via a layered and interdisciplinary approach.

An ambitious three-part series of symposia is planned, with the first dedicated to “memory” taking place at the N.C. Museum of History in Raleigh on May 20, 2011. Following that, keeping with the theme, panels will be held at Winston-Salem State University in 2013 (timed to coincide with the anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation) around the topic of “freedom,” and in Wilmington in 2015 on the topic of “sacrifice.” Calls for papers will be forthcoming.

The NCCivilWar150 Web site (www.nccivilwar150.com) offers a concise overview with maps, graphics, an event calendar, digital records and text about North Carolina’s Civil War experience. It contains a timeline of the hundreds of military expeditions, affairs, skirmishes, actions, engagements, battles and other events that occurred in the Old North State during the war. Images of monuments from across North Carolina and a map feature illustrate where the monuments are located. State Archives will showcase relevant documents, such as letters regarding possible secession, that are gathered from its collection of more than 100 million maps, letters, and documents. Informative essays discuss North Carolina on the home front, slavery and the African American experience, reconstruction and other topics.

The Division of State Historic Sites and Properties (http://www.nchistoricsites.org/) is taking the lead with a new comprehensive education initiative related to the war. Thirteen of the 27 historic sites will participate, including such non-traditional Civil War sites as Historic Edenton, Somerset Place, Stagville, Tryon Palace and Roanoke Island Festival Park. Sites will create a permanent addition to their grounds and highlight the North Carolina experience through programs designed to help fourth- and eighth-grade students meet education standards. Each site also will have an individual program that is site specific. In preparation, a teacher workshop for renewal credits was held this past summer.

Exhibits will appear on a range of topics such as a Civil War transportation exhibit at the N.C. Transportation Museum in Spencer in 2011, and an exhibit at the Museum of the Albemarle on the capture of the port towns on the Albemarle Sound, the rivers, canals and waterways.

Archaeological work will be undertaken at selected locations including Ft. Fisher and Ft. Anderson/Brunswick Town. State archivists will hold quarterly talks, and the genealogy staff will offer tips on “tracing your roots.” The N.C. Museum of History will build upon previous exhibits and highlight aspects of the war over the course of the anniversary period. The Historical Publications Office will initiate new publications related to the war and will perform a series of reprints, in addition to continuing work on volumes in the troops roster series (http://nc-historical-publications.stores.yahoo.net/). A highlight is the new publication “Worthy of Record: The Civil War and Reconstruction Diaries of Columbus Lafayette Turner,” about an Iredell County native who spent time in two Union prison camps and later was elected to the General Assembly during Reconstruction.

Presently in development as a collaborative effort with the University of North Carolina Press is a North Carolina Civil War atlas, a project conceived by map maker and research historian Mark A. Moore.

The advisory committee of the state’s leading Civil War historians is guiding development and execution of programming. Members include Mark Bradley of the U.S. Army War College, Paul Escott of Wake Forest University, Chris Fonvielle of the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, Joseph Glatthaar of UNC-Chapel Hill, Susanna Lee of N.C. State University, Freddie Parker of N.C. Central University, John David Smith of UNC-Charlotte and Richard Starnes of Western Carolina University.

The African American Heritage Commission will provide underwriting for selected events.

The N.C. Department of Cultural Resources is the state agency with the mission to enrich lives and communities, and the vision to harness the state’s cultural resources to build North Carolina’s social, cultural and economic future. Information on Cultural Resources is available 24/7 at www.ncculture.com.

Layered and interdisciplinary, indeed: symposia, new interpretation initiatives at historic sites, an educational website, archaeology, publication projects.  This looks to be one of the better Sesquicentennial efforts.  Let me encourage you to visit the website for more information.

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Secession on display in the Tar Heel State

Here’s an item I just received from the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources:

RALEIGH – For North Carolina, the Civil War officially began in the State Capitol. On May 20, 1861, delegates from across the state adopted the Ordinance of Secession in the House of Commons, officially withdrawing the state from the Union. This event followed months of tense debate between Unionists and Secessionists, slavery advocates and abolitionists.

 A new exhibit, Crisis at the Capitol: North Carolina on the Eve of War, explores what the State Capitol was like on the eve of the conflict and introduces visitors to many of the individuals working and living here in a time before secession and before the war. The exhibit opens Sept. 17 and will remain on display through May 13, 2011. Admission is free.

 The exhibit is based on documents left behind by 11 different people, each with a different perspective on the impending crisis. Visitors will learn the stories of John Copeland, a Raleigh native who participated in John Brown’s infamous raid on Harpers Ferry, Va.; Harriet Jacobs, once enslaved in Edenton, who escaped and became active in the abolition movement; and John Thomas Jones, a student at the University of North Carolina who supported secession and enlisted in the army despite of his father’s Unionist views. The viewpoints of President Abraham Lincoln, N.C. Governor John Ellis, and famed abolitionist author and Mocksville native Hinton Rowan Helper are also highlighted.

 The State Capitol’s mission is to preserve and interpret the history, architecture and functions of the 1840 building and Union Square. The State Capitol is at One Edenton Street, Raleigh, NC 27601. Visit www.nchistoricsites.org/capitol/default.htm or call (919) 733-4994 for more information.

Administered by the Division of State Historic Sites, the State Capitol is part of the N.C. Department of Cultural Resources, the state agency with the mission to enrich lives and communities, and the vision to harness the state’s cultural resources to build North Carolina’s social, cultural and economic future. Information is available 24/7 at http://www.ncdcr.gov/.

Looks pretty nifty!

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