Division of Legislative Services > Legislative Record > 2007

Virginia Sesquicentennial of the American Civil War Commission

September 26, 2007

A meeting of the full Commission was held in Fredericksburg at The Gari Melchers Home and Studio at Belmont. David Berreth, Director of Belmont Estate, welcomed members and provided a brief history of the artist and his home. Edwin Watson, President of the Fredericksburg Area Museum and Cultural Center, also welcomed the members and discussed the area's rich Civil War history.


Linda Wandres, Executive Director of the Central Virginia Battlefields Trust (CVBT)
Ms. Wandres provided an overview of the organization, which was organized as a nonprofit lands trust in October 1996. The singular focus of the CVBT is to preserve the hallowed grounds of central Virginia's Civil War battlefields from development and destruction. Over the past 11 years, the CVBT has worked to save over 700 acres at each of the four major battlefields in the Fredericksburg area, with the most recent success being a collaborative effort to preserve the Slaughter Pen Farm at a price of $12 million. Ms. Wandres stated that unless battlefields are preserved soon, they will be lost to development forever. She pledged the continued proactive support of the CVBT to the Commission's endeavors, and asked for state support, through grants and other financial initiatives, for battlefield preservation.

Jim Lighthizer, President, Civil War Preservation Trust (CWPT)
Mr. Lighthizer presented a Sesquicentennial Battlefield Initiative to save sacred land prior to 2015. The CWPT has identified more than 50,000 acres of threatened Civil War battlefields in Virginia located in the state's fastest growing regions, such as Hanover, Henrico and Spotsylvania counties, as well as the Shenandoah Valley. He reiterated that land not saved before or during the sesquicentennial will be lost forever. To that end, the CWPT requests an appropriation of $5 million each year for the Virginia Civil War Battlefield Preservation Fund. The Fund requires a 2:1 match of nonstate funds, thus making a $5 million annual investment result in $15 million that goes to battlefield protection per year. The members agreed that the Initiative is important and could be the lasting legacy of the sesquicentennial.


Henry Connors, Jr., member of the Spotsylvania Board of Supervisors, briefed the Commission on the plans of the Spotsylvania Sesquicentennial Committee, the first local committee established to coordinate with the state commission. The Spotsylvania committee is just beginning to meet, but includes 15 representatives from county administration, tourism, the education community, National Park Service, museums, and other partners from both the public and private sectors. The committee agreed to focus on three things: tourism, education and legacy. The hope is to work together regionally, partnering with other jurisdictions and the National Park Service battlefields to coordinate and co-sponsor events. The committee also desires to leverage assets by working with museums, such as the Museum of the Confederacy, the American Civil War Center and the National Slavery Museum. A core goal of the committee is education - making Civil War history interesting and compelling to a new generation in an effort to spark, cultivate and nurture a lifelong love of history.

Russ Smith, Superintendent, Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park
Mr. Smith updated the members on planning at the federal level. Federal legislation (H.R. 1131) continues to be stalled in Congress, which hinders planning throughout the National Park Service (NPS). However, superintendents have come together to start developing action plans. There are over 70 parks in the NPS having ties to the Civil War. Themes developed for the sesquicentennial to date include:

  • Preserving and restoring landscapes.
  • Restoring parks.
  • Making better use of technology.
  • Preserving documents.
  • Connecting existing stories.
  • Developing a national tourism strategy.
  • Implementing education initiatives, such as the Teacher-Ranger-Teacher program.
  • Establishing a "Sister City" program.


Speaker Howell introduced Danielle Watkins, the commission's new development officer. Ms. Watkins is working with Pam Seay, Vice President for Advancement at the Virginia Historical Society, to establish fundraising goals and apply for grants to fund commission programs. Cheryl Jackson reported that the commission's website is being met with positive feedback, getting hundreds of hits in the first few weeks, and delivered reports from Workgroup 1-Coordination and Workgroup 2-Signature Events and Activities. Brenda Edwards updated the members on the progress of Workgroup 3-Education.


Senator Chichester gave a report of the Executive Committee, which has met twice since the last full commission meeting to receive updates on current activities and consider programs. The following programs were considered and approved by the members:

HistoryMobile - A mobile exhibition which would travel to every county and city in Virginia during the commemoration period was approved in concept by the members. As a model, three current and past tractor trailer exhibitions, all of which were extremely successful, were explored, which included the Kentucky Historical Society's "HistoryMobile," the Tennessee State Museum's "Tennessee Treasures," and the Newseum's "NewsCapade." A task force will be created to examine further options, address logistical issues, and submit recommendations to the Executive Committee.

Educational DVD - The members approved a Blue Ridge Public Television partnership with the Virginia Center for Civil War Studies at Virginia Tech to create a three-hour DVD on Virginia and the Civil War, which will be distributed free of charge to every school, library, historical society, and archive in the state beginning in August 2009. The DVD will consist of nine 20-minute segments on the coming of war, military campaigns, the African-American experience, the life of the common soldiers, personalities, the home front, and the legacy of the war. Dr. Robertson will work with the Department of Education to ensure that the DVD is incorporated into the history curriculum and that teacher resources are developed.

Signature Conference Series and Signature Tours - A series of Signature Conferences and Signature Tours to be developed in cooperation with Virginia’s public and private institutions of higher education were approved in concept by the members. The activities will address broad political, social, and economic themes, as well as the military history of the Civil War. In cooperation with public television, the conferences could be televised and recorded for use in secondary schools and colleges and viewing on the commission’s web site. The staff will work with members of Workgroup 2 to develop the proposal further.

Grants to Localities - A micro-grant program to aid localities and their sesquicentennial committees was approved in concept by the members. Examples of projects were transcribing the 1860 Census and supporting the document preservation project. It was agreed that grants would be handled through the standard appropriations process that award grants to nonstate agencies. The staff was asked to develop criteria for the program for further review by the Executive Committee.

Formation of 501(c)(3): Virginia Sesquicentennial of the American Civil War Foundation - The Executive Committee's endorsement to form a nonprofit corporation to accept donations, grants, gifts and bequests in furtherance of the work of the commission was approved in concept by the members. Articles of Incorporation and Bylaws are being drafted, which will be reviewed and approved by the Executive Committee and filed with the State Corporation Commission at the appropriate time.


Information on the next meeting of the full commission and workgroup meetings will be posted on the commission's websites as soon as available.

The Hon. William J. Howell

For information, contact:
Cheryl Jackson, Brenda Edwards, DLS Staff

http:// www.virginiacivilwar.org

Division of Legislative Services > Legislative Record > 2007

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