Virginia Sesquicentennial of the American
Civil War Commission
June 16, 2009
Conference: “Race, Slavery and the Civil War: The Tough Stuff
announced that Dr. James O. Horton has accepted the offer to chair the
2010 Signature Conference, and presented an initial proposal. A tentative
title for the program is “Race, Slavery and the Civil War: The Tough
Stuff of American History,” and the format would be morning and
afternoon panel discussions. Dr. Horton is lining up top academic and
public historians to participate, and a full proposal will be forthcoming.
However, there is an incompatibility between Dr.
Horton's availability and Hampton University's open dates for the conference.
Due to an ongoing commitment to teach at the University of Hawaii each
spring semester, Dr. Horton is available only in the summer or fall months.
Representatives of Hampton University have, however, affirmed on several
occasions that the university can only host the conference during the
week of April 14, and suggested that another chairman be approached.
Dr. Levengood stated
that Dr. Horton is well-respected, well-known, and will continue to uphold
the high standard set by Dr. Ayers at the Commission’s first Signature
Conference. He further stated that Dr. Horton is the perfect person to
chair the conference and that the Executive Committee should do anything
it can to secure his participation.
Speaker Howell recapped
the discussion about the conflict by stating that (i) because Hampton
University cannot host the conference in the summer or fall of 2010; (ii)
because Dr. Horton is available only in the summer or fall; and (iii)
because of Dr. Horton’s outstanding reputation and the fact that
he has been highly recommended by members of the Commission and Advisory
Council, the Commission should consider pursuing a different venue for
the 2010 Signature Conference.
Delegate A. T. Howell
made a motion, seconded by Senator Colgan, that the Commission approach
Norfolk State University as the new host of the 2010 Signature Conference.
The motion passed unanimously.
Summary - America on the Eve of the Civil War
reviewed a postconference summary, as well as a highly complimentary article
that Dr. David Blight wrote for the June 1 edition of The Chronicle
of Higher Education, "The Civil War Sesquicentennial : the
Goal Should be an Enlightening Commemoration.” Staff went over
a table outlining the overwhelmingly positive comments and feedback the
Commission has received regarding the conference. A two-volume DVD set
of conference proceedings will be available for purchase within a month.
for Joint Meeting at Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, June 25, 2009
the schedule for the joint meeting with the West Virginia Commission to
be held in Harpers Ferry, on June 25, 2009. The morning tours will include
a signing ceremony related to a land transfer between the Civil War Preservation
Trust and the Harpers Ferry National Historical Park, as well as a demonstration
of a student service project sponsored by The Journey Through Hallowed
The local sesquicentennial
committees of Prince William-Manassas-Manassas Park have joined with a
group of community leaders to develop plans for a commemorative event
in July 2011, the 150th anniversary of the First Battle of Manassas. Senator
Colgan, Delegate Lingamfelter, and staff will meet with the group and
staff will keep the Commission informed of the plans.
of Applications to Affix Logo
with the procedure established by the Executive Committee, staff presented
a list of applications to affix the Commission’s logo that have
been pre-approved by staff. This list included (i) Chesterfield County
Civil War Sesquicentennial Committee (brochures); (ii) Greater Fredericksburg
Tourism Partnership (website); (iii) Winchester-Frederick County Sesquicentennial
Committee (invitation to event and print materials); and (iv) Fairfax
County Park Authority (newsletter). Senator Colgan moved that the pre-approved
applications be given final approval by the Executive Committee. The motion
was seconded by Delegate Howell and passed unanimously.
Senator Colgan moved
that the following pending applications to affix logo be approved by the
committee: (i) History Museum of Western Virginia (website and print materials);
and (ii) Museum of the Confederacy (print materials and advertisements).
The motion was seconded by Delegate Howell and passed unanimously.
VP of Advancement, Virginia Historical Society
Ms. Seay asked
if the Commission would like for her to make preliminary contact with
the Norfolk Foundation regarding possible funding of the 2010 conference
given that the host venue will likely be in that area. The Executive Committee
agreed and thanked Ms. Seay for her assistance.
June 16, 2009
The Commission held
a joint meeting with its newly formed West Virginia counterpart on June
25 to mark the beginning of the national commemoration of the 150th anniversary
of the Civil War. The daylong program was held at Harpers Ferry National
Historical Park as part of a series of events planned for the 150th anniversary
of John Brown's Raid.
Staff of Harpers Ferry National Historical Park, led by Dennis
Frye, Chief of Interpretation, Education, Cultural Resources and Partnerships,
took members and guests on bus tours of John Brown's Fort. It was in this
building, formerly known as the Armory, that John Brown and several of
his followers barricaded themselves during the final hours of their ill-fated
raid of October 16, 17, and 18, 1859. In 1909, on the occasion of the
50th Anniversary of John Brown's Raid, the building was purchased and
moved to the Storer College campus on Camp Hill in Harpers Ferry. Acquired
by the National Park Service in 1960, the building was moved back to the
Lower Town in 1968. Because the fort's original site was covered with
a railroad embankment in 1894, the building now sits about 150 feet east
of its original location. Plans are underway to return the fort to its
historically accurate location.
discussion of John Brown's Fort, members and guests were taken to Boliver
Heights, where the first Civil War Trails sign in Harpers Ferry National
Historical Park was unveiled. Civil War Trails is a six-state program,
established in Virginia in 1994 that provides public access and interpretation
to sites of historical significance, many of which would remain uninterpreted
otherwise. Currently, 945 Civil War Trails sites are prominently marked
with highway directional signage. Tourists can follow the trail throughout
Virginia, Maryland, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and North
The group then
traveled to historic School House Ridge, where the national Civil War
Preservation Trust (CWPT) announced the donation of 176 acres of core
battlefield land to Harpers Ferry National Historical Park. The property
was the scene of intense fighting on September 15, 1862, during the three-day
battle and siege of Harpers Ferry. CWPT purchased the land in 2002 as
part of a larger parcel totaling 232 acres. Private donations of $411,000
were matched with federal and state grants to complete the $1.7 million
total transaction. After acquiring the property, CWPT sold 56 acres to
the National Park Service for $420,000 — the appraised fair market
value for the land. CWPT maintained the remaining acreage, looking forward
to a time when it could make a gift of the battlefield land to the federal
government, which it did to mark the beginning of the Civil War sesquicentennial.
Jim Lighthizer, CWPT President, noted that the donation is emblematic
of the organization’s mission to see that preserved battlefield
land becomes outdoor classrooms, available for the benefit of the American
As the last
event of the morning program, Harpers Ferry Middle School hosted the group
for the premiere of a program entitled “Of the Student, By the Student,
For the Student,” created, developed, and sponsored by The Journey
Through Hallowed Ground Partnership at the request of the Advisory Council
on Historic Preservation (ACHP), in conjunction with Harpers Ferry National
Historical Park and Harpers Ferry Middle School. The program consists
of six innovative vodcasts about John Brown written, filmed, and produced
by students at the middle school, which are available for viewing at www.hallowedground.org.
The student service-learning project serves as a model for other organizations
to engage young people in history.
The group convened at the Mather Training Center, on the historic site
of Storer College, for a joint meeting of the Virginia-West Virginia Civil
War Sesquicentennial Commissions.
several groups presented overviews of plans in development for the sesquicentennial,
and two multimedia projects were premiered. Dennis Frye, Chairman of the
John Brown Quad-State Committee, discussed the full slate of activities
planned leading up to, during, and after the October anniversary of John
Brown's Raid. Events will include an academic symposium, special tours,
dramatic and musical interpretations, lectures, and exhibitions.
Cate Magennis Wyatt,
President of the Journey Through Hallowed Ground (JTHG) Partnership, described
the mission and goals of the organization, and outlined plans for the
sesquicentennial. The JTHG is a national heritage area that generally
follows the Old Carolina Road (Rt. 15/231) from Monticello through Maryland
to Gettysburg. Goals include:
- Building a strong
network of local, regional and national partners to develop a common
vision for the conservation and enhancement of the scenic, historic,
recreational, cultural, and natural characteristics of the region.
- Developing an
education outreach program to reach every student and teacher within
the region as well as across the nation.
- Creating a heritage
tourism program that will provide economic development opportunities,
through regional branding and cooperative marketing, in communities
throughout the corridor.
- Working in partnership
with local, state and national officials to create a National Scenic
Byway and a National Heritage Area to sustain and strengthen the economy,
heritage and quality of life in this region.
Staff of the American
Civil War Commission outlined the Commission's goals of diversity, inclusiveness,
accessibility, and education. Virginia, which was the first state to create
a Civil War sesquicentennial planning group, is recognized as a national
leader in the commemoration and is serving as a model for other states
as they begin developing similar programs. The Commission is committed
to a balanced portrayal of the Civil War that includes Union, Confederate
and African-American perspectives; presents stories from battlefront and
home front; and examines the social and cultural legacies of the conflict,
as well as the military and political. To that end, the Commission:
- Has funded a major
museum exhibition, "An American Turning Point: The Civil War in
Virginia," which will open at the Virginia Historical Society in
February 2011 and travel thereafter in various formats;
- Is conducting
an annual Signature Conference series with the nation's finest historians
discussing topics that address the coming of the war, the impact of
race and slavery, military strategies, leadership and generalship, the
effects on the home front, Civil War in a global context, and memory
of the Civil War in American society; and
- Is using technology
to engage the public and make travel planning easy, through vodcasts,
interactive maps, kiosks, and more.
vodcast written by John Hennessy, Chief Historian of the Fredericksburg/Spotsylvania
National Military Park, which portrays the pivotal role of Virginia in
the Civil War, was premiered. The vodcast series will highlight major
Civil War battles in Virginia and be available through the Commission's
Dr. James I.
Robertson, Jr., Alumni Distinguished Professor, Virginia Tech and member
of the Virginia Civil War Sesquicentennial Commission, debuted excerpts
from a DVD that is one of the Commission's signature projects, "Virginia
in the Civil War: A Sesquicentennial Remembrance." The DVD was developed
by Dr. Robertson and produced by Blue Ridge Public Television specifically
for teachers to use in the classroom. It is divided into eight 20-minute
segments that focus on the background of the war, military campaigns,
the African-American experience, leading Virginia personalities, the common
soldiers, home front activities (including medical care), and legacies
of the war for all Americans. The DVD will be distributed free of charge
to all public schools and major library systems in Virginia beginning
in Fall 2009.
As the last
event in the program, Dr. Peter Carmichael, Eberly Professor of Civil
War Studies at West Virginia University, moderated a panel of distinguished
historians who discussed "Opportunities of the Civil War Sesquicentennial:
Understanding Our Past, Embracing Our Future." Panelists were Dr.
Charles F. Bryan, Jr., President Emeritus, Virginia Historical Society;
Jim Lighthizer, President, Civil War Preservation Trust; and Dr. Robert
K. Sutton, Chief Historian, National Park Service. Each expert discussed
the unparalleled opportunity that the sesquicentennial commemoration presents
in terms of broadening knowledge of the Civil War, engaging new audiences,
and land preservation. Several panelists contrasted the differences between
the centennial and the sesquicentennial, citing how advances in historiography
have evolved during the intervening 50 years and will yield a different
commemoration. One key example is that slavery was rarely acknowledged
as a cause of the Civil War during the centennial, while it will be a
central focus of discussion during the sesquicentennial. The panel discussion
can be viewed at the Commission's website: www.VirginiaCivilWar.org.
The next meeting
date will be posted on the Commission’s website and the General
Assembly calendar as soon as information is available.
The Hon. William
Brenda Edwards, DLS Staff
of Legislative Services > Legislative
Record > 2009