Division of Legislative Services > Legislative Record > 2010

Virginia Commission on the Bicentennial of the War of 1812

June 7 and August 17, 2010

The Virginia Commission on the Bicentennial of the War of 1812 met on June 7 and August 17 in Richmond to continue refining its plans, goals, and objectives for the statewide commemoration of the war. The Commission’s meetings were preceded by the meeting of its Citizen Advisory Council. The Commission noted that while the War of 1812 is the nation’s second war for independence, it is commonly called “The Forgotten War,” and considerable work is needed to educate citizens concerning the significance of the war to contemporary national policies, homeland security, and diplomacy.

Star-Spangled Banner National Historic Trail/Virginia War of 1812 Heritage Trail

In May 2008, Congress amended the National Trails System Act (P.L. 110-229) to designate the Star-Spangled Banner National Historic Trail to commemorate the Chesapeake Bay Campaign of the War of 1812 and events leading up to the writing of “The Star-Spangled Banner.” After meeting with representatives of the National Park Services’ Star-Spangled Banner Historical Trail, the Citizen Advisory Council concluded and reported to the Commission that national initiatives to commemorate the bicentennial of the war, specifically the Star-Spangled Banner National Historic Trail, focus primarily on events that occurred in Maryland in the Chesapeake Bay Campaign. After an exhaustive and unsuccessful effort on the part of the Commission and Council to change the proposed plans for the national trail, the Commission has opted instead to pursue state-focused commemorative events, programs, and activities that accurately record and showcase Virginia’s role and vast contributions to the war and by creating the Virginia War of 1812 Heritage Trail through the use of historical markers.

The Commission will build the state trail by adding new historical markers to existing markers related to the War of 1812 throughout the state. Citizen Advisory Council members were requested to submit suggestions for the new historical markers to render a complete account of the impact of the war in Virginia and to designate significant sites and recognize the contributions of relevant historical characters.

Of the several suggestions offered by the Council, 15 new historical markers were recommended by the Department and adopted by the Commission, to commence the state trail, including the erection of historic markers for Elizabeth Monroe and Dolley Madison and to recognize the African American contributions to the war. The 15 new markers are:

  • Brig. Gen. Winfield Scott.
  • Lt. Col. George Armistead.
  • Dolley Payne Madison.
  • Impact on African Americans (Tangier Island).
  • Cockburn on the Chesapeake.
  • Military/Naval Legacy (Fort Monroe).
  • Opposition (John Randolph).
  • Sack of Hampton.
  • Attack on Dolphin, Arab, Racer, and Lynx.
  • Mundy’s Point/Kinsale (focus: participation of former slaves).
  • Pleasure House/Normini Ferry/Tappahannock etc.
  • Declaration of Independence hiding site.
  • Harbor (Forts Norfolk, Nelson).
  • Richmond Defenses (Camps Fairfield, Carter, and Holly Springs, Ft. Powhatan).
  • British naval blockade (Cape Henry lighthouse).

Montpelier: Prelude to the Bicentennial

The bicentennial commemoration of the War of 1812 will be a comprehensive, balanced, and “statewide” observance of Virginia’s role in the war, giving appropriate recognition to all regions of the Commonwealth and Virginia’s leaders during that era, such as the Virginia Militia, the Petersburg Volunteers, the Chesapeake Bay Campaign, the Sack of Hampton and British occupation of Alexandria; Presidents James Madison, James Monroe, and William Henry Harrison; Dolley Madison and Elizabeth Monroe; Craney Island; and Tangier Island. Planning is underway for the prelude to Virginia’s commemoration, which will begin in March 2011 at Montpelier on the occasion of the presidential wreath-laying ceremony for President James Madison.

Virginia OpSail 2012

OpSail 2012 is one of the Commission’s signature events for the bicentennial commemoration. Given the enormous economic development and national and international public relations opportunities that OpSail 2012 presents for the Commonwealth and the Commission, the Commission will strive aggressively to maximize his singular opportunity to promote the Commonwealth and ensure its visibility during the national commemoration.

Karen Scherberger, Executive Director, Norfolk Festevents Ltd.

Ms. Scherberger reported that Operation Sail, Inc. (OpSail) and the U.S. Navy have announced the participation of five historic U.S. ports in the commemoration of the bicentennial of the War of 1812 and the birth of “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

The ports of call are:

  • New Orleans.
  • Norfolk/Hampton.
  • Baltimore.
  • Boston.
  • New York during Fleet Week.

The United Kingdom and Canada, nations involved in the War of 1812, NATO countries, and other nations with tall ships are also participating in the commemoration. The City of Norfolk and the Port of Hampton Roads will host the OpSail flotilla from June 6-11, 2012, in conjunction with Norfolk’s annual Harborfest celebration. The U.S. Coast Guard and the U.S. Army are also partners in the commemoration.

Legacy Symposium 2014

Plans for a significant two-day symposium are being developed as a concluding signature event for the Virginia bicentennial commemoration of the War of 1812. The Commission’s Legacy Symposium will be hosted by Fort Monroe in June 2014.

Commemorative Work Plan

The commemorative work plan includes numerous activities designed to promote the participation of all Virginians in the bicentennial commemoration, including:

  • Exhibits.
  • Book signings.
  • Supplemental educational materials for students and teachers.
  • Preservation of historic records.
  • Identification of War of 1812 veteran gravesites in Virginia.
  • Symphonic celebrations.
  • Dedication events to highlight each historical marker added to the state Heritage Trail.
  • An affair to remember the British invasion of Hampton in 1813.

To further outreach and publicize the bicentennial in Virginia, the Commission has developed:

  • A Facebook page.
  • A logo, designed at Hampden-Sydney College, to brand the Commission’s programs and events.
  • A commemorative brochure citing Virginia’s role in the War of 1812, which will be published.
  • A new website that will soon be launched to include historical facts and an interactive timeline and map of War of 1812 events in Virginia that will allow scholars, students, teachers, citizens, and visitors to access information about battle sites and events related to the war, as well as allow the traveler to plan an itinerary to visit points of interest.

The Commission will also:

  • Develop a traveling exhibit and documentary.
  • Issue scholarly publications and op-eds about the war.
  • Foster relationships with England, Canada, and Virginia’s Native American tribes to solicit and encourage their participation in the commemoration.
  • Explore collaborative ventures with other states that are commemorating the bicentennial.
  • Solicit the cooperation of the U.S. Army and Virginia National Guard.
  • Recommend the creation of a commemorative license plate.
  • Encourage local governing bodies to participate in and pass resolutions recognizing the commemoration of the bicentennial of the War of 1812.

Next Meeting

The Commission will meet on Wednesday, October 19, 2010, with the Brochure Work Group meeting at 10:00 a.m., the Citizens Advisory Council at 11:00 a.m., and the full Commission at 2:30 p.m. in House Room C in the General Assembly Building.

The Hon. Kirkland Cox

For information, contact:
Brenda Edwards, Jeff Sharp, Rebecca Young, DLS Staff

Division of Legislative Services > Legislative Record > 2010