As I think you know The Strawfoot is more than a clearinghouse for information about Civil War sesquicentennial events. That said, with so many things already underway—and a tsunami of programs, memorials, and unveilings to come before all is said-and-done in 2015—I thought it would be helpful to offer a few words.
By definition the hundreds of events that will take place around the United States in the next four years will be of uneven quality, as the means, talent, enthusiasm, and imagination of museum personnel, heritage groups, and state & local agencies will vary widely. When we are fortunate enough to experience a worthwhile endeavor, we should recognize the invaluable work these organizations are doing and enjoy and learn from what they offer (and maybe drop a buck or two in the collection box). The exhibit at the county museum and the “living history” program put on by the local reenacting unit can teach us a lot about the war and the home front. Still, there is one organization that has the scope, resources, and institutional memory to examine the war in all its complexity: the National Park Service.
As I write these words the NPS is in the midst of a nine-state, sixteen-city reenactment of President-elect Lincoln’s journey from Springfield, IL to Washington D.C. for his first inaugural. (Unfortunately, I myself was unaware of the event held at Grant’s Tomb until it was too late.) And that’s just for starters. A highly random, hardly exhaustive perusal of the NPS sesquicentennial website informs us that within just the next few weeks the following are taking place:
The “Baltimore Plot” against President-Elect Lincoln– Ford’s Theater National Historic Site, Washington D.C.; February 22 & 23
The War Begins – 1861 Lecture Series–Gettysburg National Military Park Museum and Visitor Center, PA; February 26
Soldier Camp Life of the United States Colored Troops program– Petersburg National Battlefield, VA; March 5
Film in honor of women soldiers of the Civil War–Fort Donelson National Battlefield, TN; March 10
Archeology on America’s Bloodiest Day–Antietam National Battlefield, MD; March 20
That’s five programs on five very different subjects in five states. And as I said, I pulled these off the NPS calendar highly at random.
The National Park Service covers the Civil War so exhaustively because it can. It maintains over seventy sites pertaining at least in part to the conflict. These are found in places you would expect, such as Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Maryland; and a few areas you would not, including California, New Mexico, and Key West, Florida. Don’t believe me? Check it out for yourself:
Whether your next Civil Road road trip is to your branch library for a book discussion or to Little Round Top, I hope you have a fun and informative time.
Thanks for checking in.