Sesquicentennial Programs in 2011

Marking 150 years since the start of the Civil War

The first major sesquicentennial program in the nation was held in Virginia in April 2009—a full two years before the date that many people think of as the beginning of the commemoration. More than 2,000 people traveled from 26 different states to attend the 2009 Signature Conference, America on the Eve of the Civil War, held at the University of Richmond. A similar number participated in the second program in the series, Race, Slavery, and the Civil War: The Tough Stuff of American History and Memory, at Norfolk State University in 2010. While other sesquicentennial groups are just starting to think about the commemoration, Virginia lights the way with shining examples of outstanding original programming.

Mark your calendars for the following events in 2011!

2011 Signature Conference, Military Strategy in the American Civil War

Virginia Tech, Cassell Coliseum

Saturday, May 21

8:30 a.m.–4:30 p.m.

The third installment in the acclaimed Signature Conference series will feature noted historians discussing military strategy in the American Civil War. The conference will highlight the eastern and western theaters, as well as elements and events that shaped military strategy and tactics. Speakers include James I. “Bud” Robertson, Jr., Joseph Glatthaar, Gary Gallagher, William Davis, Richard Sommers, and more. Advance registration is available through May 1.

The full conference series is available both on DVD and in print through the Commission’s website. Be sure that your collection of these historic programs is complete.

150th Anniversary Commemorative Event and HistoryMobile tour launch

Manassas National Battlefield Park

Thursday, July 21

9:30 a.m.

The Commission and the National Park Service will co-host a commemorative event marking the 150th anniversary of the First Battle of Manassas/Bull Run and a key point of the sesquicentennial in Virginia. Featured speakers will include Robert F. McDonnell, Governor of Virginia, and Edward L. Ayers, University of Richmond president and award-winning historian of the American South.

Following the program, there will be a ribbon-cutting ceremony for Civil War 150 HistoryMobile, an immersive exhibition housed in a 53-foot expandable tractor-trailer, which will launch its four-year tour from Manassas. Designed by award-winning historians from the National Park Service and the Virginia Historical Society, the HistoryMobile presents a multifaceted, interactive experience of the Civil War in Virginia through the eyes of soldier, civilian, and slave.

Prince William county and the city of Manassas have planned a full slate of activities for the weekend of July 21–24 including more than 80 events from lectures to exhibits, living history, concerts, art, and dance, which will reflect varied perspectives of the soldiers, civilians, slaves, and freedmen who experienced the Civil War during the years from 1861–1865. For more information, visit ManassasBullRun.com.

Statewide Calendar of Events

Localities across Virginia are planning sesquicentennial programs throughout 2011, and the statewide calendar of events lists them all. You’ll find “Civil War and Emancipation Days” in Richmond (April), 150th anniversary events for the Battle of Big Bethel in Hampton (June) and Ball’s Bluff in Loudoun (October), lectures, arts events, and more. Dates and locations for the Civil War 150 Legacy Project: Document Digitization and Access and the HistoryMobile are also listed.

The sesquicentennial of the Civil War and Emancipation is here, and there is no better place than Virginia to experience the history firsthand.

– Cheryl Jackson is Executive Director of the Virginia Sesquicentennial of the American Civil War Sesquicentennial Commission. She can be reached at [email protected]

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