in Virginia, we can't escape it."
Virginia Sesquicentennial of the American Civil War
Commission is preparing for what members describe
as a solemn remembrance of the nation's bloodiest
plans call for traveling exhibits, developing an educational
DVD, guided battlefield tours and a lecture series.
The General Assembly has appropriated more than $2.1
million toward the observance, which ultimately will
be financed with public and private money.
is a commemoration, not a celebration," said
Robertson, who leads the Virginia Center for Civil
War Studies at Virginia Tech and who served as executive
director of the national centennial commission 50
years ago. "There's nothing to celebrate in the
deaths of between 700,000 and 1 million American people."
out of every five battles during the war occurred
in Virginia. Some of the Confederacy's top generals
were Virginians. Virginia also holds the distinction
of boasting the highest number of prisoner-of-war
compounds and largest concentration of military hospitals.
surprisingly, Virginia claims the most Civil War sites.
the actual anniversary of the start of the Civil War
remains four years away, the commission wanted ample
time to plan for a multiyear commemoration that will
span 2011 to 2015.
commission could decide to highlight events that led
to the war, such as marking the anniversary of abolitionist
John Brown's raid in 1859 on Harper's Ferry -- in
West Virginia now but part of Virginia then -- and
the presidential election of 1860, which put Abraham
Lincoln in the White House. But that hasn't been decided.
for a national commission have stalled in Congress.
In May, Spotsylvania County -- which saw significant
fighting during the war -- became the first locality
to form a planning committee for the 150th anniversary
already are well under way on the state level.
the 100th anniversary of the war -- which took place
around the time of the civil-rights struggle and the
Cold War -- the 150th commemoration in Virginia is
supposed to be inclusive. Its motto is "Understanding
Our Past, Embracing Our Future."
promise that events will include multiple perspectives
-- Union, Confederate and African-American -- and
will tell a balanced story of Virginia's involvement.
African-Americans, the Civil War conjures images of
pain, exclusion and slavery, said the chairman of
the Legislative Black Caucus.
once I say that, it's part of history, and I think
we've gotten to a place where we recognize that we
cannot rewrite history," said Del. Dwight Clinton
Jones, D-Richmond. "Therefore it's important
to bring it to mind and to learn it and to learn from
important to educate people -- especially children
-- about the Civil War, said an African-American member
of the commission.
there are parts of it that none of us particularly
like, it's still history, it's still part of our state,"
said Del. Algie T. Howell, D-Norfolk, who became the
first black social studies teacher at Hampton High
School in 1967. "It's important that people learn
this year's observance of the 400th anniversary of
the Jamestown settlement drew international attention
and visitors to Virginia, the years-long Civil War
event has "the potential in a different sort
of way to be as significant, even more so," said
House Speaker William J. Howell, R-Stafford, the commission's
commission particularly wants to reach out to young
people, as well as immigrants who may have endured
civil strife in their home countries and aren't familiar
with the American war that threatened to tear apart
the young nation.
commemoration will be statewide in scope and will
involve all battlefields, museums, parks and other
Civil War-related sites.
commission will work with the Virginia Historical
Society to develop what it describes as a major statewide
traveling exhibition that would fall into two parts,
battle front and home front.
would open in Richmond in February 2011. Tentative
plans call for it to travel to Roanoke, Abingdon,
Lynchburg, Fredericksburg, Winchester, Manassas and
Norfolk during the following three years.
commission is looking into a "Civil War 150 History
Mobile," a tractor-trailer exhibit that would
visit every city and county in Virginia.
also considering sponsoring a three-hour DVD about
the war, with Blue Ridge Public Television and Tech's
Civil War center, which would be distributed free
to every school, library, archive and historical society
in the state.
General Assembly unanimously approved the creation
of the commission last year. The measure was sponsored
by William J. Howell, whose district includes the
addition to the commission, dozens of educators, historians,
community leaders and others -- including representatives
from such institutions as the Museum of the Confederacy
and the National Slavery Museum -- serve on three
work groups and an advisory council.
part of Virginia was touched by some part of the war,"
said Howell, who remembers hearing cannon fire near
his home in Centreville during the 1961 re-enactment
of the First Battle of Manassas.
called the upcoming commemoration an exciting opportunity
to promote tourism and enhance education.
members don't know what the final cost will be and
recently hired a fundraiser. The bulk of the money
given so far by the assembly for the commemoration
was for a visitor center and museum that the group
has decided against constructing. That money, however,
likely will help fund the traveling exhibits and other
don't need another museum," Howell said. "We've
got great museums all across the commonwealth. What
we need to do is find a way to encourage people to
go visit all the ones we have."
F. Bryan Jr., president and chief executive officer
of the historical society, approached Howell about
creating the commission.
think we have a great opportunity to do it and do
it well," he said he told the House speaker.
"It's something that should not be neglected
instance, Bryan said, never in the history of modern
warfare have two enemy capitals been so close. Less
than 100 miles separate Richmond and Washington, accounting
for the huge number of battles fought on the land
people drive along Interstate 95 and U.S. 1 there
today, "you're driving up a corridor of blood
and death for all the skirmishes and battles fought
there," Bryan said.