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    Document Summary
    - Report Published -

    Report Document No. 417
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    Document Title
    Civil War Sesquicentennial in Virginia: Impact at the Halfway Mark

    Virginia Sesquicentennial of the American Civil War Commission

    Enabling Authority
    30-272 (8.)

    Executive Summary
    The history of Virginia is the history of the United States. The places, the people, and the stories that run through the Commonwealth form our national identity, beginning at Jamestown and continuing through today. However, no time was more defining for the nation – and the state – than the Civil War, and there is no place better than Virginia to more fully understand its complexity – its causes, gains, losses, and legacies. The sesquicentennial has been tremendously successful in increasing interest in, and visitation to, sites and events related to the Civil War, and Virginia serves as a national model for programs that include multiple perspectives and invite widespread participation.

    The sesquicentennial differs from other commemorations because of its depth, duration, and reach: it encompasses one of the nation's most critical and defining times; spans a four-year period (2011 – 2015); and is geographically dispersed across Virginia. Understanding the centrality of Virginia to the anniversary, as well as recognizing its tremendous potential in terms of education, economic, tourism, and preservation opportunities, William J. Howell, Speaker of the House of Delegates, sponsored legislation in 2006 to create the Virginia Sesquicentennial of the American Civil War Commission, the first of its kind in the nation. Speaker Howell chairs the legislative commission, and Senator Charles J. Colgan, Sr. serves as vice-chair. The Commission's work is supported and enhanced by Governor McDonnell and his administration. In the absence of a federal sesquicentennial commission, Virginia leads the nation, by virtue of its strong state support, comprehensive initiatives and partnerships, and inclusive approach.

    The Commission quickly embraced goals that would guide the commemoration: statewide reach, lasting impact, and a comprehensive approach that would examine the Civil War in Virginia from many perspectives: battlefront and home front, soldier and civilian, free and enslaved.

    Programs marking the 150th anniversary of the Civil War in Virginia began as early as 2009, with Virginia hosting the first major sesquicentennial program in the nation, a Signature Conference discussing America on the Eve of the Civil War. Public attention increased exponentially by 2011 as the battle anniversaries began. The Commission joined with the National Park Service in co-hosting the 150th Anniversary Commemoration of the First Battle of Manassas in July 2011, an event that drew thousands and was recommended as the top-rated event in the United States by the American Bus Association.

    By any measure, it is clear there is a vibrant interest in the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, and that partners throughout Virginia have recognized and maximized its opportunities. Virginia is leading the way in the national sesquicentennial commemoration.