Is the Civil War Sesquicentennial Losing Steam?

Screen Shot 2014-05-22 at 6.58.12 PMI don’t know, maybe it’s just me. But it seems that for the last year, Civil War sesquicentennial events have sort of lost their punch. Sure, I have seen a number of things mentioned on Facebook and elsewhere noting this or that 2014 sesquicentennial event, but nothing to equal the whoop-dee-do of last summer: the grand event to beat all grand events…the 150th anniversary of the battle of Gettysburg.

There are two things that could explain this, at least in the East. One, Gettysburg is the last of the big set-piece battles. 1864 was more of a long military grind to an even longer siege with no really big flag-raising show stoppers. Two, much of the celebrating/commemorating goes on in the South – where white southerners do a lot of the commemorating. Now if you hold true to the Appomattox Syndrome (I’ll explain if you ask), there is really not much to get excited about.

At any rate, this is just something that I am picking up as I do my usual perusing around the Internet. What do you think?

With compliments,

Keith

6 thoughts on “Is the Civil War Sesquicentennial Losing Steam?”

  1. I think nothing matches Gettysburg because it’s the crown jewel, so there is inevitably going to be a drop-off in perceived enthusiasm. However, I think the coverage of the Overland Sesquicentennial shows that there is still a high level of enthusiasm. Next weekend is the 2014 Virginia Signature Conference at George Mason University. History mobiles in Virginia and Pennsylvania are still crisscrossing those states.

    1. I may indeed be way off base here, Al. And I have noticed that there are plenty of announcements for commemorative events concerning the 150th of 1864 events. But still, they just don’t seem to be getting the same responses that we saw back in 2011, 12, and 13. Maybe things will pick back up again in 2015. We’ll just have to wait and see.

  2. I think a lot of folks who are experiencing the sesqui from the field think otherwise. Wish you could have been out at the events. The depth and quality of the programs this last month (in both Virginia and Georgia) equal if not surpass Gettysburg. Indeed, from my personal perspective, I found the GB 2013 events a little flat. Perhaps it had to be, “tamed” to the larger audience. So when you say “they don’t seem to be getting the same responses…” I’d have to ask for particulars. What events/venues/engagements are not getting the responses?

    As I wrote in my response to Gary Gallagher’s denouncement of the 150ths, if you are a trinket dealer from Birmingham… yes the sesqui is a bust. Then again, this wasn’t about the trinket dealer from Birmingham, was it?

    1. Thanks fr your comment, Craig. Unfortunately, I am experiencing the sesquicentennial almost entirely as an absentee (I wish it were otherwise). So as I admitted to Al in the previous comment, I may be completely off base here. My particulars involve not seeing nearly as much media coverage for the ’64 events as I did for say, South Carolina’s secession ball in 2010 or the Jefferson Davis inauguration reenactment in 2011. This may indeed be due to the controversy surrounding the events. I hope to head east in 2015 to witness the Appomattox commemorations and see for myself. I think when this is all over, someone should (and I am sure someone will) write up a comprehensive report.

  3. For me, living in Georgia, the Sesquicentennial events are gaining steam. I was able to attend the Chickamauga event last September and plan to attend the Kennesaw event next month. There will be events in Altanta this summer and fall. I can’t really travel all over for events, so I can’t say how they compare to the Gettysburg event, but I overheard a lot of folks at Chickamauga comparing all the events they’d been to over the last few years. I do hope to attend the Appomattox event – it could be an interesting comparison.

    1. Thanks for your comment, Valerie. It certainly seems as though there is a wide range of opinion here. I have heard elsewhere that the whole thing seems to be dying out since last year. I would love to hear how the Georgia events turn out – please feel free to post here and send pictures!

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