onward to Appomattox [Richmond Times-Dispatch, Va.]
(Richmond Times-Dispatch (VA) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Oct. 21--Halfway through Virginia's 150th anniversary commemoration of the American Civil War, the payoff is coming in higher numbers for attractions and greater progress toward a shared story of the war that defined America.
Momentum appears to be building toward 2015, the final year of the commemoration. A broader story about the 1861-65 conflict that includes emancipation as well as battles has brought in a broader audience.
"In a sense, it can be called a hidden success," said James I. "Bud" Robertson Jr., alumni distinguished professor of history at Virginia Tech, a member of the Virginia Sesquicen- tennial of the American Civil War Commission and executive director of the U.S. Civil War Centennial Commission in the 1960s.
"The seeds are being planted in fresh ground," Robertson said.
"No one's calling me saying we're not seeing people interested in this," said Mitch Bowman, executive director of Virginia Civil War Trails. "I'm hearing the opposite of that. Everyone's numbers are up.
"We hit the ground running. We were not caught flat-footed."
i am here a prisoner of war and mortally wounded.'
A previously unknown fetter, dated July 4th, 1GG3. from Jahn Winn Mose ley, on the battlefield of Gettysburg, Pa.,ta his mother in Buckingham County.
Waterwhf painting titled, "Ft, Roblnett, Corinth, Miss,,The Ohio Brigade, Octbr the 4ttti] 1862," by Gustavus A, Dey, At the Battle of Corinth, Company F of the 2nd U.S. Artillery was attached to the Ohio Brigade and Dey participated in the battle.
This image and the latter above were added to the Library of ViTginia^
"I think we've got the best game in the country," said Christy Coleman, president of the American Civil War Center at Historic Tredegar. "What Richmond has done has been stellar and has been praised numerous times in a variety of publications. It's definitely been a model."
Virginia got a head start on the commemoration by establishing its Sesqui- centennial Commission in 2006. State appropriations totaled approximately $2 million for each fiscal year from 2008 to 2012. Spending was around $2 million in the first two years,
when major exhibits and programs were being created, but has been well less than $1 million for the past three years, ranging from $640,825 to $838,244.
Visitation has not approached the 104,000 reported at Shiloh, Tenn., in April 2012, or the 235,000 reported at Gettysburg in July. Virginia's biggest anniversary event so far has been at Manassas, which drew 25,000 despite 100-degree temperatures in July 2011. Richmond counted about 8,500 at anniversary events in 2012 for the Seven Days Battles.
Organizers predict strong interest for next year's anniversary of horrendous battles from Fredericksburg to Richmond to Petersburg.
"From what I can see, we are just arriving at the most exciting part," said Edward L. Ayers, president of the University of Richmond and a Civil War scholar.
"By expanding the story to include the fight for emancipation, the anniversary of 2015 will be more than the somewhat anticlimactic anniversary of the end of the war -- it will mark the beginning of the fight for freedom. Richmond will be right in the middle of that story....
"For the Civil War itself, the anniversaries of the Overland Campaign, of Petersburg and the Crater, and of Appomattox are now understood to be central to the outcome of the war and fascinating stories full of drama."
Tourism research finds strong visitor interest.
In a survey conducted for the Virginia Tourism Corp., approximately 10 percent of all Virginia visitors took in a Civil War site as part of their trip, according to the Sesqui- centennial Commission's impact report released at the beginning of 2013.
Civil War travel information was requested by nearly 20 percent of all visitors to the state tourism website.
A historic sites visitor profile report for 2012 found that the top 25 Virginia attractions included nine Civil War sites -- seven Civil War Trails in different regions, Manassas National Battlefield Park and Arlington National Cemetery.
Major programsfor the Sesquicentennial include:
--The state's Civil War 150 HistoryMobile, which debuted at the 150th anniversary of the first Battle of Manassas in 2011.
Since then, it has made 120 stops, including Antie- tam, Md., in 2012, and Gettysburg, Pa., in 2013. Total visitation has reached approximately 130,000, including 21,334 people at the Virginia State Fair this fall. Next year's 40 stops include Georgia and Mississippi.
--The Civil War 150 Legacy Project, providing document digitization and access.
More than 32,000 images have been scanned into the archives of the Library of Virginia through more than 140 events around the state, said Renee Sa- vits, project senior archivist. Included are a previously unknown letter written by a dying soldier at Gettysburg to his mother on July 4,1863, and an until-now unseen water- color of a battle scene at Corinth, Miss., by Gusta- vus Dey, who was there with the 2nd U.S. Artillery and inserted himself into the painting he copied from a lithograph.
--The gallery exhibition, "An American Turning Point: The Civil War in Virginia."
The Virginia Historical Society, which curated the project, had its attendance jump from 64,000 to 78,000 in 2011, the year that it was home to the exhibition. Visitation to traveling components at other museums increased the total to more than 107,000 people so far, said Cheryl Jackson, executive director of the Virginia Sesquicentennial commission.
Civil Warattractions have also benefited from the attention.
--Visitation at the Museum of the Confederacy increased 27 percent in 2011, from 44,000 the previous year to 56,000, and it remained at that level for the second year of the commemoration, said S. Waite Rawls III, president and CEO.
"With more hype from Gettysburg, we've seen another 12 percent increase this summer compared to last summer," he said.
The new Appomattox location of the Museum of the Confederacy had 30,000 visitors in its first year and slightly more in its second year, when visitation at a new attraction typically dips, he said. From mostly Virginians in the first year, the demographics shifted to more out-of-state visitors who planned trips to see it in the second year, Rawls added.
--Virginia Civil War Trails were visited by more than 60 percent of historic site travelers in the 2012 survey by TNS TravelsAmerica for the Virginia Tourism Corp.
"It's all we can do to keep our map guides on the shelf," said Bowman, whose trail system now extends into six states. He has just ordered 300,000 more copies of the most popular map guide, Lee's Retreat -- the second reprint in 2Viyears. Website traffic has doubled to about 5,000 downloads of maps each month, he said.
In the week around the Gettysburg commemoration last summer, Civil War Trails literature was completely emptied at several places in the Shenandoah Valley, Bowman said.
"People coming and going to Gettysburg took our literature with them. Whenever someone does something to promote Civil War heritage or visitation, it helps all the surrounding Civil War sites," he said.
Richmond RegionTourism has put more emphasis on marketing the Steven Spielberg movie "Lincoln" than on marketing the Civil War in the past year, said Jennifer Car- nam, vice president of marketing. The movie was filmed in the Richmond area in 2011. Lincoln visited Richmond in 1865.
"There is story after story connected to Lincoln's visit and the Lincoln film," Carnam said. "That worked out well for us at a time when Gettysburg got all that Civil War battlefield attention."
Carnam expects Civil War enthusiasts to focus on Richmond next year when the April anniversary of the Bermuda Hundred campaign in Chesterfield County will include an opportunity for re-enactors to build their own fortifications. In September 1864, at the Battle of New Market Heights in Henrico County, the fighting earned Medals of Honor for 14 black soldiers in U.S. Colored Troops.
"When you bookend a summer with two historically important and, from a tourism perspective, really interesting events that are diverse, it's good," Carnam said. "It gives us more to focus on in the next year."
David Ruth, superintendent of Richmond National Battlefield Park, said the commemoration next year will unite all three of the Virginia battlefields from Fredericksburg to Petersburg.
Among the special programs will be the lighting of 3,500 candles at Cold Harbor to represent the 3,500 deaths that occurred during the fighting there from May 31 to June 12, 1864. The candle-lighting will occur at Fredericksburg, Richmond and Petersburg battlefields on May 24, a Day of Reverberation, that will also have programs in Litchfield, Conn.; Vicksburg, Miss.; and Woodstock, Vt. -- three communities whose soldiers suffered large numbers of casualties in the battles.
Ruth said some of his colleagues were concerned that interest in the 150th anniversary commemoration would wane after Manassas, as seemed to happen in the 100th anniversary.
"In fact, the opposite has happened," he said. "When it comes to the actual programming, the interest people have in coming out to do the real-time events is staggering, to the point that we are very carefully planning our events in 2014 to accommodate the crowds that are expected."
For Bowman, the interest in Civil War Trails has resulted in 60 new trail markers in Virginia in the past 2V-iyears. Among them are one in Rappahannock County for Sister Caroline, an emancipated slave who lived to be 108 years old, and one near Harrisonburg for the only anti-slavery United Brethren congregation established in the Confederacy.
"Not everyone cares about the battles," Bowman said. "They all can relate to the struggles of individuals."
Ayers, who opened a discussion of "The Future of Richmond's Past" in 2009, also sees intangible gains for Richmond and its residents.
"Richmond itself is learning how to tell its own stories," he said. "People seem unafraid to talk openly about slavery and its legacy, perhaps for the first time. People seem eager to understand histories other than their own.
"People realize that our history is a living presence, for good and ill, in our city. It cannot be commemorated once and then set aside for another half- century. It is always with us, whether we acknowledge it or not."
(c)2013 the Richmond Times-Dispatch (Richmond, Va.)
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