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Nearly 150 year ago, the "most perfect union" dissolved into two warring nations. In a conflict that pitted brother against brother, two nations emerged with differing perspectives, economies, and allegiances. The Civil War was America’s most costly conflict, killing a generation of soldiers, some 620,000 in all. Beyond the battlefield, civilians died from fighting, disease and starvation from 1861-1865.
More battles were fought in Virginia than in any other state, and even after Lee’s surrender at Appomattox, the commonwealth’s economy would not fully recover for more than a century. It was a complicated time, with lessons to be learned about conflict resolution, reconciliation and restoration. It was also a time of exploration and discovery of core human rights leading to the quest for full civil rights for all citizens.
Immediately after Virginia’s secession from the Union in April of 1861 and Union forces occupied Alexandria, it was a time of testing for Americans. The first major battle of the Civil War occurred on July 21, 1861 among the fields and farms of Prince William County, near Manassas Junction. An unexpected Confederate victory proved that the war would be long and costly.
To commemorate the American Civil War, the Virginia Sesquicentennial of the American Civil War Commission and dozens of county and city jurisdictions have planned a unique series of events that will welcome groups and individuals. There will be re-enactments and seminars, concerts, living history demonstrations, boat and driving tours and lectures.
Interactive opportunities abound, to follow the footsteps of John Singleton Mosby, to march in formation at Pamplin Park, to firing a cannon, wielding a saber, treating the wounded, to snacking on hardtack.
The state will sponsor a series of signature conferences and events. Among the first of the first 2011 offerings will be a national event at the National Battlefield Park followed by a re-creation of the Peace Jubilee commemorating the handshake between Union and Confederate troops a half century after the conflict. The Jubilee will be followed by music and living history along the historic streets of Old Town Manassas. The Prince William events will focus on the theme "Where the battle began, heroes emerged and peace prevails."
Events will continue statewide through 2014, the anniversary year of Lee’s surrender at Appomattox. Virginia will welcome groups from around the world to interact, listen, learn and experience their American story.
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