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Discover Mid-America— April 2011

A nation once divided, remembers…

The Civil War (1861-1865)

In the wee hours of April 12, 1861, Confederate soldiers opened fire upon the U.S. military installation Fort Sumter in Charleston, SC. This act of aggression committed by U.S. citizens who had seceded from the Union officially marked the beginning of the American Civil War.

From 1861 until 1865, 620,000 soldiers and an undetermined number of civilians perished in what remains the bloodiest war in American history.

Reasons for brother turning upon brother included haggles about states’ rights vs. federal; the cultural, political and economic values of an agricultural society pitted against a growing industrial one; land rights as America spanned westward; and most pivotal, the ethical question of “does one man have the right to enslave another?”

The creation of the Republican party and the controversial presidential election of Abraham Lincoln in 1860, a man who opposed slavery and supported economic modernization, added timber to the roaring fire of Southern discontent.

In 1863, following the Battle of Gettysburg where Union soldiers defeated Confederate soldiers, Lincoln delivered one of the most famous speeches in American history, “The Gettysburg Address.” In it, he exhorted listeners to uphold the right of equal representation set forth in the United States Constitution, so “that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

The Civil War officially ended on April 9, 1865, when Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered to General Ulysses S. Grant at the Battle of Appomattox in Virginia. Five days later, on April 14, Lincoln was assassinated by actor John Wilkes Booth while watching the play Our American Cousin at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, D.C. The assassination was a failed attempt to further rally the Confederate cause.

Following, is a list of only some of the many events scheduled in the Midwest this year that will commemorate the 150th Anniversary of the beginning of the American Civil War. Commemoration activities are slated to run through 2015, which will mark the 150th anniversary of the end of the Civil War.

To learn about other events, visit


Missouri’s Civil War began along the Nation’s Western Border, in the 1850s, in the conflict known as “Bleeding Kansas.” Missouri witnessed the greatest number of battles and engagements—more than 1,000—of any place except Virginia and Tennessee. (Source:

  • “Civil War in the West” guided gallery walk, April 7, 14, 21, and 28. Discover how the Civil War impacted western settlement. The National Frontier Trails Museum, Independence., 816-325-7575
  • “War comes to Westminster College,” April 16. Keynote speakers will address two kinds of Civil War heroes—the pro-Southern Missouri State Guard soldiers who marched off to war soon after Fort Sumter, and Callaway County slaves who became Union soldiers.Westminster College, Fulton., 573-642-3361
  • Camp Jackson: The Tipping Point, April 29-May 1. Events about the capture of Fort Jackson. Jefferson Barracks Park Historic Site, South St. Louis., 314-544-6224
  • “The Civil War in Missouri” exhibit, now through June 5. Uniforms, equipment and other artifacts demonstrate life of the common soldier. Jefferson Barracks Park Historic Site, Old Ordnance Room, South St. Louis., 314-544-6224
  • Waverly Civil War History Festival, June 25-26. Reenactment of the marriage of Civil War Gen. Joseph Orville Shelby and Elizabeth Nancy Shelby. Waverly. 660-493-2459
  • The 150th anniversary of the Battle of Lone Jack, Aug. 18-19. Reenactment at the historic Noel-Shawhan house. Lone Jack Battlefield in the old town square, Lone Jack.    


Several skirmishes with Confederate units took place along the Missouri border in 1861, but the first real action for Kansas troops came at the Battle of Wilson’s Creek, near Springfield, Missouri, on August 10, 1861.

  • Kansas and the Civil War in American History and Memory, with Brian Craig Miller, April 4. Critical re-examination on how the Civil War affected Kansas. Presented by the Kansas Humanities Council. Kansas City Public Library, Kansas City., 913-279-2202
  • Civil War Day, April 16. Civil War reenactment day. See the Blue and the Gray go through their drills and skirmishes. Old Cowtown Museum, Wichita., 316-219-1871
  • John Brown’s Battle at Black Jack, June 4. Live period music, stage performances and historic artifacts. Black Jack Battlefield, Baldwin City., 785-883-2106
  • Civil War on the Western Frontier, Aug. 8-21. Living history events focused on historic Lawrence and Douglas County during the early Territorial days and the Civil War. Sites throughout Lawrence., 785-865-4499
  • Kansas Military Forts, with Leo E. Oliva, Aug. 20. The military posts Leavenworth, Scott, Riley, Larned, Harker, Dodge, Hays, and Wallace served a critical function during the Civil War. Wichita Genealogical Society, Alford Branch Library, Wichita. Presented by the Kansas Humanities Council. 316-337-9119
  • Freedom Festival, Sept. 17-18. Featuring first-person narratives, a Civil War reenactment, and frontier artisans. John Brown Memorial Park and Museum, Osawatomie. 913-755-4384


Arkansas was the site of more than 770 military actions between 1861 and 1865, and the war touched every community and county in the state.

  • Civil War Living History Day, May 7. Hot Springs National Park, 369 Central Avenue, Hot Springs. Learn how the Civil War affected residents of Arkansas., 501-620-6701
  • Civil War in the Ozarks: Facts and Fascination, May 12. Details the history of the Civil War on the battlefields and the home-front. The 1905 Basin Park Hotel, Eureka. A reception at the Eureka Springs Historical Museum will follow.
  • Blue and Gray: Documenting Civil War Arkansas, 1861-1865, now through May 31. Highlights rare Civil War artifacts and documents collected by the State Archives. Arkansas History Commission, One Capitol Mall, Little Rock.
  • Civil War in the Delta, July 23. Explores the history of the Civil War in the Delta region. Arkansas Post National Memorial, Gillett.
  • Federal Occupation of Fort Smith, September 17. The interpretive program, the 11th United States Colored Troops, will perform demonstrations. Fort Smith National Historic Site, Fort Smith.
  • Civil War Weekend, November 5-6. Re-enactors from across the region will present living history demonstrations, including combat scenarios, throughout the weekend. Historic Washington State Park, Washington. 


Abraham Lincoln declared publicly a confidence that cool heads would prevail among Southern leaders, that a kind of silent majority would express its affection for the nation of the Founders, and that bloodshed would be avoided. (Source:

  • Team of Rivals: Lincoln’s Cabinet at the Crossroads of War, A Civil War Sesquicentennial Exhibit, now through Aug. 15. Go inside the highest levels of the U.S. government as Abraham Lincoln and his cabinet struggle with the momentous issue of war. Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, Springfield.
  • Currency in Conflict: Money of the Civil War exhibit, April 12-June 3. This exhibit explores “emergency money” such as demand notes, greenbacks, encased postage stamps, and Civil War tokens, and the first coin to feature the motto “In God We Trust.” Presented by the U.S. American Numismatic Association. Elmhurst Public Library, Elmhurst., 630-279-8696
  • U.S. Grant, The Hero of Appomattox, April 13. Grant, a portrayal by Terry Lynch, reveals how the war impacted the lives of all Americans from the battlefields to the home front. Registration required. Bartlett History Museum, Bartlett Village Hall, Bartlett., 630-837-0800


Five historic sites, owned by the Oklahoma Historical Society, are associated with the Civil War: Honey Springs Battlefield, Fort Gibson Historic Site, Fort Towson Historic Site, Fort Washita Historic Site, and the George Murrell Home. (Source:

  • Reenactment of the Battle of Honey Springs, April 29-May 1. Five thousand reenactors are expected, including African American and Native American troops, artillery and Calvary. Honey Springs Battlefield, north of Checotah., 918-473-5572.

For more information on commemoration events, visit Submit press releases about upcoming Civil War commemoration events to