Winners and Losers of the Sesquicentennial

I am in the process of going through old posts in preparation for an essay on the Civil War sesquicentennial. I’ve identified a number of themes that I will explore as I try to place the past few years within a broader context stretching back to the Civil War centennial.

Here is your chance to offer some thoughts about what we’ve experienced since 2011. Who or what do you think were the big winners and losers of the Civil War sesquicentennial? You can be as specific or as broad as you choose. You can identify individuals (past or present), organizations, events and even historical themes/narratives. Feel free to be as creative as you want in formulating your response.

For example, in my opinion one of the big winners of the 150th was the history and memory of the United States Colored Troops. On the other hand, the clear loser was the veneration for and display of the Confederate flag.

So, what do you think?

53 comments… add one
  • Tom Apr 28, 2015 @ 1:34

    A big winner was a broader examination of the role of foreign policy and foreign governments during the conflict. While most examinations in the past have focused on US?CS dealings with England France, excellent books came out that showed other countries, notably Spain, were in play as well and the war had global implications.
    I am not sure if this is a winner or loser, but I a number of books and events that came out or took place over the last five years were more about today, politics and/or political correctness than actual history. I saw some “commemorations” that simply made my eyes roll. I also read too many books by authors, both liberal and conservative, who used the war to promote their own agendas.

    • Kevin Levin Apr 28, 2015 @ 3:09

      I also read too many books by authors, both liberal and conservative, who used the war to promote their own agendas.

      Thanks for the comment. Any examples that you care to share from both sides of what you see as the political spectrum?

      • Tom Apr 28, 2015 @ 14:34

        There are too many for me even to begin. I am reading one now that is a series of essays about the CW as a global event and it has one about 20th century South Africa apartheid and the film Gone With the Wind, that does not talk at all about the 1860s except how Hollywood showed it.
        What seems to be the common trend is that many writers are trying to impose their 21st century values on people and events of the 19th century, which is in my mind one of the greatest traps and mistake any historian can make.

        • Kevin Levin Apr 28, 2015 @ 14:44

          It sounds like the essay is not about the Civil War directly, but about how it was depicted in Gone With the Wind. I find such subjects to be fascinating and worthy of exploration.

  • A. Jackson Apr 26, 2015 @ 3:04

    I did a brief search on Chinese participants in the Civil War, and the DOD estimates that 50 is the estimated total. But there could have been more, since some may have taken English names. Just an FYI.

  • Pat Young Apr 25, 2015 @ 19:18

    One loser was inclusiveness beyond white and black. A few weeks ago, I heard David Blight say that 100 million Americans are descended from Civil War soldiers. Which means that 200 million are not. Ancestry based history will become marginal soon. There are lots of “new Americans” here now. Deal with it.

    A lot of the discussions about inclusiveness for the Sesqui seemed to focus on the white/black binary. The fastest growing parts of the population don’t fit in that segregated box.

    DKG made some effort to broaden the brand by tying in LGBT rights, quite appropriately in my opinion, to the Civil War and she got pretty well mocked in the heteronormative world of battlefield denizens. Most of the folks wondering why there were not more blacks at NPS events did not ask why there were even fewer Latinos or Asian Americans in attendance. Blacks make up 13% of the population, Latinos and Asians combine for 22%. By Contrast, blacks were 12% of the population in 2000 and Asians and Latinos were only 16%. Non-Hispanic whites dropped from 69% to 62% of the population in a decade.

    • A. Jackson Apr 26, 2015 @ 2:48

      I think DKG was mocked more for making a speech where she became the centerpiece rather than the actual battle, but that’s just my take. NPS has a nice booklet on Latino participation in the war, including the 48th Pennsylvania’s own Henry Pleasants, whose mother was Argentinean. Since my grandson’s other grandmother is Mexican I feel this general omission too, along with less emphasis on Native Americans. But I know that people of all nationalities visit the parks.

  • Dudley Bokoski Apr 25, 2015 @ 16:38

    The Navy lost. It would have been nice to think the 150th would have sparked a reexamination of the role of the navies in the war but it doesn’t appear to have. I wish it had because the more I’ve read of contemporary accounts the greater respect I have for what the Navy accomplished. I believe you can argue persuasively the Navy won the Western Theater. And if there had been a more coherent strategy in the East and better commanders I think the advantages the Navy gained there might have been exploited to shorten the war.

  • Glenn B Apr 25, 2015 @ 14:05

    My nomination for winner would be the National Park Service, because lets face it, they were absolutely the most important cog in the sesquicentennial. No one worked harder over the last 4 years on planning, researching for, and staging commemorative events than they did. Their passionate army of historians/guides, groundskeepers, and security forces is the super hero of the sesquicentennial.

    Land preservation would be my next winner. The last 4 years has seen some major successes; such as what is going on in places like Franklin, TN, and Williamsburg, Va.

    Losers: The Lost Cause was hammered hard, and its proponents seemed to be hiding in the corner, or ineffectually chirping from the sidelines. That certainly wasn’t the case during the centennial.

    Put me down as also believing that Vicksburg came out a loser, too. Sadly. The 150th of Gettysburg overwhelmingly got the press and overshadowed the equally (if not debatably more important) event in the war’s outcome. More broadly, I think you could argue that the whole Western Theater lost to the Eastern Theater. Of course, that sadly should come as no surprise.

    • A. Jackson Apr 26, 2015 @ 2:39

      Seeing the enthusiasm of visitors to Petersburg, and knowing the hard work the NPS put in on the events there, I agree Glenn. Some events generated more interest than others, naturally. The turnout for the commemoration of the fall of Ft Mahone was small, around 50 people who were all local, while other programs on the weekends were very well-attended. But large or small they were memorable in their own way.The West was pretty much ignored nationally, even Vicksburg. I have found that most people aren’t even aware of Wilson’s Creek and Pea Ridge, where my Missouri ancestors fought for the Union. Even C-span fell down in estimation on covering events outside of the east.

  • Forester Apr 24, 2015 @ 19:58

    LOSERS: People who missed out on the events.

    WINNERS: People who realized they could still follow it online (ie, Kevin’s C-Span address).

    It kills me that I missed literally EVERY event in the sesquicentennial. Being a broke Millennial with no car, student debts and frequent unemployment (I’ve been laid off 3 times since 2011, each time because the business closed) … it just wasn’t feasible. And it’s a shame … I would LOVE to have reenacted. Being between 23 and 27 during the sesquicentennial, I was the perfect age to play a Civil War soldier. But I’m also 6′ 6″ and can’t afford to buy uniforms and shoes in my size. It’s an expen$$$$ive hobby.

    I wonder how much lack of attendance is due to disinterest, and how much is simply economic. I really wanted to go to Petersburg and see Kevin in person. But the money just wasn’t there. Luckily, I followed a lot of the events online, and I imagine a lot of people in my situation did the same thing. Videos and articles on the Civil War got an awful lot of web traffic. so don’t forget about the “virtual” attendees. I think people are still interested in the Civil War, just look at pop culture. “Killing Lincoln” on the bestsellers list. 12 Years a Slave, D’Jango Unchained, Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter, Lincoln, Field of Lost Shoes, Point of Honor …… okay, some of those examples were crappy. But even the crap shows that audiences are interested in the subject matter.

    (On a side note, I still cannot spell “sesquicentennial” without using spell check. Cannot do it.)

  • Christian McWhirter Apr 24, 2015 @ 12:31

    Someone mentioned social media and it’s my perception that Civil War commentators who work in social media significantly benefited from the sesquicentennial. Bloggers and “twitterstorians” in particular seemed to increase their profiles, in part, because the various anniversaries and products of those anniversaries created so many more opportunities for commentary. Of course, it helped that many, like you, were able to do so in interesting ways.

    Even outside of the Civil War community, there were several examples. Ta-Nehisi Coates is probably the most prominent, who used the sesquicentennial as an opportunity to further incorporate the Civil War and its legacy into his overall point of view on American history and current affairs. New York Times’s Disunion blog is another, which essentially turned an entire camp of professional and amateur historians into at least part-time bloggers.

    Did interest in your blog significantly increase over the past 4 years? Did it wax and wane as certain events came and went (such as Spielberg’s Lincoln or the Gettysburg anniversary)?

    • Kevin Levin Apr 24, 2015 @ 13:20

      Hi Christian,

      It’s difficult to gauge how much of my readership is the result of the popularity of the sesquicentennial. Certainly there were dips and spikes and I can tell what kinds of searches visitors used to arrive at my site. Overall, my readership has increased steadily each year.

      What I think is important is that access to social media has democratized Civil War memory. Institutions of various kinds certainly influence our collective memory, but the use of twitter, YouTube, blogs, etc. has given each individual a unique voice that is often difficult to integrate into neat categories.

      • MSB Apr 24, 2015 @ 22:24

        “Democratized Civil War memory”
        Very important point, Kevin, which I hope you’ll explore in yor essay. A lot of your work stresses the pros and cons of this.

  • Tom Thompson Apr 24, 2015 @ 12:29

    Local historical societies and Civil War Roundtables were big winners. Membership interest took a significant bounce. Speakers were afforded many more opportunities to tell their stories. Media picked up on the opportunities to focus upon the sesqui messages emanating from the CW clubs. These local efforts filled the gaps left when state historical societies fumbled the opportunity to engage in the discussion.

    • Kevin Levin Apr 24, 2015 @ 13:27

      Local historical societies and Civil War Roundtables were big winners.

      I chaired a panel for a public history award and was blown away by the number of submissions from very small (local) museums.

  • Phil LeDuc Apr 24, 2015 @ 10:43

    Briefly put, from my viewpoint on the other side of the country here are some “winners” (or at least entities/activities deserving of kudos)-
    1. Preservation – the CWT (full disclosure: I’m a member) really accelerated its fund-raising and land
    purchases. And its website is one of the best. Kudos also to local/regional organizations such as
    the Central Virginia Battlefields Trust and many more.
    2. C-Span – thank goodness for C-Span for bringing so many of the 150th activities, conferences, etc. to
    those of us 2,800 miles away. (And I include the online availability too.)
    3. Students/readers of Civil War history – the 150th brought a flood of new books about all sorts of aspects
    of the war. While the Sesquicentennial may not have provided the impetus for all of them, it certainly
    motivated a lot. The many Petersburg books, a previously rather under-explored campaign, come to
    4. The role of African-Americans in the war. Surely now there is greater understanding of just how
    important the USCT’s were in winning the war.
    5. The state of Virginia. Again, from 2,800 miles away it looked like no state did more to fully participate
    and take a leading role in the Sesquicentennial. While some might say, “Well, of course. How could
    they not?” it seems to me that a number of other states of almost equal standing that could have
    stepped forward failed to do so. So huzzah to Virginia.
    6. There could be more, but I’ll end with a hats-off and thank you to a personal winner – Al Mackey and his
    always helpful website. Thanks for pointing out so many of the videos of conferences, tours, ranger
    talks, and other activities that were on C-Span and other websites. I constantly checked his site
    to see what was available for viewing. From one student of the Civil War to the Student of the
    Civil War – Thank You!

  • lunchcountersitin Apr 24, 2015 @ 10:21

    I am not in a good position to assess winners and losers. However, it does seem that Virginia in general, and the Richmond/Petersburg area in particular, did a great job of commemorating the War throughout the entire Sesquicentennial period.

    On the other hand, it seems to me that the state of Louisiana was simply not engaged in commemorating the war. That state was very important in terms of the African American role in the war: 3 of the first 5 black Union regiments were organized in the state; the state produced the largest amount of black Union soldiers of any state; and these black soldiers helped pave the way for the acceptance of black troops as capable combatants. I don’t think this got the attention it deserved; perhaps someone from the state can reply and set the record straight.

    Of note is that there is no monument or memorial to black soldiers in New Orleans, despite the significance of black troops (most prominently the Native Guards) in and around the city. A monument was installed in Donaldsonville several years ago (D-ville is between New Orleans and Baton Rouge), but it would have been nice to see more activity on this front over the last 4 years. Truly a lost opportunity. And if it didn’t happen for the Sesqui, I don’t know when or if it will ever happen. We can only speculate about what stumbling blocks might be in place.

    – Alan

    • Jimmy Dick Apr 24, 2015 @ 15:33

      It would not have fit in with the Teabagger agenda of lying to the people about the past. The last thing the Teabaggers want are people who learn factual history. Note how the Louisiana GOP gutted public education as well as higher education. Whenever you see a Republican saying they support education, what they really mean is they support private education at the expense of public education.

      Explaining that the Civil War was caused by slavery conflicts massively with the state’s rights lie they have crafted.

  • Buck Buchanan Apr 24, 2015 @ 9:10

    Here are my main observations

    I think Civil War preservation has been a big winner. Whether the Civil War Trust, the work of private institutions or the efforts of the National Park Service a lot of land had been preserved and/or opened up for touring that was endangered. Well done.

    The restoration of battlefields to their historically accurate state have greatly improved the view sheds for the casual as well as the serious tourist/student to appreciate what happened. I am looking mainly at Petersburg NBP, Vicksburg NMP & Gettysburg NMP but I know there are other places where this work has been done. When coupled with some of the mobile media tools now available these have become amazingly powerful teaching opportunities.

    Interpretation has improved dramatically. The expansion of the Civil War Trails system has increased the opportunities to follow entire campaigns as well as battles.

    Efforts on the local level have also seen a nice uptick, with local historical groups sponsoring events which range from commemoration to reenactment.

    Some folks never miss the opportunity to misinterpret the causes and the reasons for the war. This actually dishonors their “ancestors” in a lot of cases.

    Also lost is just because you had an ancestor who fought in the Civil War that does not mean your interpretations carry more weight than someone who can be a disinterested observer.

  • Bill Backus Apr 24, 2015 @ 8:15

    I think one of the major “winners” of the 150th is the state of Virginia. The state was able to challenge our collective idea of when the Civil War started (by having programs in 2009) and ended (the 150th Historymobile will be around until next year). The large number of special exhibits and programs drew a large number of heritage tourists from all across the country and other parts of the world. I hope that the lasting legacy of the 150th is to convince local governments and organizations that heritage tourism pays and that preserved Civil War battlefields and other historic sites not only enrich the local community but can draw visitors into their local shops and restaurants.

    I think the other major “winner” is the Civil War preservation. The Civil War Trust has been able to successfully harness the enthusiasm for the Civil War into saved land from Gettysburg to Bentonville to Franklin and over a dozen other places.

    I think the biggest “losers” of the 150th would have to be the other states that attempted to explore the War. I don’t want to throw any states under the bus, but most other states that formed Sesquicentennial Commissions in 2011 really puttered out along the way. Besides for North Carolina and Virginia, I don’t know of any other state supported Civil War programs in 2015. But I guess at least they had them.

  • Ian Delahanty Apr 24, 2015 @ 8:03

    Those of us who teach the Civil War were winners in the sesquicentennial. The range of events (public lectures, reenactments and memorial re-dedications, and film releases–especially Django, Twelve Years…, and Lincoln) that emerged from or during the sesquicentennial commemoration gave me lots of options for getting students to engage the history of the Civil War era outside of the traditional classroom setting. And the sheer number of new books, articles, and especially digital projects that proliferated during the sesqui commemoration should change the way that we teach the Civil War era going forward. In a general sense, I found it relatively easy to make the war relevant for students because of the heightened attention to it outside of our classroom. I’ve started to wonder recently whether this same dynamic will apply to the major events of Reconstruction (thinking especially of the 14th and 15th Amendments, but also more local stories, too) and whether the 150th buzz will be as notable and useful for teaching Reconstruction as it was for the war. But either way, it was fun to teach the Civil War era over the course of the sesquicentennial commemoration, and I think that what came out of the past four years will continue to change and in many ways improve how the war is taught.

  • Charles T. Joyce Apr 24, 2015 @ 7:55

    I agree with the comment about the puzzling lack of engagement of President Obama during this period. Whatever you may think of him politically (I voted for him twice) it was really a shame that he apparently declined the opportunity to speak at Gettysburg on the 150th Anniversary of Lincoln’s dedication address. The symbolism would have been good for the country, and for the historical record we leave to our children and grandchildren.

    • A. Jackson Apr 24, 2015 @ 8:16

      I don’t get it either, Charles. And it seems there was never any presence from the administration at any event.. I voted for him twice too. One of the biggest gaffes from government here in Virginia was when McDonnell proclaimed Confederate Heritage Month. He had to walk that one back when there was outrage from the citizen, including this one!

      • pat Young Apr 24, 2015 @ 9:35

        No politician will go to an event where he will be booed. Considering the demographics at these events, it is likely a quarter of the audience would have thought him an “illegal alien”.

        Also, he staged one of the widest covered events of the Sesqui, which I am surprised to see is so soon forgotten. The Cushing Medal of Honor was the biggest CW event of 2014.

        No one dressed in butternut there hoping to capture Obama and ship him to a slave market in Richmond.

  • Pat Young Apr 24, 2015 @ 7:53

    Taking what James Withers writes a little further, web users were big winners. I watched nearly every NPS ceremony at the battlefields online or on CSPAN, same with hundreds of panel discussions and lectures posted online live or soon afterwards for anniversary programs, “signature events”, CW Institutes. I can watch them again on my mobile device when I get enough cash to visit the battlefields. And these will be a legacy that my grandchildren will be able to access.

    We live in an age of marvels. So many that we don’t even recognize them.

    • A. Jackson Apr 24, 2015 @ 8:11


  • Boyd Harris Apr 24, 2015 @ 7:09

    I would emphasize the impact of technology on the Sesquicentennial. From apps to social media, this event was disseminated in a variety of ways never before seen in previous commemorations. Because of technology, the conversation got larger and included folks from all over the country and the world. This blog is but one example. As to winners and losers, I would add that both groups benefited immensely from social media and technology.

  • Ken Noe Apr 24, 2015 @ 7:06

    Although some trends were developing before 2011, the sesquicentennial years saw the flowering of all sorts of new interpretive approaches: the “Dark Turn,” the “Long Civil War,” the new desire to push the boundaries of the war farther west, a new generation of guerrilla war scholarship, major new books on American slavery. We’ve also had watershed discussions of Civil War military history. I think scholars and readers will be the big winners down the road. In contrast, I read a lot around 2008-11 about how certain groups were planning to use the event to recapture the narrative. It didn’t happen, and they seem more splintered in 2015 as a result.

  • A. Jackson Apr 24, 2015 @ 6:33

    I agree that the focus on the USCT, especially since we hit the remembrance of the years 1864 and 1865, was very important and a clear winner.

    I do not understand the almost total lack of interest in the 150th by the current administration. Unless I missed something, rarely, if ever, did the president send anyone from the cabinet to an event, let alone attend himself. To be honest, I was only 15 when the centennial observance began, so I am not sure if there was much interest that came from official Washington or the White House, then either. This was very disappointing, however.

    Another loser was Doris Kearns Goodwin in her key note speech at Gettysburg, where she reminisced about dancing with Lyndon Johnson. I talked to many people after that event, and never heard a positive comment about her speech. Some people didn’t like it for other reasons, being more socially conservative, but I thought it was more about her, when I wanted to hear about the soldiers.

    Another winner was coverage of events by the media, including C-SPAN, the History Channel specials (even with some inaccuracies), a few movies, and more books on the war published from 2011 to the present.

    The inability to engage more African-American citizens participating in events was disappointing. Events I saw in person or saw in the media were definitely underrepresented, with the exception of the USCT march into Richmond earlier this month.

    I need to think about this a little more.

    • James Withers Apr 24, 2015 @ 6:58

      Wonder if African-Americans were still engaged even if we didn’t attend events. I didn’t go to one, but read about all them, watched multiple videos, and read numerous books/articles. Not trying to use the “royal we” here, but do wonder if AA participation can be measured in other ways.

      • A. Jackson Apr 24, 2015 @ 7:40

        Well, many people of any race would be precluded from attending due to distance from an event. And when a friend and I went to an outstanding exhibit at the Library of Virginia on the slave trade in Richmond, there were an equal number of white and African-American viewers. Sometimes publicity can be a factor as well, for if there isn’t adequate media advertisements before an event, after the event is too late for a turnout. But, I think this may be an ongoing issue: as a volunteer at a battlefield park, I work in the Visitors Center one day a week and most visitors are white, although we do get a larger African-American presence at events. I live in an area with a large African-American population, too.

    • Bryan Cheeseboro Apr 24, 2015 @ 10:22

      Hi A. Jackson,
      I missed the March Into Richmond but I was very much involved with the 150th, particularly as a reenactor. I am African-American.

      Two of the big highlights for me in the Sesquicentennial were 1) having my picture on the front page of the Washington Post. i was featured for participating in the Veterans’ Day 2013 ceremony at the African-American Civil War Memorial in Washington, DC. it was kind of neat to be a celebrity for a day.

      2) Participating in the Battle of Fort Stevens (also DC) 150th, July 12, 2014. I was requested by the National Park Service to recruit reenactors for the event. To my knowledge, there were no USCT units at the Fort Stevens battle. So I came as an armed civilian. Because the Union Army was late in arriving to meet the Confederate invasion of DC, the desperate call went out for anyone, even civilians, to come to defend Washington City. I haven’t found the name of any Black man yet who actually was there but knowing that the battle was over two years after DC emancipation; almost a year after the 54th’s assault on Fort Wagner; that a number of Blacks lived in the area of Fort Stevens at the time of the battle; and that by July 1864, President Lincoln had praised the Black “heroes” of Port Hudson and Olustee, I found it very plausible that a Black man would have come to that place at that time to defend against the Confederates. Also, I found no unusual restrictions on gun ownership by Blacks in DC. It was great to depict someone so out-of-the-box for many people, perhaps even for me.

      • A. Jackson Apr 24, 2015 @ 13:13

        Bryan, thanks for the comments about your reenactment participation. The NPS has been great about commemorative events …and I would say that even if I weren’t a volunteer! One of the really encouraging things I see is the interest that so many children have in the Civil War, if wanting to do the Junior Ranger Program is an indication. It seems to fall off some with teens, but we don’t have a teenage program. I think the reenactor community might want to look at recruiting teens, even though there is a lot of things competing for their interest.

      • Buck Buchanan Apr 27, 2015 @ 6:31

        You are correct. No USCT at FT Stevens.

        It was garrison troops and the VIth Corps, AOP.

        Read in depth here:

  • Gregg Kimball Apr 24, 2015 @ 6:31

    The Richmond community was a big winner due in large part to the unprecedented cooperation among cultural institutions under the aegis of The Future of Richmond’s Past. Ed Ayers’s leadership in this effort was invaluable. The programming was innovative, inclusive, and involved just about every historical organization in the city. It allowed me to develop relationships with colleagues from other institutions with whom I had never worked–especially some of the fine folks from NPS.

  • fundrums Apr 24, 2015 @ 6:29

    Kevin, Here are my offerings:

    The Winners:
    • Those who took the opportunity to include and/or highlight the experiences of the civilian populations during and after the war. Here in Fredericksburg our friends at the NPS have been broadening that perspective for quite some time. We seem to get all caught up in the experiences of the soldiers we forget that those left behind had to deal with hardships beyond the battlefield.
    • The Civil War Trust who did an excellent job incorporating battlefield preservation awareness wherever they could to increase the public’s knowledge of their plight. They also managed to preserve additional acres of land throughout the sesquicentennial bolstering their mission.

    The Losers:
    • The heritage groups that insisted on spending their time and money on erecting inflammatory facsimiles of flags instead of preserving the actual flags of their ancestors.
    • Those who did not participate in this once in a lifetime opportunity. There could have been much larger crowds at these events due to the significance of them.

    – Michael Aubrecht

    • Pat Young Apr 24, 2015 @ 7:43

      Michael’s last point is a good one. I would add, that the recession kept a lot of us from attending as many as we hoped to participate in.

    • Bryan Cheeseboro Apr 24, 2015 @ 12:27

      Well said about the “heritage” groups, Michael. I think they proved what it is they really know and care about. And it’s not even heritage.

  • Pat Young Apr 24, 2015 @ 6:05

    There was a win beyond the USCT, Kevin, for more inclusive stories. At the two 150th battle commemoration I went to, women, enslaved blacks and immigrants all had their stories highlighted. Of course at both, there were almost no blacks or immigrants in attendance. Civilians also had a win. There was a lot of focus on families at home and in the paths of the armies.

    Xs and Os history took a hit. Except for those CWT Animated Maps, the Civil War and football game was not really as prominent as in the past.

  • Pat Young Apr 24, 2015 @ 5:56

    One loser was the reenactor community. The Sesqui was not the recruiting opportunity that many thought it would be. I won’t go into the reasons for the long-term decline of this avocation, but whatever those reasons, they were not even temporarily reversed by the 150th.

    • Rob Baker Apr 24, 2015 @ 6:36

      As someone who participated in numerous 150th Anniversary Re-enactments, I’d agree with your assessment Pat. Although new recruits did “come aboard” in the community, the re-enactments did fall to the way side in size and scope. However, crowds of spectators were still incredibly large.

    • A. Jackson Apr 24, 2015 @ 6:37

      Just as an FYI, I met several reinactors from Australia who came to the states during the 150th….very big in Australia. Each one had two handmade uniforms, one blue and one grey, so they could participate on whichever side appealed to them on a given day.

  • Bryan Cheeseboro Apr 24, 2015 @ 5:40

    The biggest winner, I think, was the inclusion of African-American history. Compared to the 1961-65 Centennial or even the 1986-90 125th anniversary, there is so much more focus on Black history now than there was before.

    • MSB Apr 24, 2015 @ 22:16

      Well said. Cf. Ta-nehisi Coates’ excellent essay in the Atlantic.

  • Pat Young Apr 24, 2015 @ 5:24

    The biggest loser was the War of 1812.

    • Kevin Levin Apr 24, 2015 @ 5:25

      Doesn’t really get at my question, but OK.

      • Pat Young Apr 24, 2015 @ 5:46

        Yes it does. For all the moaning about how the Sesqui was not as big a deal as the Centennial, it was little noticed that a lot of other anniversaries like the Bicentennial of the War of 1812 were virtually overlooked. The Civil War stuff blotted out just about every anniversary other than JFK’s shooting and Selma for the last four years. Many museums in New York devoted moths of exhibit space to the Civil War Era. The Morgan Library, the NY Historical Society and the Brooklyn Historical Society still have big exhibits on the period, and of course, the biggest of all was at The Met.

        So take that Battle of Sackets Harbor.

        I wonder if our focus on race during the Civil War takes away attention from the impressment of American sailors by the British.

        • Kevin Levin Apr 24, 2015 @ 5:48

          Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate the concern, but I am wondering whether we can maintain a narrower focus on the question at hand.

          • Rob Baker Apr 24, 2015 @ 6:34

            I think they are hitting on a solid point to be made. The Civil War still holds one of the prominent positions in our collective memory of the past. It overshadowed a lot of historical anniversary’s as Pat pointed out.

        • Jimmy Dick Apr 24, 2015 @ 6:35

          I agree, Pat, that the War of 1812 came up short compared to the sesqui. However, when you compare the significance of the two conflicts, the CW had far more impact on Americans than the War of 1812 did. Not that the War of 1812 was not important. It definitely had far ranging consequences as do all conflicts, but in comparison the CW has always been a uniquely American war.

          Personally, I am really happy to see the facts brought to the forefront and to see the lost cause staked in its heart of lies. The efforts of generations of historians using facts to construct interpretations has finally borne fruit as the American people move farther away from the mythology.

          • Glenn B Apr 25, 2015 @ 13:40

            Count me in on agreeing with this nomination.

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