From a Great Tragedy to a New Birth of Freedom

Civil War Proclamation No. 3882

By The President of The United States of America:
The years 1961-1965 will mark the one hundredth anniversary of the American Civil War.

The war was America’s most tragic experience. But like all truly great tragedies, it carries with it an enduring lesson and a profound inspiration. It was a demonstration of heroism and sacrifice by men and women of both sides, who valued principles above life itself and whose devotion to duty is a proud part of our national inheritance.

Both sections of our magnificently reunited country sent into their armies men who become soldiers as good as any who ever fought under any flag. Military history records nothing finer than the courage and spirit displayed at such battles as Chickamauga, Antietam, Kennesaw Mountain and Gettysburg. That America could produce men so valiant and so enduring is a matter for deep and abiding pride.

The same spirit on the part of the people back home supported those soldiers through four years of great trial. That a Nation which contained hardly more than 30 million people, North and South together, could sustain 600,000 deaths without faltering is a lasting testimonial to something unconquerable in the American spirit. And that a transcending sense of unity and larger common purpose could, in the end, cause the men and women who had suffered so greatly to close ranks once the contest ended and to go on together to build a greater, freer and happier America must be a source of inspiration as long as our country may last.

By a joint resolution approved on September 7, 1957, the Congress established the Civil War Centennial Commission to coordinate the nationwide observances of the one hundredth anniversary of the Civil War. This resolution authorized and requested the President to issue proclamations inviting the people of the United States to participate in those observances.

NOW THEREFORE, I , DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER, President of the United States of America, do hereby invite all of the people of our country to take direct and active part in the Centennial of the Civil War.

I request all units and agencies of government, Federal, State and local, and their officials, to encourage, foster and participate in Centennial observances. And I especially urge our Nations schools and colleges, it’s libraries and museums, its churches and religious bodies, its civic, service and patriotic organizations, its learned and professional societies, its arts, sciences and industries, and its informational media, to plan and carry out their own appropriate Centennial observances during the years 1961 to 1965; all to the end of enriching our knowledge and appreciation of this great chapter in our Nation’s history and of making this memorial period truly a Centennial for all Americans.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the United States of America to be affixed.

Done at the City of Washington this 6th day of December, in the year of our Lord nineteen hundred and sixty, and of the Independence of the Untied States of America the one hundred and eighty-fourth.

By the President

Dwight D. Eisenhower


On April 12, 1861, artillery guns boomed across Charleston Harbor in an attack on Fort Sumter. These were the first shots of a civil war that would stretch across 4 years of tremendous sacrifice, with over 3 million Americans serving in battles whose names reach across our history. The meaning of freedom and the very soul of our Nation were contested in the hills of Gettysburg and the roads of Antietam, the fields of Manassas and the woods of the Wilderness. When the terrible and costly struggle was over, a new meaning was conferred on our country’s name — the United States of America. We might be tested, but whatever our fate might be, it would be as one Nation.

The Civil War was a conflict characterized by legendary acts of bravery in the face of unprecedented carnage. Those who lived in these times — from the resolute African American soldier volunteering his life for the liberation of his fellow man to the determined President secure in the rightness of his cause — brought a new birth of freedom to a country still mending its divisions.

On this milestone in American history, we remember the great cost of the unity and liberty we now enjoy, causes for which so many have laid down their lives. Though America would struggle to extend equal rights to all our citizens and carry out the letter of our laws after the war, the sacrifices of soldiers, sailors, Marines, abolitionists, and countless other Americans would bring a renewed significance to the liberties established by our Founders. When the guns fell silent and the fate of our Nation was secured, blue and gray would unite under one flag and the institution of slavery would be forever abolished from our land.

As a result of the sacrifice of millions, we would extend the promise and freedom enshrined in our Constitution to all Americans. Through the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments, we would prohibit slavery and indentured servitude, establish equal protection under the law, and extend the right to vote to former slaves. We would reach for a more perfect Union together as Americans, bound by the collective threads of history and our common hopes for the future.

We are the United States of America — we have been tested, we have repaired our Union, and we have emerged stronger. As we respond to the critical challenges of our time, let us do so as adherents to the enduring values of our founding and stakeholders in the promise of a shared tomorrow.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim April 12, 2011, as the first day of the Civil War Sesquicentennial. I call upon all Americans to observe this Sesquicentennial with appropriate programs, ceremonies, and activities that honor the legacy of freedom and unity that the Civil War bestowed upon our Nation.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this twelfth day of April, in the year of our Lord two thousand eleven, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-fifth.


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5 comments… add one
  • Neil Hamilton Apr 15, 2011 @ 22:18


    Just read your comment above.

    Thank your for sharing it with those of us here and that you seem to understand that “our nation’s history does not belong to any one group, but to all of us.”

    Thank you for stating that simple truth so eloquently.


    • Sherree Apr 16, 2011 @ 3:42

      You are very kind, Neil, but the “thanks” belong to you for serving our nation. I have enjoyed your comments. Sherree

  • Sherree Apr 15, 2011 @ 6:55

    One of my great aunt’s sons was in the Secret Service when Eisenhower was president. Two of her sons served under Eisenhower in WWII, along with my grandmother’s son who was in Germany and spoke of the “death camps” with horror (as did everyone who witnessed those atrocities) and many other young men from our area and from the rest of the nation, so I can see how Eisenhower, having commanded men from every state of the Union, including men from those states that once seceded from the Union, would see the history of the Civil War as he did. I also fully understand the shortcomings of that view, and how African American men served in both WWII and the Civil War and how this was forgotten and all that that entailed, so I can identify with both of these proclamations and embrace them both, and further, look forward to an even broader, deeper, and meaningful understanding of our history, since my own history includes ancestors who came into Massachusetts Bay Colony in the 1600s, making me a card carrying (former) member of the Mayflower Society, Scots Irish who came into Pennsylvania in 1739 and from there into Virginia, and further into the mountains in 1789 and stayed there. Germans who came into North Carolina and Anglicized their names, perhaps hiding the fact for later generations that they were, in fact, Moravians. Cherokee who intermarried with the European immigrants. Welsh. Hispanic men and women. Jewish men and women. “Yankees” and more, and I am just one person. That is what America is all about. The narrative of our nation’s history does not belong to any one group, but to all of us, and no single narrative is more important than any other.

  • Billy Bearden Apr 14, 2011 @ 17:44

    Ike not only respected the military, he had a pic of RE Lee in his White House office while Presdent, loved America and fought communists and socialists. The latter supports communists and socialists, had a pic of Chairman Mao on the White House Christmas Tree, is no fan of America nor the Constitution, and is no fan of the military.

    • Kevin Levin Apr 14, 2011 @ 18:05

      You are a funny guy, Billy.

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