The American Civil War was a blow to the gut for a young struggling country. Pitting the North against the South was a divisive concern for a nation conceived in liberty and dedicated to equality.
On April 12, 1861, a single attack by the Confederates on Union forces at Fort Sumter sprawled into a four-year battle. History records the War between the States as the costliest conflict on U.S. soil, with a death toll of more than 600,000.
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Hostility followed a series of southern states' secession from the Union and their choice of Jefferson Davis as president of the Confederate States. A month later, Abraham Lincoln took his oath of office as president of the United States. He felt an obligation to hold the nation together as debates over slavery and states' rights caused it to splinter.
On April 15, 1861, President Lincoln issued a call to state governors to supply troops to suppress the rebellion against the U.S. government. His home state asked men to volunteer for national service and six regiments of infantry were sent to Cairo, Ill., which became an important military encampment at the junction of the Ohio and Mississippi rivers.
To mark the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, events all over the country will commemorate the sesquicentennial through the next four years. Listed below are some of the early local and statewide offerings.
Illinois Historic Preservation Agency
The IHPA and Save Illinois History collaborated on a wonderful website with infinite details thanks, in part, to a grant from the Illinois Humanities Council, the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Illinois General Assembly.
A year in the making, the site features a statewide calendar of events related to the sesquicentennial, a timeline of Illinois and the Civil War, images of the era and educational materials, said IHPA spokeswoman Karen Everingham, who plans to keep the calendar of events and feature stories updated. There were 60,000 hits on the site in its first month at illinoiscivilwar150.org.
Northern Illinois Historical Coalition
Lisle resident Doug Cunningham, chairman of the Northern Illinois Historical Coalition, said the group promotes the history of Northern Illinois through program development.
The group, along with the Friends of the Lisle Library, welcomes author Michael Weeks speaking on "Finding Hallowed Ground: America's Civil War Sites Today" at 2 p.m. July 24 at the Lisle Library, 777 Front St., Lisle.
Weeks will share his experiences of driving across the United States in search of historical Civil War locations. His website is CivilWarRoadTrip.com.
Salt Creek Civil War Round Table
Formed in 1962, the Salt Creek Civil War Round Table is a group of Civil War historians, enthusiasts and re-enactors who share a common interest in the Civil War and preservation of historical sites. The 100-member group meets regularly in Downers Grove and provides speakers on Civil War topics.
On June 17, the Salt Creek Civil War Round Table will have its annual banquet starting at 6:30 p.m. at the Hilton-Lisle/Naperville, 3003 Corporate West Drive, Lisle. Historian and author Robert Girardi will present "Illinois Fights the Civil War." His website is robertgirardi.com.
The event is open to anyone interested in the Civil War, spokesman Rick Zarr said. Tickets are $40. For details, visit saltcreekcwrt.org.
DuPage County Historical Museum
A special exhibit titled "DuPage County and the Civil War: A Local Perspective" is open at the DuPage County Historical Museum, 102 E. Wesley St., Wheaton.
Through letters, photos and documents, the exhibit will highlight local soldiers and changes to the area. At 1 p.m. Thursday, April 28, and Thursday, May 26, museum curator Sara Arnas and educator Sara Buttita will discuss the exhibit. The display will close in September 2012.
A yearlong lecture and music series at the museum will include topics such as "Civil War Ghosts and Legends" at 7 p.m. Wednesday, April 20; "Mary Todd Lincoln" at 7 p.m. Wednesday, May 18; and "The Underground Railroad" at 1 p.m. Saturday, May 14.
Civil War re-enactors of the 8th Illinois Cavalry will join the museum to host "Rally Around the Flag" from 2 to 5 p.m. Saturday, April 30. The 8th Calvary served in the Civil War. Mark Whitlock, director of the Illinois State Military Museum, will display and speak on the 8th Illinois Cavalry Guidon, which is the flag the cavalry carried into battle. Outside the museum, cavalry re-enactors will set up camp.
The events are free and open to all ages. Visit dupagemuseum.org or call (630) 665-4710.
Civil War Days at Naper Settlement, 523 S. Webster St., in Naperville, will come alive from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, May 21 and 22. Civil War re-enactors will stage a battle at 2:30 p.m. each day.
Actors will portray President Abraham Lincoln, Gen. Ulysses S. Grant, Gen. Robert E. Lee, abolitionist Maria Weston, teacher Susie Baker King Taylor and nurse Mary Ann Bickerdyke, who traveled by horse with Grant and Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman to set up 300 field hospitals.
Tickets are $12 for adults and $8 for ages 4 to 17.
"Walking with Soldiers: Civil War Walking Tour" is the Naper Settlement event for teens and adults to hear the graphic stories of Civil War veterans at 2 p.m. June 26. Tickets are $12.
A "Civil War Encampment" adventure camp for students in grades six to eight will immerse students in the life of a Civil War soldier, including an overnight at Fort Payne. The fee is $160; the dates are July 7-9.
"Rally 'Round the Flag" will be at 2 p.m. Sept. 25 at the settlement's Century Memorial Chapel. Professor Theodore Karamanski, history professor at Loyola University, will share his research on Camp Douglas, the 1860 Republican Convention and a few prominent Chicago residents. Admission is free.
Discounted advance tickets and membership discounts are available. Visit napersettlement.museum or call (630) 420-6010 for all programs. Note: Naper Settlement is participating with 900 Blue Star Museums across the country to offer military families free admission this summer.
Regional History Center of Northern Illinois University
The Regional History Center at Northern Illinois University has an exhibit on the Civil War's impact on northern Illinois entirely online. The exhibit is "Vestiges of a Nation Divided: The Civil War's Impact on Northern Illinois" and features letters, political cartoons and pictures from the Civil War era.
Additional resources on the Civil War include civilwar.org/150th-anniversary; nps.gov/civilwar/; civilwardata150.net and illinoishistory.gov/.
• Joan Broz writes about Lisle. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.