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A solemn Civil War sesquicentennial

Civil War VA Tourism Corporation
Courtesy Virginia Tourism Corporation

Call it the defining event in the history of the South — raging from 1861 to 1865, the Civil War ravaged much of Dixie and forever changed the Southern states.

It’s been 150 years since the first shots of the war rang out over Fort Sumter in South Carolina. The fort, now a national monument, commemorated the anniversary earlier with a series of reenactments, lectures and living-history programs. It was the first in a series of sesquicentennial events that will take place throughout the South over the next four years.

There are dozens of Civil War battlefields and other sites in the Southern states that will host sesquicentennial events between now and 2015. Here’s an abridged calendar of those events (by state), as well as short highlights of some that we think will be particularly significant.

[ September 17, 2011 ]
150th anniversary of the Federal Occupation of Fort Smith at Fort Smith National Historic Site.

[ December 1-2, 2012] 

Reenactment of the Battle of Prairie Grove. This biannual reenactment will fall near the 150th anniversary of the battle, an encounter involving some 22,000 soldiers. In addition to the reenactment, the event will features military and civilian camps, various military drills, living-history demonstrations and a variety of vendors selling reproductions of 19th-century books and souvenirs.

[ May 3, 2014 ]
Commemoration of the Battle of Jenkins’ Ferry in Leola.


[ May 20-22, 2011 ]
150th anniversary of the Battle of Resaca.

[ June 18-19, 2011 ]  

The second annual Civil War Expo will feature battle reenactments, weapons demonstrations and living-history camps.

[ September 10-11 ]

Reenactment of the Battle of Tunnel Hill. This event will include a walk through the 1,477-foot railroad tunnel that was built in the 1850s.


[ June 18-19, 2011 ] 
Reenactment of the Battle of Cynthiana.

[ October 1-2, 2011 ]

Reenactment of the Battle of Perryville, the best-known Kentucky battle of the Civil War. The sesquicentennial of the battle will take place in 2012; however, the biannual reenactment will be held in 2011.

[ July 2013 ]
One of the most important battles of 1863 took place on the water at Vicksburg, where the Union’s victory proved to be a turning point for Lincoln and Grant. Vicksburg National Military Park will host a large commemorative event in 2013, but this city is already using its annual historic-home pilgrimage and other events to help paint a picture of daily life for civilians during the area’s Civil War period.


[ April 2012 ] 
Commemoration of the Battle of Shiloh, which took place in 1862 on the border between Tennessee and Mississippi. This large battle saw some 23,000 casualties, and today the Shiloh National Military Park encompasses some 240 acres. Sesquicentennial events will include cavalry tactical maneuvers, encampments and historic-artillery demonstrations.

[ September 2013 ]

Anniversary of the battles of Chickamauga and Chattanooga in Tennessee and Georgia.

[ July 21-24, 2011 ] 
Commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the Battle of First Manassas (also known as the Battle of Bull Run) at Manassas National Battlefield Park. This was the first significant ground engagement of the Civil War, bringing unforeseen casualties to both sides. The ceremonial commemoration will be followed by a three-day weekend full of events, including living history, historic-weapons demonstrations and a re-creation of the reconciliation of veterans that took place during the Peace Jubilee of 1910.

[ September 16-18, 2011 ]

Numerous tours and events surrounding battles in Bristow, Rocky Mount and Middleton.

[ December 13, 2012 ]
Commemoration of the Battle of Fredericksburg at Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park.

West Virginia
[ July 9-11, 2011 ] 
Commemoration of the Battle of Rich Mountain at Rich Mountain Battlefield.

[ August 4, 2011 ] 
Reenactment of the Battle of Laurel Hill at Laurel Hill Battlefield in Belington.

[ September 10, 2011 ] 

Reenactment of the Battle of Carnifex Ferry at Carnifex Ferry State Park in Summersville.

Brian Jewell

Brian Jewell is the executive editor of The Group Travel Leader. In more than a decade of travel journalism he has visited 48 states and 25 foreign countries.