Get Ready Now: Civil War Sesquicentennial Begins in Four Years

While the national news media argue over whether to apply the term “civil war” to the unpleasantness in Iraq, a piece in today’s Chattanooga Times Free Press (subscription only, so no link) says that tourism officials in Georgia are making ready for the 150th anniversary of our Civil War.

According to the article, “About 900,000 people a year come through the Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park, the nation’s first and largest military historical park. The tourism injects about $36 million to the area’s economy, Mr. Culpepper said.”

The article quotes a Georgia tourism official who claims that Georgia is second only to Virginia in Civil War sites. I have always heard that Tennessee had more Civil War battles than any state except the Old Dominion, but “sites” covers a lot of ground.

I was a mere lad during the Civil War centennial, and we boys at Miller Perry School would turn out for recess wearing blue or grey kepis and conduct mock battles. My parents, although we lived in Tennessee, always bought the Atlanta newspaper every Sunday, and each week that newspaper printed a facsimile copy of a front page from 100 years earlier.

Americans never get as fired up about 150th birthdays as we do 100th or 200th–we love our zeros– but the anniversary will mean increased tourism for Tennessee. This time around, I think we’ll see more attention spent on African-American participation in the war. I hope that Tennessee cities and towns make some solid gains on preserving battlefields and significant structures. If we don’t, we’ll have a new version of The Lost Cause.

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