Commemorating Our Heritage – County Prepares For Civil War Sesquicentennial

By Aimee Baldwin

March 18, 2010

In 2006, the General Assembly created the Virginia Sesquicentennial of the American Civil War Commission to prepare for and commemorate 150 years since participating in the war. The commission plans state-wide events as well as helping local committees prepare.

In October 2008, the Shenandoah County Sesquicentennial Committee was formed and held its first meeting in November 2008. Members include: Susie Hill, economic and tourism director; Cyndi Pulis, tourism office; Richard Kleese, historian; Larry Alamong, historian; Scott Harris, New Market Battlefield; Babs Funkhouser, Stonewall Jackson Museum; Sarah Mauck, town of Strasburg; and Garland Miller, county finance manager.

"We’ve got a very creative, progressive group from different organizations and parts of the community," said Hill. "Our goal is to commemorate and bring awareness to how the Civil War affected the citizens of Shenandoah County."

The committee came together and decided to make the overall theme of the Sesquicentennial, "Stories of the People", focusing less on battlefield events and more on how it affected the people.

While researching, the group uncovered a location of a large hospital complex in Mount Jackson that housed over 500 wounded soldiers at a time. Across from the location just happens to be a soldier cemetery where one of the first confederate memorial services was held following the war.

"We are currently finalizing our plans to place a Civil War Trails sign at the hospital location and hold a memorial service in May," said Hill.

The sign text, written by Kleese, will share with visitors the history of the hospital site. Although not finalized, the memorial service is tentatively set for May 30.

The group is discussing many options for the service such as a Civil War band and re-enactors.

"It may be possible to coordinate with the town of Mount Jackson’s activities for memorial day," Mauck said.

At the group’s Wednesday, March 10 meeting, Harris shared with other members his experience of a recent state commission meeting.

"In 1990, one in 25 visitors to Virginia stated Civil War heritage as their purpose for visiting and now that number is one in 10," said Harris. "We have the most Civil War trails markers than any other state."

The second project that the committee is currently working on is a brochure to share stories and titled "Caring for the Wounded."

According to Hill, letters have been sent to all towns in the county asking for their stories on how they cared for the people during the war.

"It’s really an exciting thing," said Hill. "We’re uncovering all this information on how the war affected our people."

The committee will continue to meet monthly while planning events and other ways to remember the historical events that took place in the Valley.

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