Ohio Civil War 150
On May 17, Ohio’s official commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the Civil War came to an end with an event at the Ohio Statehouse. The event featured the recreation of a speech delivered on the Statehouse steps by Senator John Sherman (portrayed by Rep. Steve Hambley), the farewell address of Lt. Colonel Isaac Sherwood to his soldiers of the 111th Ohio Infantry and the ensuing mustering out of that regiment. The final Ohio Civil War 150 Heritage Awards were given to four recipients and special Ohio Civil War 150 medals were presented to the reenactors in attendance.
As a member of the sponsoring Ohio Civil War 150 Advisory Committee and coordinator of and emcee for the event, I was honored to be a participant. Our goal for the day was to bring to a close the four-year commemoration by acknowledging and thanking all those who worked diligently to make Ohio’s 150thcommemoration meaningful and one of lasting value. Since 2011, organizations and communities from across Ohio have worked together to increase understanding of the role Ohioans played during the war and the impact of the war on the state. Exhibits, reenactments, programs, and symposiums reached virtually all through Ohio. We saw a significant increase in fundraising for the preservation of Ohio’s Battle Flags. More and more community groups, schools, and libraries brought in speakers to teach about Ohio and the Civil War. A traveling exhibit sponsored by Ohio Humanities visited 33 locations and was seen by about 500,000 people. Through an Ohio Civil War 150 initiative, local communities invited people to have their family Civil War documents digitized, preserving them for future generations.
Having been a part of the Ohio Civil War 150 commemoration, I was naturally focused on a statewide perspective and the work of the committee. It was not until the conclusion of the mustering out and the end of the event that I began to reflect on the sesquicentennial on a personal level. I have been a Civil War re-enactor for 20 years, published a book and several articles on the war, and generally have spent those years involved in anything Civil War. As a new reenactor in 1996, I had no conception on where my new interest would take me. Certainly not expecting to published, part of the state committee for the 150th, nor have the privilege to be part of command and planning groups for state and national reenactments. Along the way I have learned much, made life-long friends, and discovered my own Civil War heritage.
So, while the 150th winds down, I think back and wonder what my ancestors, Union Army veterans William Hargus Holbrook and John Abrams would think of how we spent the last four years. I hope and believe they would think we all did a good job of remembering them and their time in history. That we did not glamorize what they did, but rather sought to share their stories with respect and honesty. For, it is my belief that our first allegiance in sharing history is to those whose stories we seek to keep alive. If we do so in such a way that we believe they can say, “You have told it as it was,” we can count ourselves successful in our work.
Photographs courtesy of the Capitol Square Review & Advisory Board.