Sunday, March 24, 2013

6 Ways to Connect with the Civil War: Commemorating 150 Years of the Civil War Legacy

Here are six ways to commemorate the 15oth anniversary of the American Civil War.

Beglan O'Brian 
1. Make a New Friend on Facebook -  Although the cannons stopped booming nearly 150 years ago, the lives of many iconic heroes of the Civil War have found new life in social media. Now you too can count Ulysses S. Grant or Robert E. Lee among your friends on Facebook. Or send a friend request to: Beglan O’Brian, Civil War Reporter for up to date reporting from the war front. This avatar, created by the National Park Service, provides daily updates and correspondence on the progress of the Civil War.

Comic Genius of Buster Keaton
2.Watch a Movie -  Hollywood is notorious for taking a few liberties with historic facts. Still, the Civil War has often been the subject of many a Hollywood director. Since the earliest days of silent film, the Civil War has inspired such movies as The General staring silent film start Buster Keaton, and the notorious Birth of the Nation, with highly-charged racist undertones that were prevalent at the time of its making. For a more contemporary look at the complexities of the Civil War watch Glory, which focuses on the story of the African American 54th Volunteer Massachusetts Regiment. Another fantastic and more recent film of note, Lincoln, explores the politics and tension that occurred during the passing of the 13th Amendment. All of these movies provide a unique window into how different generations have understood the War between the States. 

For All You Arm Chair Generals -Civil War History at the Touch of a Button

3. Download an App  - When it comes to the Civil War, there is an app for that! The Civil War Trust has developed smart phone apps for nearly all the major battlefields of the war. These apps provide historic images, battlefield maps, and informative videos in the palm of your hands. The history channel has also developed a great civil war app called The Civil War Today that will connect users to historic newspaper articles about historic events.

4. Save a Battlefield -  From the 25th to the 50th anniversary of the Civil War, veterans worked hard to memorialize the key battlefields of the war. This golden age of battlefield protection saw the creation of five parks:  Chickamauga & Chattanooga, Shiloh, Antietam, Gettysburg, and Vicksburg. A resurgence in battlefield protection and preservation has emerged as a result of these early efforts. The results of preservation efforts have been the purchase of land and the development of scenic easements by grass roots organizations and national organizations like the Civil War Trust for places associated with Civil War battles. A lasting way to celebrate the 150th is to pitch in and donate to the efforts that work for the protection of these hallowed grounds from encroaching development and urban sprawl. 

5. Read a Book – Perhaps one of the most written about subjects in American history, the Civil War has been cataloged, reviewed, retold and inspected in thousands of books. These books range in topics from personal memoirs to revisionist histories. The causes and consequences of the Civil War have provided ample fodder for generations of historians and authors alike, and it will undoubtedly continue on in the future. Two of my recommendations include: Battle Cry of Freedom by James McPherson and Confederates in the Attic by Tony Horwitz. Battle Cry of Freedom is the most comprehensive and balanced view of the War in under one cover. While Confederates in the Attic challenges traditional views about the War between the States.

6. Visit a National Park – There is no better way of connecting to the historic events of the war than to stand in the places where those events unfolded. The hallowed ground of Civil War battlefields, and their national cemeteries, provide a powerful experience that is hard to forget. And with over 70 National Parks dedicated to the Civil War, you will find that there is more to this complex history than just violent battles. The layered history of the war is found in a patchwork of sites like the Fredrick Douglas National Historic Site, the Clara Barton National Historic Site, and Ford’s Theatre that make up the fabric of the entire story.  

Manassas National Battlefield 

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