Northern Sesquicentennial boards

My (not very thorough) count of Northern Sesquicentennial commissions yields four - one each for New Jersey, Pennsy, Indiana, and Ohio. The North is lagging the South, as might be expected.

The commissions as formed may have different roles which are defined by legislatures or perhaps gubernatorial fiat. Advisory? Event organization? Fundraising?

As a former long-time arts organizer and festival producer, I can tell you that we of that ilk have only one criteria, one role, one function in mind for boards, commissions, and advisors. We expect money from them, a lot of money, fast, with as few strings as possible.

The idea of stocking a board with friends, family, politicians, colleagues, impoverished authors, etc. is nonsense from this standpoint and thus, to me, every Southern Sesquicentennial board so far formed seems to have failed my little arts test. I don't know anyone from my arts days who would not laugh at these boards and the amateurs who assembled them.

New Jersey

New Jersey seems to have opted for that now well-trodden Southern Sesquicentennial path. The best thing about their committee is Joe Bilby, whom his fellows have deigned to make webmaster of their site. Hey Joe: there's a picture that seems to be out of alignment. Fix it and thank you for your contribution to ACW history.

The committee chief is the chairman of the board of the state historical society. This is an inevitable appointment BUT seating him at the very head of the table is the surest sign of political neglect and ACW activist truancy. A vibrant ACW scene would never tolerate such a thing past the first meeting.

On the other hand, this whole effort has the smell of a self-organized unfunded project put together by the committee itself, in which case good luck to them. Sincerely! As an expression of official state interest, this board fails; as a private intitiative it deserves sympathy and support.


I have been following the Ohio Sesquicentennial through Eric Wittenberg's blog, with again, the best thing about that body being Eric. The group appears to be formed without state funding which puts more pressure, I think, on forming a board of fundraisers.


I give you the official website and ask you the favor of finding the board members on this url. In fact, write me and tell me this is not the most inert placeholder of an organization you have ever seen.


The governor of Pennsylvania appoints a heavyweight fundraiser to the Gettysburg Foundation and his Sesquicentennial effort, though coordinated and led by historical societies, has funding too: from the Philadelphia Industrial Development Corporation, Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development, and the National Endowment for the Humanities. The planning partners, as they are called, include several funded entities. This is not optimal but it is good, even if its key project seems underachieving.

p.s. Allen Guelzo has his own roundup of Sesquicentennial committee news here. He concludes (no laughing, please)
But the greatest challenge of the Sesquicentennial will be how to synthesize the Civil War's "old" story of battles-and-reunion with the Civil War's "new" story of race and gender.
One of the comments on this piece notes the creation of an ad hoc national "Coalition for the Civil War Sesquicentennial." Apparently it
... now includes fourteen institutional members, drafted a statement of purpose and management plan and recruited a supporting Council of Scholars (the nation’s pre-eminent Civil War historian James McPherson is one of three co-chairs). Our aim is to urge the Obama administration to create a presidential commission on the Sesquicentennial (to review the Coalition proposal visit http://www.aaslh.org/documents/CivilWarCoalition.pdf).