10 January 2008 by Published in: General musings 14 comments

Jack Dempsey, a fellow barrister from Detroit, has been keeping us posted on Michigan’s efforts to commemorate the sesquicentennial of the Civil War. Jack recently posted a proclamation by the Governor of Michigan forming a committee to plan the state’s commemoration of the sesquicentennial. Today, the Michigan State Senate passed a resolution commemorating the Abraham Lincoln bicentennial. Michigan is keenly aware of the significance of the Civil War, and deserves a vast amount of credit for being proactive in commemorating the sesquicentennial.

My state, Ohio, unfortunately has nothing remotely like it. Sadly, history is given short shrift in this state; when the General Assembly needs to cut funds, the Ohio Historical Society is the first budget they slash. To date, nothing like the commemoration planned by Michigan has been planned or discussed here in Ohio, which is just stunning to me. Consequently, I will be sending the following letter to Governor Ted Strickland tomorrow:

The Honorable Ted Strickland
Governor’s Office
Riffe Center, 30th Floor
77 South High Street
Columbus, OH 43215-6108

Re: Civil War Sesquicentennial

Dear Governor Strickland:

Although I practice law for a living, I am an award-winning Civil War historian by avocation. In researching and writing fourteen books on the war, I have devoted much of my adult life to the study of the Civil War. I am a native Pennsylvanian, but I have lived in Ohio for more than twenty years, and consider the Buckeye State my home.

In the course of my years of study, I have learned the following facts: War-time Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton and Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase were both Ohioans. The State of Ohio raised nearly 320,000 soldiers for the Union army, behind only New York and Pennsylvania, and gave the most men per capita of any state in the union. Among the Union’s leading generals, a disproportionate number of them were Buckeyes: Ulysses S. Grant, William T. Sherman, Philip H. Sheridan, William S. Rosecrans, and George A. Custer are the first to come to mind, although there are others. Five Ohio-born Civil War officers later served as President of the United States: Grant, James Garfield, Benjamin Harrison, William McKinley, and Rutherford B. Hayes. The Fighting McCooks, an Ohio family, were the largest family unit to serve in the Civil War, contributing six Union generals to the cause. Finally, one of the largest all-cavalry battles of the war was fought in Meigs County during John Hunt Morgan’s great Indiana and Ohio raid of 1863.

There were two major Confederate prisoner of war camps in Ohio. One was located on Johnson’s Island in Lake Erie, and the other was located right here in Columbus. More than 2,000 Confederate dead rest in the Camp Chase Cemetery in the Hilltop region of Columbus.

Needless to say, the Civil War was the seminal event in American history. 600,000 Americans died, slavery was eradicated, and the question of the legality of secession and the dominance of the Federal system were settled once and for all. Instead of a loose confederation of states, the Civil War forged this country into the United States of America.

The year 2011 marks the beginning of the sesquicentennial of the Civil War, which will last until 2015. A number of states have already formed sesquicentennial committees to commemorate their contributions to the war. Recently, the Governor of Michigan issued this proclamation:



WHEREAS, Section 1 of Article V of the Michigan Constitution of 1963 vests the executive power of the State of Michigan in the Governor;

WHEREAS, under Section 8 of Article V of the Michigan Constitution of 1963, each principal department of state government is under the supervision of the Governor unless otherwise provided, and the Governor shall transact all necessary business with the officers of government;

WHEREAS, at the beginning of the American Civil War in 1861, Michigan residents responded enthusiastically to President Abraham Lincoln’s call for troops to put down the Confederate rebellion, eventually sending 90,000 men, and a few women, to the Union Army;

WHEREAS, Michigan sent 50 percent of its military age male population to fight in the Civil War, including specialized regiments of sharpshooters and engineers, and more cavalry per capita than any other northern state;

WHEREAS, at least 68 Michigan men were awarded the Medal of Honor for gallantry on the battlefield during the Civil War;

WHEREAS, Michigan mines produced tons of ire ore used to make cannon, iron clad ships, and rails, all of which contributed to the military success of the Union in the Civil War;

WHEREAS, the year 2011 marks the sesquicentennial of the beginning of the Civil War;

WHEREAS, it is in the best interests of the State of Michigan to provide for appropriate commemorative activities recognizing the 150th anniversary of the Civil War;

WHEREAS, recognizing the sesquicentennial of the Civil War will increase awareness of Michigan’s cultural heritage and assist cultural economic development in this state;

NOW, THEREFORE, I, Jennifer M. Granholm, Governor of the State of Michigan, by virtue of the power and authority vested in the Governor by the Michigan Constitution of 1963 and Michigan law, order the following:


As used in this Order:

A. “Department of History, Arts, and Libraries” or “Department” means the principal department of state government created by Section 3 of the History, Arts, and Libraries Act, 2001 PA 63, MCL 399.703.

B. “Michigan Historical Commission” or “Commission” means the commission created under Section 1 of 1913 PA 271, MCL 399.1.


A. The members of the Michigan Historical Commission shall constitute an advisory body within the Department of History, Arts and Libraries, for the purpose of all of the following:

1. Advising the Department and the Governor on matters relating to fostering authenticity and inclusion in Michigan’s observance of the 150th anniversary of the Civil War.

2. Encouraging, planning, and developing activities, events, programs, observances, and services appropriate to commemorate the Sesquicentennial of the Civil War.

3. Enlisting the support of private citizens, businesses, nonprofit organizations, and governmental entities in the planning and promotion of the Sesquicentennial of the Civil War.

4. Encouraging private citizens, businesses, nonprofit organizations, and governmental entities to organize and participate in Civil War Sesquicentennial activities.

5. Encouraging schools and cultural institutions in Michigan to participate in activities recognizing the Sesquicentennial of the Civil War.

6. Encouraging Michigan’s participation in national and international activities commemorating the Sesquicentennial of the Civil War and facilitating communications with other states commemorating the Sesquicentennial.

7. Serving as a clearinghouse for the collection and dissemination of information about Civil War Sesquicentennial plans, events, programs, observances, and services.

8. Researching and promoting the development of cultural, historical, and economic development opportunities relating to the Civil War in connection with the Civil War Sesquicentennial.

9. Reviewing, planning, and recommending strategies to promote and preserve the history of Michigan’s role in the Civil War.

10. Performing other functions related to the observance of the 150th Anniversary of the Civil War, as requested by the Director of the Department or the Governor.


A. The activities of the members of the Commission under this Order shall be staffed and assisted by personnel from the Department under the direction and supervision of the Director of the Department, subject to available funding.

B. The Commission may establish advisory workgroups composed of members of the public who are not members of the Commission to assist the members of the Commission in performing duties under this Order. The Commission may adopt, reject, or modify any recommendations proposed by an advisory workgroup.

C. In performing duties under this Order, the Commission may, as appropriate, make inquiries, studies, investigations, hold hearings, and receive comments from the public. The Commission may also consult with outside experts in order to perform its duties, including, but not limited to, experts in the private sector, organized labor, government agencies, and at institutions of higher education.

D. In performing duties under this Order, the Commission may hire or retain contractors, sub-contractors, advisors, consultants, and agents, and may make and enter into contracts necessary or incidental to the exercise of the powers of the Commission and the performance of its duties, as the Director of the Department deems advisable and necessary, in accordance with this Order and the relevant statutes, rules, and procedures of the Civil Service Commission and the Department of Management and Budget.

E. The Commission may accept donations of labor, services, or other things of value from any public or private agency or person related to activities under this Order.

F. Members of the Commission shall refer all legal, legislative, and media contacts related to this Order to the Department.


A. All departments, committees, commissioners, or officers of this state, or of any political subdivision of this state, shall give to the Commission or to any member or representative of the Commission, any necessary assistance required by the Commission or any member or representative of the Commission, in the performance of the duties of the Commission so far as is compatible with its, his, or her duties under this Order. Free access shall also be given to any books, records, or documents in its, his, or her custody, relating to matters within the scope of inquiry, study, or review of the Commission under this Order.

B. This Order shall not abate any suit, action, or other proceeding lawfully commenced by, against, or before any entity affected under this Order. Any suit, action, or other proceeding may be maintained by, against, or before the appropriate successor of any entity affected under this Order.

C. The invalidity of any portion of this Order shall not affect the validity of the remainder of the Order, which may be given effect without any invalid portion. Any portion of this Order found invalid by a court or other entity with proper jurisdiction shall be severable from the remaining portions of this Order.

D. This Order is effective upon filing.

Given under my hand and the Great Seal of the State of Michigan this 27th day of December, in the year of our Lord, two thousand seven.


The committee selected to implement this order has already had its first organizational meeting; 2011 is not that far away, and there is obviously a great deal to do to prepare for the sesquicentennial.

Given the fact that Ohio’s contributions to the Civil War dwarf those of Michigan by comparison, isn’t it time for Ohio to do something like this to honor this state’s contributions to the war?

I would be pleased to discuss this with you or your staff, should you wish to do so. Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you wish to do so.

Very truly yours,


Eric J. Wittenberg

I don’t expect to receive a response, but I hope that the message is at least received and that something is done to commemorate Ohio’s contributions to the Civil War. I will be terribly disappointed if nothing is done, but it would, sadly, be typical of this state.

Scridb filter


  1. Steve H
    Thu 10th Jan 2008 at 8:39 pm

    Although I carry no such weight as an acclaimed CW author and authority of cavalry operations during the CW, I will write a letter to Gov Strickland as well. Maybe the CW roundtables across the state could kick in their help as well as the ACW museum here in NW Ohio. With the contribution by the state of Ohio, it would be fitting to commemorate this in some way.

  2. Thu 10th Jan 2008 at 9:03 pm


    The more, the merrier. Please do.


  3. Thu 10th Jan 2008 at 9:11 pm


    Great post and a very good letter. Apart from the battlefield and political accomplishments, which you rightly highlight, I would encourage you not to forget some of the important business and contracting accomplishments of Ohioans. Indeed, I feature the Procter & Gamble Co. in the intro to my forthcoming book because they have a tremendously interesting Civil War narrative in their own right, and Cincinnati, especially, was an important center of contracting business during the war, supplying many goods to the Union army (see the excellent PhD dissertation about Cincy in the war…I think it’s entitled “The Most Commercial of People”…good luck with your mission.

    All My Best,

    Jim Schmidt

  4. Mike Peters
    Fri 11th Jan 2008 at 2:09 am


    Great letter Hoss!


  5. Steve Basic
    Fri 11th Jan 2008 at 2:39 am


    Sad to say that NJ has yet to do anything of consequence for the sequiscentennial. All our Governor is talking about is increasing tolls, which means if I am still around in 2025, it will cost me $65 to drive to and from the Jersey Shore if I wish to spend a day at the beach.

    Then again, NJ has yet to do anything about the many Revolutionary War sites either.

    Hope all is well.


  6. Lanny Thomas Tanton
    Fri 11th Jan 2008 at 9:55 am

    Dear Eric,

    We need to get Ohio to imitate Michigan in two particulars. First, they need to imitate them in honoring our Civil War ancestors. Secondly, they need to imitate the University of Michigan (hand over the heart) in showing the SEC how the game of football is played and to end this trash talk about how the SEC is better than the Big Ten.

    Seriously, I thought your letter was informative and persuasive. I hope that you will be able to effect the honor due to our Civil War soldiers. You also made me proud of my home state (even though I have lived here in Texas for 28 years).

    Best wishes always,
    Lanny Thomas Tanton

  7. Art Bergeron
    Fri 11th Jan 2008 at 10:33 am

    Eric, you undoubtedly have heard or read that there may be no national celebration because of the “sensitive” issues involved. I suspect that many but not all states will establish their own efforts. It will be interesting to see how many do so.

    Art Bergeron

  8. Fri 11th Jan 2008 at 6:05 pm

    Dwarf?! Them’s fightin’ words, bud!

    Seriously, I commend you, Eric, for wading in and supporting action by your State. I must admit that every time the Wings play the Blue Jackets, and though I’ll never think any uniform is equal to the winged wheel, I admire those deep blue/red/white jerseys with CW touches. I hope Ohio, from which my CW ancestor connections arise, will do more than leave commemoration of the cause solely to the hockey rink.

    Keep up the great work, and writing!


  9. Fri 11th Jan 2008 at 7:24 pm

    Well, the letter was mailed earlier today. We shall see what happens.

    If nothing else, I hope it shames them into doing something. I will report when I know more.


  10. Brad Snyder
    Fri 11th Jan 2008 at 9:25 pm


    Very nice letter! You will probably be asked to chair the committee for the Ohio celebration.


  11. Fri 11th Jan 2008 at 9:44 pm

    Thanks, Brad. I’m not sure I want to chair the committee, but I would be more than happy to help. I guess we shall see what comes……


  12. Josh
    Sun 13th Jan 2008 at 5:58 pm

    First time poster/somewhat of a long time lurker and RSS-recipient here… great blog, by the way.

    As an Ohioan, I’ll join in agreeing that we need to have something done, and will consider writing a state representative and/or the Gov. myself as well. In addition to the war itself, Ohio’s role as a center of the Western antislavery “theater” of sorts might also be noted… in September of this year, the sesquicentennial of the Oberlin-Wellington Rescue will come upon us, after all.


  13. Sun 13th Jan 2008 at 11:12 pm

    Thanks, Josh. I hope that the letter does some good.


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